Although it’s easy to make jokes about how this year is driving people to drink, in Australia it’s never been a more exciting time to be a non-drinker too.
Whether you’re interested in moderating your intake or have always abstained, alcohol-free drinks no longer have a whiff of the kids’ table.
New websites such as Killjoy Drinks and AlcoFree offer curated sans-alcohol drinks lists that ship Australia-wide, and even local bottle shops have a growing non-alcoholic section. We drank our way through them (including some not-so-delicious drops) to compile an essential list for your next booze-free summer adventure.
From the craft brewers using native Australian ingredients to refreshing lagers and ales that would be ideal poolside – the beers in the sans-alcohol range are the most complex that anyone has seen to date. Keep an eye on this space. It’s only going to get more exciting and flavoursome.
Heaps Normal Quiet XPA – $16/4-pack
If there wasr a standout winner in the non-alcoholic beers of 2020 it would be this extra pale ale. It’s got a refreshing citrus tang with a quintessential malty beer finish. The “sessional beer” has taken on a new normal.
This is a lager/ginger beer hybrid – with a native twist. Brewed in Burleigh Heads by Gamilaroi man Clinton Schultz, it uses the boab nut pulp to give it a slightly syrupy texture and a light citrusy taste. The striking Australian boab tree is rich in vitamin C and found only in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Modus Operandi ‘Nort’ Refreshing Ale – $49/24-case
A low calorie, plant-based beer that’s Australian owned and operated? That ticks a lot of boxes. It’s also an ale that’s golden in colour and packed full of fruity citrus and hoppy flavours, so it’ll satisfy regular beer drinkers too.
Bilpin Cider Co. Non-Alcoholic Original Cider – $65/24-case
If you’re going to buy a non-alcoholic cider, you’re best to go straight to a home of NSW apple production, Batlow. This is made using only freshly crushed granny smiths, pink lady and red delicious apples – the same juice recipe for their alcoholic original cider, before its fermentation.
Wine, or wine-adjacent
There are two main processes when making non-alcoholic wine, and both start with traditionally made alcoholic wine, then either through reverse osmosis or vacuum distillation the alcohol is removed.
There is a lot to be wary of in this category of drinks (unlike its beer and spirit counterparts) – the trick is starting with delicious quality wine to begin with – because the lack of alcohol won’t hide poor flavours or excess sugar.
Plus and Minus Blanc de Blancs – $14.99
Everyone’s got a “one too many Bellini’s at the wedding” story; this is where the Plus and Minus has your back. Made using premium South Australian chardonnay grapes, it has the sweet tropical fruits and hint of floral citrus that will remind you of a good prosecco. Perfect for summer punches and spritzes.
There’s a reason why the non-range always graces best non-alcoholic drinks lists: flavours and quality are incomparable to anything else on the market. These aren’t non-alcoholic wines; rather they’re custom-blended drinks made by ex-Noma chef William Wade that are blended to have the same complexity of flavour as wine, and the technique differs blend to blend. This latest, made in collaboration with Assembly Coffee, is for the lovers of all things floral. A little fizz gives those lemon verbena and Earl Grey tea sensory top notes a bit of pizazz as it slides over your taste buds.
While the non-alcoholic spirit category may upset your local bartender, the spirits craftsmanship has come leaps and bounds since the early days. It is only if you try them side-by-side with hard spirits that you notice the distinct lack of heat on the palate that only alcohol can bring. But these come with the ability to drive home after imbibing – not a bad trade-off.
Monday Distillery Non-Alcoholic Paloma – $50/8-pack
When you thought you had sworn off tequila for life, Monday Distillery comes around with its version of a paloma that has all the refreshment of pink grapefruit, that citrusy herbaceous twang of tequila – minus the weekend hangover or morning-after regret on a Monday.
This drink is intended to capture the essence of a classic dry London gin, and while it might not be able to replicate the mouthfeel that alcohol gives a spirit – it’s spot on with the flavours. A perfect substitute drink for your next backyard game of cricket where you’ve got to keep your wits about you.
A cocktail: Unspiked Punch
This is a twist on the Payne Family classic. Every birthday party, the cries for “can we have tropical punch?” echoed throughout the house when I was growing up; but in this version I’ve used lemon myrtle instead of lemonade for a native floral kick.
4-pack PS40 Lemon Myrtle Soda
750ml dry ginger ale (I like Capi)
1 ltr tropical juice of your choosing
Lemon myrtle flowers to garnish
Put frozen fruit and ice in the bottom of a punch bowl. Add myrtle soda, dry ginger ale and tropical juice on top. Stir through the passionfruit pulp.
Spoon into individual glasses and garnish with lemon myrtle (other edible flowers will also work).
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