The best non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks taste tested
Drinks experts Richard Davie and Miriam Nice recommend their top picks for low-alcohol and alcohol-free beverages, including lagers, stouts, spirits, wines and kombuchas.
This review was last updated in January 2022.
Richard Davie is a brewer, writer and consultant with roots in home-brewing. When he's not making his own beer and cocktails, he works at award-winning micro pub The Beer Shop @richarddaviebrews
Miriam Nice is a published author and illustrator. She has written more than 350 recipes for BBC Good Food @miriamjsnice
Richard and Miriam’s book, The Art of Drinking Sober (£12.99, Orion), is out now.
Where a decade ago low-alcohol drinks were often little more than a punchline, every year this category gets more exciting, as new entrants to the field bring out interesting innovations and the standard of the offering goes up across the board.
At the same time, we're thinking more about drinking less, and perhaps being more open to the idea that a drink can be special even if it isn't alcoholic. Newer low-alcohol beers and spirit substitutes are finding clever ways to communicate the intensity, complexity or satiety you'd associate with a cold lager or gin and tonic.
Alcohol-free spirits first came onto people's radar in 2014 with Seedlip, who proudly stood up for a non-alcoholic gin-style product that cost £35 and required a trek to Selfridges. In the wake of the attention this drew, it and similar offerings are nowadays available in supermarkets up and down the country at rather less luxurious prices. In addition to gin, producers have reimagined alcohol-free equivalents to vermouth, amaro, amaretto and coffee liqueur, and the list continues to grow.
Non-alcoholic beer has improved greatly in the last few years, with both higher visibility and greater quality, so we’ve highlighted a few more of our favourites in that category.
What is alcohol-free?
Some of the entries below are labelled ‘low-alcohol’ at 0.5%, rather than ‘alcohol free’. In the UK, anything under half a percent alcohol is no longer restricted under licensing laws. At no more than 0.5%, it is unable to render you drunk and some breads and ripe fruit contain as much or more alcohol.
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How we tested
We tried a wide range of no and low-alcohol beverages, including aperitifs, pre-mixed mocktails and alternatives to beer, gin, and rum. In terms of serving, we followed any suggestion from the drinks brands themselves, as well as sampling the drinks neat 'on the rocks' or mixed with tonics, sodas, juices and non-alcoholic sparkling wine, amongst others. Our testing criteria focused on the sweetness, acidity, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and lasting finish, as well as judging the degree to which each drink matched its non-alcoholic counterpart, if applicable.
Looking for more alcohol-free inspiration? Read our reviews on everything from sparkling wine alternatives and non-alcoholic spirits to kombucha:
Also visit our alcohol-free drinks hub for plenty more round-ups, guides and mocktail recipes.
Low and alcohol-free beer
A UK company, but brewed in Bavaria, this is redolent of the Helles style, all soft malt and gentle bitterness for a crisp, easy satisfying lager. A limited draught presence in pubs, too.
£1.80 per bottle (330ml) – available from Sainsbury’s
Best pale ale
Adnam's flagship pale ale, but without the alcohol. Retains much of the mouthfeel, keeps that pleasing citrus hop note and goes down a treat.
£3.50 for 4 x 330ml bottles – available from Tesco
Old ale, Harvey’s
The autumnal classic, but de-alcoholised. Rich fruit cake and a touch of chocolate, sweetness without becoming unbalanced and a lighter carbonation make for a solid option for cask ale fans.
From £28.40 for 24 x 275ml bottles – available from Harvey's
No worries, Lervig
Very much made in the image of the current vogue for hazy IPAs, this has a full body, opaque glow, negligible bitterness and oodles of fruity aromas.
£1.95 per bottle (330ml) – available from beermerchants.com
Galactic milk stout alcohol-free, Big Drop Brewing Co
Milk stouts are more visible than they have been in decades, and that lactose works perfectly here, adding body and sweetness to counter the rich roasty notes of a satisfying stout.
£1.50 per bottle (330ml) – available from Waitrose
Read our review of the best non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers.
High Point Ruby Aperitif
Claiming to have produced the UK's first non-alcoholic aperitif, High Point are paving the way for a new generation of premium spirits. Their vibrant 'Ruby' red aperitif is produced using a fermented tea base, which is then infused with fruit, herbs and botanicals from the surrounding Cornish countryside. This month-long process results in a rich, complex drink with a pleasing balance of sweet, sour and spice. Its herbal aroma gives way to a lingering aftertaste of bittersweet blood orange, reminiscent of Campari.
£19,99 per bottle (700ml) - available from Master of Malt
Best classic alcohol-free gin
Blended with the four same signature botanicals as its classic London Dry Gin, we felt that Tanqueray's 0% was the most convincing non-alcoholic gin alternative of everything we tried. Initially, the palate is hit by an invigorating burst of citrus and juniper, which gives way to more mellow notes of liquorice and herbs. Mixing with a plain tonic brings out the full flavour profile but this versatile spirit would also be suited to a range of gin cocktails.
£15 per bottle (700ml) - available from Amazon
Sea buckthorn, Bax botanics
Best luxury alcohol-free gin
This has a really complex flavour profile, rich in ginger, rosemary and chamomile notes, softened by the sea buckthorn. Pairs brilliantly with tonic.
£18.99 per bottle (500ml) – available from baxbotanics.com
Smidgin gin, Adnams
Best low-alcohol gin
Southwold distillery Adnams’ new concept is a high-strength gin intended to create a low-alcohol serve without compromising on flavour. Don’t be fooled by the 50% alcohol volume – despite being stronger than most gins, Smidgin is specially crafted to be served in small 2.5ml measures with tonic water, yielding a full-bodied G&T with just a fraction of the alcohol. The 200ml bottle even comes with a copper spoon to allow precise measurement of each serving. We found each sip delivered a complex balance of botanicals, from fresh juniper to warming cardamom and floral hibiscus, culminating in a crisp, dry finish.
