How to cut down on alcohol (and still have your daily cocktail)

Living Well | Patricia Maunder | Posted on 03 June 2020

COVID-19 has seen a spike in alcohol sales. Here’s how to cut back on your daily tipple.  

While many were mastering the art of the perfect sourdough in lockdown, or learning Italian or bingeing on jigsaw puzzles, it turns out a lot of us have been drinking.

According to research conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), 20 per cent of Australian households bought “more alcohol than usual” since the COVID-19 outbreak, and of these 34 per cent says they are now drinking alcohol daily.

Gin cocktail sitting on marble table

 Alcohol-free cocktails are on the rise. Photo: Jana Langhorst.



The sober-drinking drink

If you think it might be time to cut back, the good news is that non-alcoholic drinks have come a long way since the ’70s, when Claytons – “The drink you have when you’re not having a drink” – became the byword for anything that’s a poor substitute for the real thing.

In the past few years, no and low-alcohol drinks have shrugged off their daggy reputation, with a slew of sophisticated offerings that have inspired the rise of alcohol-free bars in London, Dublin and the US, and found their way onto upmarket restaurant menus. Dan Murphy’s recorded double-digit year-on-year growth in non-alcoholic beverage sales in 2019, while the inaugural Melbourne Cocktail Festival in February presented a masterclass focused on mocktails as refined as their cocktail cousins.

Next time you reach for a drink, consider these new-breed no- and low-alcohol options available from liquor retailers. Online stores dedicated to this growing market, such as Alcofree, offer even more choices.

Spirited alternatives

Non-alcoholic spirits have been driving the booze-free bandwagon since Seedlip launched in the UK in 2015. Its three products are distilled with different blends of herbs, spices and citrus. Other internationals include Ceder’s, a juniper-based distillate from Sweden, and South Africa’s pre-mixed ‘gin’ and tonic, The Duchess.

Brunswick Aces produces Melbourne’s own gin alternative, while Sydney-based Lyre’s launched last year with 13 products that closely mimic spirits including whisky, absinthe and orange liqueur. Unlike other alt-spirits, Lyre’s potions aren’t distilled. They are cunning blends of ingredients arrived at after genuine spirits’ flavour profiles were scientifically deconstructed – right down to alcohol’s ‘burn’, which is replicated with pepper, ginger and menthol.

Although they may not quite cut it drunk neat, when blended with mixers as part of more complex cocktails, the new non-alcoholic spirits have sophisticated flavour profiles that leave Claytons in the dust.

Wine not? 

Non-alcoholic wine is produced in two ways: grape juice is fermented and matured like wine, then the alcohol is removed (a trace 0.5 per cent usually remains); or grape juice is simply mixed with water and perhaps other ingredients then carbonated. A well-established, refreshing example of the latter is the gingery sparkler made by Victoria’s Robinvale Wines, whose non-alcoholic range also includes Muscat Moscato and Sparkling Passion. Similarly, verjuice gives an acidic zing to celebrity chef Maggie Beer’s alcohol-free sparkling chardonnay and cabernet juice. 

Dedicated to non-alcoholic wines, Australian company Edenvale uses both methods to create a generous range including shiraz, sparkling rose and riesling. The Lindeman’s and McGuigan wineries make de-alcoholised sparkling wines, while imports include Spain’s Natureo and Blue Nun from Germany. 

Booze-free beer 

Like non-alcoholic wine, beer with zero (or near-zero) per cent alcohol has been on the shelves for years. Made like regular beer, it’s usually heated to remove alcohol, but this tends to adversely affect flavour. More recently, new methods such as vacuum distillation (which enables alcohol to evaporate at a lower temperature) and reverse osmosis have delivered better results. 

Major brands including Carlton, Cooper’s, Peroni and Heineken produce beers with little or no alcohol, but Queensland-based Sobah is generating the most excitement. This craft brewery dedicated to booze-free beer is led by Gamilaroi man and psychologist Clinton Schultz, and sells brews spiked with native ingredients such as finger lime, Davidson plum and pepperberry. 

More options for less alcohol 

Herbaceous Norfolk Punch and Rochester Ginger mixed with soda water have long been favourites among teetotallers, but more recently tea and kombucha have become go-to base ingredients for non-alcoholic cocktails. 

Last year, newcomer Non charged to the front of this alternative pack. Created by a Melbourne chef whose CV includes time at Copenhagen’s acclaimed culinary temple Noma, this five-strong range is made by infusing dried fruits, herbs and spices in hot water. It’s so good it’s turning up on the menus of leading restaurants, including Melbourne’s Supernormal. 

Cocktail sitting on granite table

Orlando Marzo's Garden Zizz cocktail. Photo: Jana Langhorst.


Bartender making cocktails

Orlando Marzo mixing things up. Photo: Jana Langhorst.


Blueberry cocktail on bench

RACV Goldfields Resort restaurant's Blueberry and Rosemary Smash.



DIY alcohol-free cocktails at home


 

An alternative cocktail  

Melbourne Cocktail Festival’s curator and 2018 Global Bartender of the Year, Orlando Marzo doesn’t need alcohol to create a sophisticated drink. With a few simple ingredients, the Italian-born, Melbourne-based mix-master’s Garden Zizz is easy to whip up at home. 

Marzo’s Garden Zizz
  • 50 millilitres Seedlip Garden 108 
  • 60 millilitres lemon myrtle cordial (recipe below) 
  • 15 millilitres lemon juice 
  • Capi yuzu soda 

Put Seedlip, cordial and juice in a highball glass with ice and top with the soda. 

Lemon myrtle cordial 
  • 2 lemons 
  • 100 grams sugar 
  • 100 millilitres verjuice 
  • 10 grams dried lemon myrtle 

Peel the lemons and cut into small pieces. Place in a jar with lemon peels, sugar and lemon myrtle then muddle it. Add the verjuice and stir gently, then put it in the fridge to infuse for a few hours. Strain through a fine strainer and your cordial is ready. Keep refrigerated. 

On the menu

To celebrate the upcoming launch of RACV Goldfields Resort's new restaurant, Three Founders, RACV restaurant and bars manager Cindy Volkmann shares her go-to alcohol-free cocktail recipe. Her deliciously sip-worthy Rosemary and Blueberry Smash is a tangy treat.

Rosemary Blueberry smash
  • 7 or 8 blueberries
  • 1 rosemary sprig, stripped
  • 30 millilitres honey syrup
  • 30 millilitres fresh lemon juice, strained
  • Sparkling mineral water, ice

Gently muddle blueberries, rosemary leaves and honey syrup in shaker. Add lemon juice and ice, cover and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain to tumbler over ice, top with sparkling water and stir. Garnish with rosemary sprig and skewered blueberries.

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