Originally published on 29 November 2022, updated to include a 0% Wine option and an extra Gin alternative in September 2023.
Many of us, for a variety of reasons, will be choosing low or zero-alcohol drinks this summer - but that doesn’t mean we should compromise on the taste.
As a parent, I still enjoy a refreshing drink on a typical hot Kiwi summer day - but I don't want the kids running rings around me or the hassle of organising dinner with a headache!
I've been really pleased to find a huge improvement in the options available in New Zealand for low or non-alcoholic drinks that taste good and don't leave you feeling you've drunk a bottle of full-sugar fizzy!
What makes a good non-alcoholic drink?
The best non-alcoholic drinks have many of the same features as their alcoholic buddies and should include a nice balance of acidity, sweetness, bitterness, salinity, and water. Enjoyment of a drink also comes from its complexity - you want something that feels ‘grown-up’ and something you want to slowly sip and savour.
Alcohol has a signature ‘bite’ that is difficult to replicate. This helps slow the drinker and stimulates other senses. Bitter, sour, or spicy flavours can achieve a similar effect and bitterness is often recommended by experts as a key element of a good low or zero-alcoholic drink. They also recommend adding something fresh, such as a squeeze of lime, to your non-alcoholic drink to help ‘brighten’ it up.
Note: Many non-alcoholic drinks contain herbal extracts and some come with health warnings for people who are pregnant, taking certain medications, or have other medical concerns. Some drinks also still contain trace amounts of alcohol. Before drinking it’s always a good idea to check the label and information provided by the brand.
Here are some great-tasting alternatives to add to your drinks cabinet for lazy sunny afternoons!
Gin: Ecology + Co - London Dry – Alcohol-Free Distilled Spirit (0%)
This is what I am drinking this summer (again) - it’s a traditional blend of juniper, coriander and lemon, with floral and pine notes for a familiar, fragrant taste and a long, refreshing finish. It's the perfect replacement for the traditional G&T and great for lazy Sunday afternoons (when you don't want to fall asleep before the kids!).
Gin: Ecology + Co - Asian Spice – Alcohol-Free Distilled Spirit (0%)
This is my second choice for summer - we found this just in time for Christmas last year.... and the bottle didn't last long! Indulge your taste for the exotic with a complex blend of cardamom, cassia, sweet basil and citrus. Earthy black pepper notes round off the flavour profile for a soft-spiced, warm, sensual finish. Invitingly aromatic and uniquely sweet. It's perfect for the adventurous or evolved palate.
Wine: Giesen 0% Rosé, Sauvingon Blanc, Pino Gris, Resiling and Merlot
We didn't have any wine on our list last year - but we have found one we like now - thanks to the people who reached out last year to recommend we give Giesen a try! Based on our sampling this is definitely our first choice for 0% wine.
We liked the Rosé best, but all the wines in the 0% range have been awarded internationally with very high scores and silver and gold medals. Giesen was awarded the trophy for Best Winemaker at the inaugural 2022 WinePilot Zero Alcohol Wine Show in Australia. Their Giesen 0% wines also won commendation at the prestigious 2022 International Wine Challenge and International Wine & Spirit Competition in London.
If you are interested in how they make it, read on..... otherwise skip down to next beverage option.
The process begins with their premium, full-strength wines. They explain that they don’t cut any corners here and use the same quality wine that they sell as their full-strength Estate wines. They then use innovative spinning cone technology to distil this full-strength wine into three parts – aroma, alcohol, and body. They use the body of the wine and the aroma with just a touch of premium grape juice to produce non-alcoholic wines with balanced flavours.
Their process is a bit different to other options on the market that can use more aggressive reverse osmosis methods or don’t involve creating a wine at all. But taking those extra steps is important as it means they can create a final blend that is as much like a real wine as possible.
p.s Giesen 0% wines are also 70-80% lower in calories than standard 12.5% alcohol ABV wines, making them a great alternative for the health-conscious consumer.
Beer: Garage Project Tiny No Regrets Hazy IPA (0.5%)
You can find a great review of Tiny by The Spinoff that talks about the process and challenges Wellington-based Garage Project overcame when brewing Tiny. The short version is that it wasn't easy, and lots of batches went straight down the drain, but it was totally worth it.
Brewed with pilsner malt, golden naked oats, mosaic, strata and simcoe, Tiny is specially fermented to give you lots of big, juicy hop character.
Beer: Bare Beer / Non-alcoholic Pale Ale (0.5%)
Touted as a beer with everything except the alcohol. Tiny has a big tropical aroma and a smooth bitterness that defies logic in this non-alcoholic Pale Ale.
The brewers of Bare Beer wanted to create a locally brewed beer that had as much depth of flavour and character as possible, while maintaining the refreshing and sessionable nature of all of their beers. Many iterations later they created something they were truly proud of, and our panel agreed it was a winner!
Beer: Clausthaler Original (0.5%)
Brewed in strict accordance with the German purity law. Clausthaler has a genuine 'real beer' taste and is well-balanced, fresh, and easy to drink, with a creamy feel on the palate and a pleasing golden colour to match. Clausthaler was a favourite with our panel.
What are your favourite non-alcoholic drinks? Have you found something you could recommend? We'd love to hear from you!