Softly, softly: time for non-alcoholic happy hour
Break for hangover-free happy hour with our edit of non-alcoholic drinks and deliciously sober cocktails
The after-work drink – so useful in delineating the day’s industry from the relaxation of the evening, is perhaps even more important as we navigate the pandemic. While we are temporarily denied access to favourite watering holes and meeting places, happy hour is at home, and we are making that drink ourselves (often only metres away from where we spent the day).
Obviously, something special is required to mark the moment and give a sense of occasion – even if we are not leaving the house. An alcohol-rich cocktail has always been a popular choice, but those who avoid, or are cutting down on, the hard stuff are still invited to the party, and the non-alcoholic drinks market has opened up to reveal a well-stocked bar of delicious botanical elixirs and cordials.
The new generation of soft alternatives offers an exciting spectrum of styles and flavours – increasingly sophisticated and with their own characters rather than pale imitations of the alcoholic spirits we know.
‘Clean’ botanics company Amass, already known for its dry gin and botanic vodka, has now launched Riverine – a non-alcoholic spirit that still delivers the complex depth of flavour that discerning consumers expect. Says Morgan McLachlan, Amass’ co-founder and master distiller, ‘Riverine is inspired by the dense coniferous forests of the Canadian Pacific Northwest, where I grew up. The result is a nuanced, sophisticated spirit in its own right.’
Distilled and bottled in British Columbia, Riverine contains 14 natural botanicals, each one individually created using a hydrosteam distillation process. Its crisp forest flavours range from vibrant citrus, sorrel and coriander to bright notes of sumac and cool mint. Lingering herbal notes of juniper, parsley and rosemary complete the Riverine experience, which may be enjoyed in cocktails, or simply over ice with a splash of tonic.
Artet is a delicious non-alcoholic aperitif that features cannabis. Made in California, the state that leads the way with all sorts of products offering alternative ways to enjoy THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis), each 50ml shot of Artet provides 2.5mg of THC – a moderate dose that is just enough to give a warm and convivial buzz that has nothing to do with alcohol.
A blend of cannabis and eight botanicals, Artet is inspired by traditional Italian-style liqueurs and aperitifs and has the classic, complex taste of bitters. Bright citrus notes are layered over the spicy, earthy, flavours of ginger, juniper, and cardamom, creating a memorable and elegant drink all by itself, on the rocks, or as the perfect cocktail ‘spirit’. For a more immediate and convenient non-alcoholic cannabis experience, the Artet team has also introduced canned cocktails featuring its flagship aperitif.
Recalling a time when aperitif drinking was gaining in popularity, Wilfred’s elegant, art deco-inspired bottle will put you in a suitably cocktail-hour frame of mind. The deliciously bittersweet aperitif contained within is designed to be served with tonic water as a refreshing, spritz-style drink.
Using only natural ingredients, the luscious, deep-red concoction gathers keynotes of bitter orange, rhubarb, herbaceous rosemary, and a hint of spicy clove, and may also be made into a warming non-alcoholic mulled ‘wine’, perfect for colder months.
The designer behind Ghia, Willo Perron, was inspired by traditional Mediterranean aperitif brands to create an alcohol-free alternative full of vibrant flavour. The visual identity of the brand, taking cues from the hospitality signage of the region and Italian postmodern design, feels both familiar and exotic, and is evocative of bustling bars on balmy Mediterranean evenings.
Satisfying complex, Ghia features earthy botanicals (including gentian root, which gives Campari and similar aperitifs their distinctive bitterness), and summery floral notes, plus the clean cut of citrus. It may be served with ice and soda or tonic, or as a cocktail ingredient.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, has firmly emerged as an alternative to a relaxing alcoholic drink. Aplós has created a bold and aromatic non-alcoholic spirit that offers a new way to unwind. Each serving contains 20mg of organically grown hemp extract, with all the calming, mood-lifting effects of the cannabinoid spectrum but without the psychoactive THC.
Aplós uses nano-emulsification technology to create smaller, water-soluble particles that allow for rapid and efficient absorption of the active ingredient. Taste though, does not play second fiddle to the hemp factor in this delicious non-alcoholic spirit – nuanced layers of flavour include notes of cardamom and rosemary, led by citrus, and it has the versatility to be served neat, on the rocks, in a spritz, or mixed in a cocktail.
Jukes Cordialities are a set of drinks that offer the experience of drinking a fine wine, but without the alcohol. Matthew Jukes used the expertise of over 30 years in the wine trade to create a non-alcoholic drink, using only fruit, vegetables and natural flavourings, which undergo a gentle maceration with organic cider vinegar. The resulting cordials are complex and aromatic, with the satisfying mouthfeel and perfume of fine wine.
There are three Jukes cordial flavours, ranging from the bright and fruity to more earthy, mellow, notes, and they are designed to be mixed with still, sparking or tonic water, in proportions that accord with the individual drinker’s tastes. §