11 alcohol-free drinks for the sober curious


Ocsober and Dry January are all good and properly, however how a couple of everlasting shift to sobriety? Keith Bain displays on the rise of the sober curious.

Little question, lots of the world’s legendary drunks are turning of their graves. Lots of them had been fierce and formidable writers. Heroically intoxicated scribes like Hunter S Thompson and Tennessee Williams, Hemingway and Kerouac, Truman Capote and James Joyce. Basically my heroes. Bless all of them, however this can be a story set in a courageous new world, one through which boozing is on the decline, and – heaven assist us – we have now already seen all kinds of manifestations of hashtaggable tendencies akin to “sober curious” doing the rounds. 

In truth, Sober Curious is the title of a six-year-old e book chronicling the rising phenomenon of consciously selecting to not drink alcohol – a minimum of not on a regular basis. In its wake, there’ve been legions of individuals appending #mindfuldrinking to photos of themselves sipping New Age elixirs and ripping up the city regardless of being fully level-headed. 

As a result of, imagine it or not, it’s now completely wonderful – socially acceptable, even – to say no that drink. 

This will likely or might not have something to do with virtuosity, however in a rustic the place it has virtually all the time been borderline cringeworthy to confess that ‘I don’t drink’, there’s rising proof that younger folks (name them Gen Zs, or TikTokers, or no matter) are shifting on from alcohol as the primary medium for his or her respite from actuality. 

The North American different tradition journal, Vice, posted the next on Instagram: ‘Ketamine, weed and mushrooms are doing simply wonderful, apparently. However alcohol? It’s within the midst of a PR disaster… Based on a 2022 survey, 26% of 16- to 24-year-olds in Britain at the moment are “totally sober”. In August, a examine discovered that just about a 3rd of all pub visits at the moment are booze-free. This isn’t something new both: the non-alcoholic drink market has grown by greater than 506% since 2015 and Google searches for “sober curious” peaked in 2021 following the pandemic. Additionally, when final did you see a TV present or hear a tune that glamorises ingesting the way in which popular culture used to?’

Vice speculates as to the causes of this turn-around. Among the many observations is mounting proof that ‘individuals are overworked and underpaid’. Which may be as a lot an understatement as ignorance of extra historic instances when peasants did nothing however toil, however it’s nonetheless indicative of a fast-changing world. The consequence of this beleaguered actuality is that people ‘don’t have time for hangovers as a result of each free second must be funnelled into two or three facet hustles’. 

Different doable causes for the lapse into sobriety? Effectively, there’s a new era of people that ‘want being on-line’ and are ‘anxious’, says the report.

Nonetheless, when all of it comes right down to it, Vice claims, the only most important issue is that ‘getting trashed merely isn’t cool anymore’. 

Definitely, many younger individuals are turning to different vices, extra dependable technique of dealing with their stresses and anxieties. However there has additionally been an increase in consciousness about well being, health, and communing with nature. A lot of this turnaround has transcended generational boundaries, too, a notable shift prompted by the pandemic, when swathes of middle-aged folks had been all of the sudden alerted to the vulnerability of their immune programs. 

I gave up the sauce over a decade in the past, a New Yr’s decision I really caught with. As I inform anybody who asks, ‘Why?’ I did sufficient boozing in my first three many years. Subtract the primary 12 years, once I barely touched the stuff, and meaning for a minimum of 18 years I spent quite a lot of time, cash and power on alcohol. Then I moved on. I’ve different pursuits, is all.

I don’t think about myself “sober” since phrases like “sobriety” have all the time been reserved for folks coping with dependency points or former heavy drinkers in “restoration”. 

Quitting was an act of self-preservation. As a result of, once I drank, I drank lots. And ceaselessly. Someplace in my mid-30s, although, I discovered that – for my character sort – abstinence was the extra accountable alternative. 

I needed to spend extra of my time totally aware and fewer of my mornings drifting round in a bleary-eyed fug. 

I refused to drink alcohol, however what was there as a substitute? The beverage panorama was fairly bleak. Again then, alcohol-free beer tasted like flat lemonade.

It could be a number of years earlier than Johannes le Roux got here up with a Cape City-based alcohol-free botanical tonic that happy hangover-free cravings for gin and tonic. 

