The best low and no-alcohol alternatives to wine to serve with dinner
The low- and no-alcohol movement has been rumbling on for a while now, with dozens of booze-free ‘spirit’ brands hitting shop shelves since the launch of Seedlip in 2015.
And now, the drinks manufacturers want to break into the space that was, until relatively recently, reserved for wines: food pairing.
A recent survey published by Drinkaware found that 20% of people feel pressured to drink on Christmas Day, while another survey conducted by “alt-gin” brand Ceder’s claims that 40% of Brits are planning to stay completely sober.
If you are one of those 40%, there is now a much better range of drinks on offer than ever before. We dare say it’s now possible to find a decent pairing for almost everything you’re going to eat over the festive season.
We’ve rounded-up some of our favourites, from light and fizzy sparkling ‘wines’ to serve with Christmas brekkie, to deep ruby-hued elixirs with red fruit aromas that chime brilliantly with turkey and cranberry sauce.
Daily Mail wine columnist Matthew Jukes might be an unusual source of inspiration for an article like this, but trust us when we say he’s got all occasions covered with the non-alcoholic cordial brand he launched last month; Jukes Cordialities.
During a recent tasting at 67 Pall Mall, Jukes walked db through a few ways to make the cordials come alive, setting out the elite wine club’s stemmed glasses and asking us to mix the white and red cordials with still and sparkling water, and tonic water. Canapés like roast beef, croquettes, and corn fritters were also provided to give us an idea of how they could work with food.
The idea is that you can create a wine alternative for your guests that caters to their individual tastes, whether they like their wines light and fruity, or aromatic and a little bit herbaceous.
For now, the cordials are only available from Juke’s website and through select bars and restaurants, as the critic said they’re being produced in extremely small batches.
If you want to try using cordials like these at your dinner parties, or on the big day, we thought the No. 1 went best with sparkling water as an aperitif. It paired nicely with the corn fritters, and we can see it working some smoked salmon canapés.
If you are looking for something to go with roast turkey, the No. 6 has a very pleasant strawberry flavour on the palate that could work well with meat if serving cranberry sauce on the side. Sadly, as these are cordials, there isn’t all that much tannin to work with, but this is still a fine choice for those who prefer much lighter reds.
(FYI, you could also add a splash of No 6 to Champagne if you’re looking for a slightly lighter Kir Royale, but you didn’t hear it from us).
Price: £35 for a box of nine 30ml bottles, which should generously make 12-18 large glasses, depending on how strong you like them
Find it here.
Non-alcoholic ‘spirit’ label Seedlip unveiled the “world’s first” non-alcoholic aperitif range, Aecorn, earlier this year, and it has proven quite popular in the on-trade both as a cocktail ingredient and as an accompaniment to food menus. Each of the products in the range is made with verjus sourced from English vineyards, while acorns are used as a bittering agent to balance out the end result; a non-alcoholic option for more mature palates.
There are three in the range; Dry, Aromatic, and Bitter, each with their own aromas and flavour characteristics that make them a good option for food pairing.
The Dry, is reminiscent of dry vermouth, but also has a green note not dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc, which makes it a good alternative to lighter white wines.
Aromatic is on the sweeter side, with smokey, spicy aromas of vanilla, clove, and cassia. Smoked cherrywood is also added to balance out the sweetness, making this a well-rounded option for pairing with dessert or coffee at the end of a meal.
Bitter, meanwhile, which is made with some English oak and does need to be diluted with soda, to dampen the bitterness. Seeing as it is best served as a spritz, it is a serve that stands up to any type of antipasti.
Price: From £17
Not all Prosecco alternatives are created equal, but Bacardi-owned wine label Martini’s is one of the better we’ve tried so far this year.
Despite the name, the sparkling ‘wine’ is not overly sweet as some wine alternatives can be, and contains the floral and white peach aromas you’d expect from an Asti. Just don’t drink it expecting it to be as dry as a brut nature.
This is a good option to have on hand as an aperitif before dinner, and thanks to the higher sugar levels, works very well as a drink to serve with dessert. While many drinkers will be opting for port after the main event, others might find a rich and heavy drink with pudding after a blow-out xmas meal a little overwhelming, and this fits the bill.
Serve this fizz with clementine cake, or spiced poached pairs.
Price: Around £6 in most supermarkets
Nine Elms No. 18
Red wine is a notoriously tricky thing to replicate when it comes to low and no-alcohol drinks, but the producers behind Nine Elms No. 18 have managed to add something with a semblance to tannin, which means this is a good option if you want something to pair with meat.
The non-alcoholic tipple is the first in a series of releases from the distillery specially designed to complement food. It takes the juices from four different varieties of berry and botanical infusions from 20 different flowers, herbs and spices.
While we weren’t entirely blown away by this product when we tried it by itself earlier this year, it can also be used as the base for many a low ABV cocktail or mixed drink, which can elevate the flavour of the end result, so you can tailor it to your personal preferences and serve it as you would in a traditional wine glass.
The serve has gained listings at Michelin-starred restaurant The Clove Club and hot new hotel The Standard, and we admit on our second attempt trying this, it can be paired broad range of rich, savoury dishes.
Find it: Master of Malt
Created by owner of London bar Hide and conservation biologist, Paul Mathew, Everleaf is made with 18 different plants chosen to “impart complex and delicate flavours as well as an unrivalled texture.” Matthew recommend pairing this with soda or tonic water, but it can also be imbibed straight, whether neat or over ice. Thanks to its fuller mouthfeel, Everleaf is a decent alternative to have on hand for pairing with food.
On the nose, there overall impression is floral and aromatic, with tropical forest aromas, saffron, orange blossom and sherbet.
On the palate, expect tropical fruit and camomile, with some earthy spice and a bittersweet finish.
To this end, it is a good match for spicy food, so perhaps one to consider for the leftover turkey curry or stir-fry on Boxing Day.
Price: From £15
Fortnum & Mason’s sparkling tea
While some companies are investing in new tech to develop better low ABV serves, others are sticking to what they know best. Fortnum & Mason has gone for the latter, having launched a range of alcoholic sparkling teas packaged in the manner of a bottle of fizz.
Although other brands have been reluctant to confirm that their products are designed to offer an alternative to wine with dinner, that is exactly what these are for, according to the high end retailer. Ranging from 0% to 5% ABV, even the strongest teas far lighter than your typical vino, so an ideal option for those who are simply looking to cut back on the booze, as opposed to cut it out altogether.
“Each bottle offers the same complexity as wine,” according to a statement from F&M, which also says there are up to 13 varieties of tea used in the blend for each bottle, to “mirror the effect usually created by grapes and fermentation.”
Fortnum & Mason has even helpfully supplied food pairing suggestions of its own for each variant.
Copenhagen Sparkling ‘Blue’ Tea (0% ABV) has a nose of honeysuckle, citrus and tropical fruit, with a palate of jasmine, white flowers, white tea and green apple fruit, as well as a “clean, fresh finish.” Pair with delicate dishes, sushi and soft cheeses.
Copenhagen Sparkling ‘Red’ Tea (4% ABV) is a bit headier, with red berry fruits and raspberry leaf on the nose, and a “beautifully balanced palate of earthy Assam and baked red apple.”
F&M say this option is a “great alternative to a ‘normal’ sparkling rose.” Serve as an aperitif with light starters or with rich desserts, especially those made with ginger, spice and dark sugar.
And then finally, the Copenhagen Sparkling ‘Green’ (5% ABV) has nectarine and herbal notes on the nose, with a palate of peach and a touch of mint. The retailer suggests pairing with savoury hors d’oeuvres and smoked fish.
Find it here.