Non-alcoholic Christmas drinks have always been a toughie. It’s a time of celebration – a time for having something that little bit special – so the usual non-alcoholic options just don’t cut it. A glass of sparkling water at the office Christmas party feels a lot like a bad afterthought, just as a glass of orange juice (maybe with another splash of sparkling water) on Christmas morning feels like any other day. It’s no wonder that so many people who are choosing not to drink say they feel a bit left out.
With this in mind, because we know so many people who are working to provide alternatives, and because so many more people are now drinking less, we decided we’d put together a list of great non-alcoholic Christmas drinks. We got on the phone, dropped into a few bars, pulled a few chefs out of busy Michelin-starred kitchens, yanked brewers from non-alcoholic breweries, and we asked the simple question: “this December, which non-alcoholic Christmas drinks will you be serving up?”
Here are a few of our favourites – great non-alcoholic Christmas drinks to help you celebrate throughout December, whether you’re completely teetotal or simply keen to give your liver a rest.
This Year's Non-Alcoholic Christmas Drinks List
Paul Lobban, Senior Sous Chef – Fera at Claridge's
Think Claridge’s, think one of London’s most established, high-end hotels. Step behind the doors at Fera, their Michelin-starred restaurant, and you’ll find a team at the cutting-edge of cuisine. Paul Lobban has enough non-alcoholic cocktail recipes to write his own book, and we hope to be able to publish a few more of them one day. For the time being, however, here’s something that reads as much like a mad scientist’s diary entry as it does an incredible non-alcoholic recipe.
“I originally smoked some aubergines over peat from Glenlivet and pepper corns for an oyster dish, but when I tasted the liquid I was like, ‘Wow! It actually tastes like whiskey!’ We had a chocolate dish which was made with pine and whiskey at the time, and I said this would be great with an Old Fashioned (my fave cocktail). Then, like a light bulb, I was like, ‘I’m going to make an Aubergine Old Fashioned!’ So I mixed up the liquid from the smoked aubergine, bitters, brown sugar, ice and the oil/zest from an orange peel. I couldn’t believe it didn’t have whiskey in it! So I went all-out and served it up in whiskey tumblers and everything.”
Tom Peters, Senior Sous Chef – Roux at Parliament Square
Tom is one of the country’s up-and-coming star chefs, formerly of Masterchef Professionals, currently plying his trade at the Michel Roux restaurant at Parliament Square. He’s also typical of many younger people in London, in that he drinks alcohol but it’s not his raison d’etre. As you’ll see, he likes to keep a clear head for something that requires a bit of focus.
“Although Christmas is a time for lots of parties, for many of us it isn’t about drinking loads of alcohol. I am training for a marathon next year, and I can honestly say that REAL Kombucha has been a saviour for me. I still want to treat myself, of course, but without feeling the negative effects of the booze. There are lots of great alcohol alternatives available on the market, but in my opinion, none are as sophisticated as REAL Kombucha. Moderation is key though. I’ll still be having a good bourbon with my brother on Christmas Eve!”
Seedlip Spice and All Things Nice
Alexandra Dudley, Food Writer
It’s hard to pin down precisely what Alexandra does, but whatever she turns her hand to exudes quality. An artist, an author, an organiser of hugely popular supper clubs… the success of her cookbook, Land & Sea, suggests she’s about as foodie as it gets. So, what’ll she be serving friends and family as a non-alcoholic Christmas drink?
“When everyone is drinking bubbly kombucha, I like to garnish mine with a slice of fresh orange. It’s got the bubbles and it tastes great out of a flute. I make my own, but you can buy one and jazz it up with some fresh orange peel as a festive twist or some cranberry syrup to make it a bit more festive.
“I’ll also be serving Seedlip Spice with sparkling water, a wedge of orange and a clove. Seedlip is a delicious, alcohol-free distilled spirit. The Spice is my favourite, as it’s incredibly festive with notes of cinnamon. I love it with soda water or sparkling water, with a garnish of orange studded with a whole clove. It tastes delicious with kombucha and ginger, too.”
Xmas Cider Vinegar
Joey O'Hare, Chef / Founder – Food With Time
Joey is well-known in the food world, and something of a household name due to her appearance on Masterchef Professionals in 2015. Much like our old friend, Matt Campbell, she is a strong advocate of fermentation and cooking with the seasons, so we love what she gets up to. Her pop-ups and events are the stuff of legend. What will she recommend for a non-alc Christmas?
“This drink has a delicious savoury tang akin to a drink with alcohol. It’s seriously sharp and refreshing, and feels very light and clean which is a nice antidote to the heavier food around Christmas time. Live apple cider vinegar with the mother still included is beneficial to gut health, too. Mix the honey, lemon and apple cider vinegar together well before topping with ice and soda.”
2 tablespoons live Apple Cider Vinegar
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon runny honey
Ice & soda water
Serve in a tall glass
Nectar of the Gods
Elton Moura, Managing Director – Remarkable Pubs
As the MD of one of London’s most forward-thinking pub chains, Elton is ideally positioned to see how attitudes to non-drinking are changing for the better. He’s also got quick and easy access to some of the best new non-alcoholic drinks on the block.
“I have a couple of suggestions. If you’re going to the pub but don’t want alcohol, I would wholeheartedly recommend REAL Kombucha as a brilliant alcohol alternative. It is a drink that will make you go, “nom nom nom… ooh”, as you discover the next big thing in a sector that is finally growing up.
“Alternatively, on paper, Shrubs shouldn’t work. They are drinks made with vinegar, herbs and spices, for goodness sake! However, never judge a book by its cover. Give them a go. The combination works so well, they may leave you wondering, as I did, “Why on earth have I been drinking Diet Coke all these years when this wonderful Nectar of the Gods exists?”
