A lot of you do Dry January but, let’s face it, it’s pretty hard going. With the festive fun out of the way, cold weather and lack of sunlight, it’s tough time of year. It might be more realistic to limit the booze to weekends and find ways of making the alternatives feel more special.
Other than at breakfast, most fruit juices and soft drinks are too sweet and uninspiring. Vegetable juices with a spicy kick are generally better (ie carrot and ginger or peppery tomato Virgin Mary), although maybe a bit too much like a meal substitute.
Now, loose-leaf tea is another matter and ideal for experimentation. We’re lucky here in Barnet with Hopscotch who have an excellent range and the owners, Alice and Michael, will guide you through. The Winter Cocoa Herb blend is one of my favourites. If you steep it for long enough the chocolate and mulled spice really come through and it’s perfect for bed time.
Another easy option is to make soda or tonic taste more like a grow-up tipple with a shake of bitters or flavoured syrup. There are lots of interesting cocktail ingredients out there, but I often reach for Angostura Orange Bitters and recently launched Spritz Syrup by ¾ Oz will be joining it in the cupboard. It’s another bitter orange concoction and, if you like Negroni and Aperol, do seek it out (Waitrose currently stock it for £7.99). A little goes a long way and it takes gin and tonic or sparkling wine to another level.
Non-alcoholic beer is getting better all the time, but forget de-alcoholised wine as it always disappoints. However, stylish alcohol-free distillations are worth looking out for. Seedlip has been leading the way, but it’s a rapidly growing category with products emerging all the time. Prices are steep (£24 at Waitrose), but they are distilled in the same way as artisan spirits using specialist botanicals for complex tasting results and the fresh, aromatic Seedlip Garden makes a viable gin substitute with tonic. You can try it locally at The Arkley (where it’s on the “softail” list and they have a strong vegan section on the menu if that’s where you’re at this month).
It’ll be February before you know it…
Image courtesy of Seedlip.