£26 per bottle (200ml) – available from Adnams
Caleño Dark & Spicy
Best rum alternative
Fans of spiced rum will love Columbian-inspired Caleño’s non-alcoholic tropical spirit. Rich and tangy aromas of pineapple and coconut are complemented by warming cardamom and ginger spice. This spirit could suit a variety of cocktails but we found it mixed especially well with fruit juices, ginger beer and cola.
This innovative brand has done a great job of recreating amaretto without booze. Sweet, almondy, rich and special. Well chilled, this would be a lovely way to end a meal or to swap into cocktails.
£20.12 per bottle (700ml) - available from Master of Malt
Clean Co Clean T
Best tequila alternative
Clean Co has has produced a range of impressive alcohol-free alternatives, including this version of blanco tequila (or silver tequila). Although it doesn't have the signature burn of this clear spirit, it does recreate the fresh agave scent which pairs beautifully with lime juice and a pinch of salt in a margarita mocktail.
£15 for a 700ml bottle - available from Clean Co
Seedlip Garden 108
Best herbal non-alcoholic spirit
A leading pioneer of zero-alcohol beverages, Seedlip's mastery of flavours is evident in all three of its current drinks offerings. Our favourite is Garden 108, a fragrant blend of soothing herbs with cucumber, fresh pea and, perhaps a little more unusually, dry notes of hay. As well as mixing with tonic, we recommend pairing this herbaceous spirit with fruity kombucha or using in a gimlet mocktail with lime cordial.
£19.25 for a 700ml bottle – available from Amazon (£19.25)
Pre-mixed non-alcoholic drinks:
Golden Hour – blood orange, bitters & cardamom, Punchy Drinks
If you’re a fan of campari or aperol, this is a great substitute and an excellent grown-up drink in its own right. Wonderful balance of blood orange, bitterness and natural-tasting sweetness.
£1.50 for 250ml can – available from Ocado.com
Highball alcohol-free cocktails
Looking for a party drink without the booze? Highball's range of pre-mixed cocktails come in six classic flavours: Classic G&T, Pink G&T, Cosmopolitan, Italian Spritz, Mojito and Ginger Dram. We thought that all the drinks offered a sophisticated alternative and particularly enjoyed the tangy raspberry and juniper notes of the Pint G&T as well as the refreshing burst of citrus bitters in the Italian Spritz. An added bonus; Highball cocktails contain less than half the calories of standard cocktails and are free from artificial ingredients, sweeteners and preservatives. They are also gluten-free and suitable for vegan diets.
£10.99 for a case of 6 - available from Highball
Read our review of the best non-alcoholic spirits and pre-mixed drinks.
Jukes 6, Jukes Cordialities
Not only is this a great substitute for red wine, it’s really neatly packaged too. In mini bottles that can be diluted to taste, it’s highly portable too.
£38 for 9 x 30ml bottles – available from Jukes Cordialities
Thomson & Scott 'Noughty'
Having earned its place as one of the world leading alcohol-free alternatives to champagne and sparkling wine, Noughty sets the bar high. Two varieties are currently available, boasting a range of credentials: vegan, organic, low in sugar and halal-friendly. The lightly carbonated chardonnay offers clean, crisp notes of apple, while our favourite, the rosé is a delicate blend of fresh summer berries. At only 14 calories per glass, it is also the lightest wine we tried, yet this does not detract from the flavour. Produced using traditional winemaking methods along with vacuum distillation, both drinks achieve a sophisticated balance of sweetness and acidity which is invigorating on the palate.
Oddbird Sparkling Rosé
A finely crafted blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, we found Oddbird's rosé to be refreshingly crisp, with tangy undertones of apple and tart summer berries. Described by the brand as being 'liberated from alcohol', this wine is carefully produced using traditional methods, resulting in a drink which certainly dispels the notion that booze is an integral part of any celebratory occasion. Dry on the palate yet very drinkable, this is equally suitable for pairing with food or enjoying alone as an aperitif.
Italian alcohol-free sparkling, La Gioiosa
This light and sweet sparkling wine alternative has hints of apple, white grape and elderflower. Great substitute for prosecco and good-value too.
£5.99 for a bottle (750ml) – available from ocado.com
Royal Flush, Real Kombucha
Done right, kombucha gives you the complexity and interest of a fermented product but without the booze; pair with food as you would a sparkling white wine or a lighter lambic-style beer. Brewed with fragrant Darjeeling tea, Real Kombucha's Royal Flush has a fresh, fruity flavour which expertly pairs with lighter dishes such as white fish and white meat as well as creamy sauces and charcuterie.
£30 for 12 x 275ml bottles – available from Real Kombucha
Lo Bros, lime, lemon & bitters kombucha
As well as enjoying this sparkling fermented beverage on its own, adding kombucha is a great way to bring interesting, funky flavours into soft drinks. Lo Bros is another brand we were very impressed by, especially the Lime, Lemon & Bitters with its sharp vinegary notes and crisp, citrus finish - the perfect palate cleanser.
£2 for 330ml bottle - available from Ocado
Blighty Booch Kombucha organic ginger
This North Wales-based brewery ferments premium quality organic whole leaf and bud tea from China in small batches to produce with a light and fruity beverage with a delicate effervescence. We love the ginger flavour especially, whose well balanced sweetness and warming, punchy flavour has earned it a coveted three stars from the Great Taste Awards.
£38 for pack of 12 bottles - available from Blighty Booch
Can't get enough of this funky fermented drink? Read our review of the best kombucha.
Non-alcoholic drinks inspiration
This review was last updated in January 2022 If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.
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