Hurrah! Whether you're not a fan of alcohol, are trying to limit any festive weight gain or are gearing up for Dry January, there'll be no bulk buying of Shloer this Christmas. Wine expert and author Helen McGinn shares a few of her favourite, and painstakingly created, recipes for the best alcohol-free tipples to mix up at home.
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"I'm a professional wino. Seriously: I've worked in the wine industry for over 20 years, first as a supermarket wine buyer and latterly as a wine writer. So writing a book about not drinking wasn't really on my to do list. Until I did dry January, that is. Now, I must 'fess up. I didn't do it for health reasons – I love my wine but I don't overdo it too often and always have at least two dry days a week. Rather, I did it because I'd read about 'wine face'. You know, puffy eyes, redness, droopy eyelids. I had all of these so decided to knock booze on the head for a month to see what difference it made.
"But to be honest, the hardest thing about not drinking was finding something remotely interesting and sufficiently 'grown up' to drink in place of my more-often-than-not nightly glass of wine. I'm not a fizzy drink drinker and anyway, turning to stuff full of sugar just because I wasn't drinking alcohol seemed just as bad. So I set about finding alternatives to drink including simple mocktails to knock up at home and properly good alternatives to a cold beer or glass of wine. Turns out that there's fun to be had mixing your drinks, even the non-alcoholic ones.
"Mixers like tonic water and ginger ale can be pimped with a few extra ingredients, transforming them into something much more satisfying. And that's the trick – the tipple should feel like a treat, just as a glass of wine does. The lack of alcohol means these drinks have to deliver on flavour instead (which they all really do). Here are some of my favourites. And if you want to know the results of 'wine face', it's all in the book…"
Put a handful of ice cubes in a glass or tumbler and fill with ginger ale. Add a sprig of basil leaves, torn if you want it basil-y, or just popped in the top if you want just a whiff of basil and more ginger. Add a slice or wedge of lime and a straw.
A twist on the classic champagne cocktail, the French 75. No cognac or champagne in this one but we've got bitter lemon instead. Use a chilled glass if you can, somehow it makes it even more delicious. Add the juice of half a lemon or more if you want, along with a dash of sugar syrup. Then top up with fridge-cold bitter lemon. Serve immediately.
Fill your tumbler (or copper mug if you're really trendy) with a handful of ice cubes. Pour over the ginger beer and add a dash of sugar syrup together with the juice of half or the whole lime. Stick a sprig of mint in the side and give it a stir. Kick-ass.
Created as a mixer for a pink G&T, which is how I first drank it, I cracked open a bottle of this one dry evening and found that the reassuring bitterness of the quinine combined with angostura bark extract and refreshing pale pink tonic made this stand up quite happily on its own. Serve it in your nicest tumbler with lots of ice and a twist of lemon peel.
Made by one of the biggest names in Spain, this is a cut above most other low-alcohol wines not least because it's made from such an expressive grape. Muscat smells distinctly grape-y and floral and so you get something wine-like in the glass with this one. With a nice enough red and rose in the range too, this is one of the best alcohol-free wine ranges around.
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Helen McGinn's Teetotal Tipples is published by Robinson and available from Amazon, and for weekly wine recommendations visit Helen's blog www.knackeredmotherswineclub.com