Le Roux had beforehand developed a pre-mixed brandy-and-Coke vary referred to as Brannas Draught, and after promoting that enterprise found a burgeoning alcohol-free pattern throughout a analysis journey to the Netherlands. 

The Duchess, which Le Roux developed with assist from a botanist aunt and meals technologists, was the primary South African foray into booze-free spirits, and when it launched in 2015, bought 1,000,000 items; by 2020, it had gone worldwide and – partly because of the pandemic – the marketplace for high-performing non-alcoholic spirits was hovering.

Based on IWSR’s 2022 “No- and Low-Alcohol Strategic Research”, the worth of those drinks (in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Britain, the US and South Africa), grew from $7.8 billion in 2018 to only below $10 billion in 2021. Researchers reported that some 43% of adults had tried drinks from this quickly rising sector, one that’s mentioned to be experiencing an 8% development charge annually.

The excellent news is that beverage makers are making it much less of an ordeal, too.

Abstaining often is the new black, nevertheless it doesn’t imply sitting at dwelling knitting whereas your boozy associates are hitting the city. Water’s fantastic and soda water with a touch of lime is ok, however what about that longing for one thing robust? If something will put you off not ingesting it’s being confronted by a syrupy-sweet virgin cocktail. 

As of late native mixologists barely blink in case you ask for a sharp-tasting drink freed from alcohol. Not in cosmopolitan Cape City, a minimum of. Kimberley may be a special story.

That they’ll obtain such drinks is because of a burgeoning number of zero-alcohol spirits which have adopted within the wake of Seedlip, which was the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, launched in 2015. To provide this upmarket, all-natural drink, Ben Branson tinkered in a kitchen within the English countryside, utilizing a small copper pot nonetheless and a 1651 tome titled The Artwork of Distillation that paperwork distilled non-alcoholic natural apothecary cures. 

It’s taken off in South Africa, too. Alongside native non-alcoholic spirits akin to VerGin, Saint, Mahala and Ginifer Sober, there’s been a swathe of new-to-market choices. In 2021, Cape City’s Simone Musgrave added alcohol-free Inspirit to her vary of craft gins; it’s described as ‘an fragrant, alcohol-free infusion made with 12 uncommon botanicals impressed by the traditional spice route of Africa’. These spices and botanicals embody cardamom and juniper, African ginger, lime, and grains of paradise. 

So these are undoubtedly not cool drinks. And they’re a far cry from the swill being bought as dealcoholised wine, which has about as a lot character as a flat, heat Coke – not one of the mouthfeel, nor that particular “edge” {that a} correct, grown-up drink has when it meets your palate. 

The factor is, it’s exactly that edge – a tongue-smacking mysterious one thing that produces that “gnah” style in your mouth – that we grown-ups are in search of. 

Somebody who understands this quest for a powerful flavour in an alcohol-free drink is Nic Jooste, who says he tried to seize the style of the African bush – of Kruger particularly – when he developed his Selati vary of non-alcoholic spirits, which he named after the Ga-Selati River that runs by way of the nationwide park.

South African-born Jooste, who lives in Europe, visited Kruger for the primary time in 2021 and have become obsessive about the flavours, smells, sunsets, sunrises and wild herbs. ‘I used to be already intrigued by the worldwide development in no- and low-alcohol drinks,’ he says. ‘The concept of infusing the flora and flavours of Kruger right into a non-alcoholic spirit took maintain of me, so I put collectively a crew of cocktail and style gurus, and off we went on this journey.’

Jooste says he entered the market at simply the correct time, in what’s the fastest-growing beverage section globally. 

Though the spirits will not be but out there in South Africa due to naming rights points, inside 4 weeks of launching Selati in Europe, it was on menus at greater than 20 of the highest bars and eating places in The Netherlands; that quantity has greater than doubled since, and curiosity within the vary has shortly gone world. 

In one among their video commercials for these spirits, Selati is known as ‘Magtig, kragtig, pragtig’ (highly effective, robust, stunning), an outline that’s set to footage of wildebeest herds fording rivers and elephants trumpeting as they hotfoot it throughout the African plains.

The concept is that an African thirst is like no different, and requires one thing simply as highly effective to slake it.