Berries and Booch
Gorge Pugsley, Head of Bar – Burger & Lobster
George Pugsley oversees the drinks choices at Burger & Lobster, one of the most talked-about restaurant groups in the country. He tells us…
“This Christmas, our non-alcoholic drinks options have grown. This is because we are keeping up with growing trends we are seeing in our customers’ demand: more soft options are being welcomed.
“In line with this, this season, I’d have to highlight our Berry Cooler – a vitamin-packed and seasonally-coloured soft shell. Contributing to one of your five-a-day, this is a cold-busting tipple that should be on everyone’s radar as the weather gets colder.
“Secondly, REAL Kombucha’s Royal Flush is a must-have. Served in our restaurants as a non-alcoholic alternative to Prosecco, the perfect grown-up non-alcoholic drink has finally arrived. Not only does this visually re-include non-drinkers by being served in a wine glass, but its delicate floral acidity makes it the ideal celebration drink and one that can be enjoyed all evening long.”
Tim Etherington-Judge, Founder – Founder
Tim is an example of what we like to call The Modern Drinker, meaning he drinks for the enjoyment of the craft and the flavour rather than for its more debauched qualities, and he regularly goes long periods between drinks. As the founder of Healthy Hospo, his mission is to bring a more healthy focus to the world of hospitality. We asked him which non-alcoholic drinks he’ll be looking forward to pouring this Christmas.
“Here’s a delicious, fruity alternative to mulled wine that’s super simple to make and the kids will love too. You will need:
Organic apple juice
“Here’s how I like to put it together. Warm the apple juice over a crackling open log fire, add a couple of sticks of cinnamon, star anise, a couple of pegs of cloves, and then serve it with a dehydrated apple ring. Merry Christmas!”
Camile Vidal, Founder & Author – La Maison Wellness
Camille Vidal is the author of How To Drink French Fluently and Founder of La Maison Wellness, the online home for living well with a French twist. She is a wellness expert, yoga teacher and drinks advocate, and is also known as ‘Madame St-Germain’, the global ambassador for French elderflower liqueur, St-Germain. Her Christmas non-alcoholic drinks are kombucha-based recipes of her own creation.
“Kombucha have been part of my daily routine and my cocktail creation repertoire for a while now. It’s such a great alternative when you feel like something fizzy but don’t want a sugary soda. Not only is it delicious and refreshing, but it’s also good for your guts! I’ve tried many brands and many styles of kombucha, but I have to say REAL Kombucha is by far one of my favourites. No flavours are added – it’s just the beauty of the teas and the techniques of brewing that give them such an elegant taste. These kombuchas are easy to mix in cocktails or to enjoy on their own. Here are a couple of great recipes.”
– The Green Beast
10ml cucumber syrup
2 dashes lemon essential oil
Top up with REAL Kombucha Dry Dragon
Build in a highball over ice
Garnish with a cucumber ribbon
– Long Smoke
10ml turmeric honey
20ml orange, lemon & ginger juice
Top up with REAL Kombucha Smoke House
Build in a highball over ice
Garnish with a rosemary and orange wedge with cloves
Stout and Sturdy
Joe Kean, Co-Founder – Nirvana Brewery
Nirvana is one of London’s first entirely non-alcoholic breweries. They specialise in creating non-alcoholic beers, lagers, ales and stouts for all drinking occasions. We asked co-founder, Joe Kean, which he’ll be pouring this Christmas.
“Nirvana Kosmic Stout is definitely the one to go for. It’s lighter than your typical stout so it goes great with a meal, and its roasted chocolate flavour gives it a wonderful Christmassy edge.
“Also FitBeer’s classic Bavarian Helles Lager is always one to consider. Crisp, well balanced and super healthy, it’s an excellent choice all year round.”
No Christmas Compromise
Robyn Simms, Founder – Square Root
Robyn is a non-drinker who founded Square Root Soda in 2013, with the aim of brewing interesting drinks with the same kind of focus and passion as an alcohol brewer might. Sounds familiar to us! Here’s what she’ll be serving this Christmas.
“I would recommend people try and find non-alcoholic versions of their favourite drinks. It helps you to not worry about missing out on anything by not drinking alcohol, allowing you to focus your time on important things like spending time with loved ones. My favourite, I would say, is the Negroni Soda we made as part of our Xmas cocktails. I love a Negroni so what I wanted to achieve with that drink was a sophisticated version of a soda that had all the right flavours of a Negroni, lower sugar and none of the booze. It really doesn’t feel like you’re compromising on anything by drinking it and, for me, that’s perfect.”
A Wintery Gem
Luke Suddards, Co-Founder – Sandows
Cold brew coffee is all the rage at the moment, and the King of Cold Brew Coffees is undoubtedly Sandows. But how to get it onto our list of non-alcoholic Christmas drinks? We’ll let our buddy Luke Suddards, the co-founder of the brand, explain…
“I’m a little biased here on more than one account as Ben (founder of Seedlip) is a friend and the drink I’m talking about has Sandows in it! Nonetheless its an obvious choice for the winter season, and who doesn’t love an Espresso Martini? Therefore, who wouldn’t love Seedlip’s non-alcoholic take on this gem – the Espresso MartiNO!”
The following recipe was was put together by the Seedlip team.
Seedlip Spice 94: 50ml/2oz
Sandows Cold Brew Concentrate
Sugar Syrup: 15ml/0.5oz
Garnish: 3x Coffee Beans
Christmas drinks made simple
David Begg, Founder – REAL Kombucha