What you don’t essentially need, although, is the aftermath of bitter remorse, the doable bleary eyes and frown at that time within the night the place you possibly can’t precisely bear in mind how you bought the place you ended up. 

Maybe not such a nasty time to be curious.

Sober tipples


All of the punch, not one of the aftermath – there at the moment are a handful of variants below this good native label. Abstinence Cape Citrus is citrusy and blended with native botanicals, notably buchu, and in addition pepper and fennel. Abstinence Epilogue X makes an ideal non-alcoholic Previous Normal, and is produced utilizing smoked, peated and blended malts, oak, honeybush, vanilla, cassia, cardamom, clove and impepho. And so they have a pair of zingly apéritifs, one lemon, one blood orange, made with buchu, aloe, African wormwood, cinchona bark, quinine and spices. They’re each excellent for a spritz. abstinencespirits.com


Made by a South African-Swede utilizing a juniper base with botanicals that develop on their farm within the Cederberg, this distilled non-alcoholic alt-gin is mixed and bottled in Sweden utilizing spring water. It is available in three formulations: Traditional (juniper and coriander with hints of geranium and Cape floral fynbos); Crisp (juniper, cucumber and camomile); and Wild (juniper, cloves, ginger and rooibos). ceders-alt-gin.com

Ginifer Sober

From Joburg’s Angel Coronary heart Distillery, it’s made with a conventional botanical mixture of juniper berries, coriander seeds, orris, angelica, pepper and backyard mint, the ultimate product is enhanced with both lime leaves or hibiscus tea to supply two varieties: Dry and Hibiscus. yuppiechef.com

John Ross Virgin Distilled Botanicals 

An amber-hued spirit made in Paarl by the creator of Barker and Quin tonics, this traditional non-alcoholic gin is made by distilling and mixing botanicals after which infusing it with honeybush tannin. yuppiechef.com


Named for an Australian chicken in a position to mimic any sound it hears, this dynamic model has shortly dominated the worldwide market with its non-alcoholic spirit substitutes. They make the whole lot from dry gin-like spirits to one thing resembling tequila, plus espresso liqueurs and aperitifs, all mass-produced within the UK with an eye fixed on cornering the booze-free cocktail market. lyres.co.za

Mahala Botanical

A triple-distilled spirit incorporating 9 pure botanicals: clove, honeybush, angelica root, buchu, cassia bark, peppercorn, orange, cardamom and pelargonium citronella. Other than having no alcohol, additionally it is sugar-free. mahalabotanical.com

Musgrave Inspirit

A non-boozy addition to a variety of artisanal spirits produced in Cape City, this rosewater-infused crafted spirit takes flavour inspiration from the African spice route. musgravespirits.com

Saint G&T 

‘One can’t be half, half or semi-virgin,’ say the producers of Mzansi’s first non-alcoholic gin, mentioned to be impressed by the microclimate of the Olifants River. Made with re-distilled juniper in small hand-bottled batches, it’s freed from synthetic colors, flavours and sweeteners. It’s additionally calorie-free and but nonetheless has that flavour kick – ‘the bracing chunk of a conventional icy G&T’ as its makers say. qualito.co.za


Launched in November 2015, it is available in three totally different expressions – Spice 94, Backyard 108 and Grove 42 –  and is served in 150 Michelin-starred eating places in addition to prime cocktail bars, lodges, and retailers. This can be a refined zero kilojoules, sugar-free, sweetener-free and synthetic flavour-free drink. seedlipdrinks.com


On a farm between Montagu and Barrydale, three “non-alcoholic distilled botanicals” had been launched in 2022. They’re named Pupa, Morphous and Papillon and every captures a special dimension of flavour produced by the prickly pear. tahliafarm.co.za

Vermont VerGin

Appears like gin, is served like gin, and makes the right virgin G&T, freed from components, synthetic sweeteners and pretend flavours. It’s constructed from pure botanicals – extracts of juniper, coriander, cardamom and angelica– grown on an organically licensed farm within the Overberg. In 2022 it was named “Finest World Non-Alcoholic Beverage Model” on the Company Reside Wire Innovation and Excellence Awards in London. Not dangerous for a drink spawned by a bit of village within the Overberg. verginsa.co.za

A model of this text appeared within the January 2023 print concern of Getaway

Phrases by Keith Bain

Images by Bianca Coleman

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