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Sober October: The alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits that won't make you miss the real deal

Louise Whitbread
·7-min read
Whether you're cutting back for health reasons or to get involved with fundraising for Macmillan, this month is the perfect time to experiment (iStock/The Independent)
Whether you're cutting back for health reasons or to get involved with fundraising for Macmillan, this month is the perfect time to experiment (iStock/The Independent)

If you’re looking to banish the booze or make healthier choices when it comes to drinking, set yourself a challenge to complete Sober October.

Headed up by charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, it’s an annual event that began in 2014 which encourages participants to fundraise during an attempt to go sober for 31, 21 or 14 days.

So far, its “Soberheros” have raised more than £25m which is used to provide physical, financial and emotional support to the millions of people living with cancer in the UK.

Whether you’re looking to cut back completely or simply cut down your alcohol consumption, it can often feel like your only option is sipping on a lime and soda.

Luckily, the market has evolved to offer flavourful options for every palate, whether you want something that tastes like the real deal or a refreshing tonic that still feels grown-up.

Laura Willoughby MBE, co-founder of Club Soda, a global mindful drinking movement, shares some tips on easing into alcohol-free drinking while socialising.

“If you are looking to moderate, rather than alternating alcohol and alcohol-free, make your first two drinks alcohol-free. That way you can assess the night and decide whether this is an event, with the right drinks and the right friends, where you would like to drink. If not, you can carry on alcohol-free and go home clear-headed instead.”

She is also an advocate for mindful drinking, which she told The Independent is about increasing awareness of the effect that alcohol has on us, and recognising how we use it to relate to the world around us.

“Being a mindful drinker helps us discover the life that we imagine and the role that we want alcohol to play in it. We come to appreciate our limits. We learn to make solid plans that address where, when, who with, what, and how much we want to drink.”

So whether you’re looking for a thirst quenching IPA or a refreshing G&T, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to smash Sober October, and make permanent lifestyle changes beyond the month too.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Beer

Any beer with less than 0.5% ABV is classed as alcohol-free, and if you’re cutting back, you don’t want to feel like you’re stuck drinking a consolation prize.

Whether you’re tee-total or challenging yourself to complete a Sober October, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun.

In our guide to the best alcohol-free brews that taste like the real deal, this Unltd alcohol free lager (Unltd, £24.99 for 12) tasted like many popular German lagers with its balanced mix of citrus, hops and malt.

This booze-free beer tastes similar to many popular German lagersUnltd
This booze-free beer tastes similar to many popular German lagersUnltd

According to our reviewer, Unltd also uses the increasingly popular process of brewing with a low ABV rather than extracting the alcohol from the beer, so the flavour is better.

Another lager that impressed us was Lucky Saint beer (Lucky Saint, £25 for 12) which our tester found went down a treat, noting that they’d drink it any night of the week.

Enjoy a cold one during Sober OctoberThe Independent
Enjoy a cold one during Sober OctoberThe Independent

Our reviewer loved the blend of pilsner malt and light, bright hops and a brioche-like citrus notes. They described the beer as “light, easy drinking lager from a 400 year old brewing background that manages to retain all the characteristics of a boozy craft beer.”

Wine

If wine is your preferred tipple, then this 0.03% Scavi & Ray alcohol free sparkling wine (Dry Drinker, £8.99) is a good choice, coming in as highly rated in our review of the best low and alcohol-free drinks.

Get your bubbly fix with this sparkling wineDry Drinker
Get your bubbly fix with this sparkling wineDry Drinker

As wine can be the cause of many a dodgy hangover, wake up feeling fresh after a night on this. Our reviewer found it didn’t taste solely of grape juice like many alcohol-free fizzes, and described it as “almost a convincing prosecco.”

Perfect for a celebration, whether it’s a wedding or a birthday, it was commended by our tester for being a straightforward sparkling non-wine that tastes pleasantly lemony and apple-y.

While this Nine Elms no. 18 (Master of Malt, £16.95) is technically not a wine, it does look the part, thanks to its rich colour, and can be sipped alone or mixed with cocktails.

Rich in flavour, this is a versatile drink that can be mixed or sipped on its ownMaster of Malt
Rich in flavour, this is a versatile drink that can be mixed or sipped on its ownMaster of Malt

This is due to the infusion of 20 botanicals and four berries that have been designed for pairing with food. Our reviewer noted that there’s the full body you’d find in a wine, and lots of the complexity too, but there’s also the bitterness of some aperitifs.

“Importantly it’s not sugary sweet or anything like a juice – thankfully, considering the steep price,” they said.

Spirits

Should you be partial to a gin and tonic, treat yourself to a bottle of 0% Stryyk not gin (Tesco, £18) that we found to be pretty convincing if you’re opting to go sober.

It can be hard to find an alcohol-free gin that still delivers on taste, but Stryyk’s left us impressedStryyk
It can be hard to find an alcohol-free gin that still delivers on taste, but Stryyk’s left us impressedStryyk

While there’s plenty of alcohol-free gin contenders on the market, many often are overly sweet or don’t pack a punch when compared to the real deal, this one however strikes the perfect balance.

Featuring notes of coriander, sage, basil, and of course, juniper, our reviewer noted that it’s very similar to a London Dry Gin.

We also love this juniper double dry -0% botanic garden spirits (Warner’s, £18) that’s clean, smooth and thoroughly enjoyable, so good in fact, you could easily drink it neat.

Super smooth and delicious, this will go down a treatWarner’s
Super smooth and delicious, this will go down a treatWarner’s

Farm-grown from ingredients harvested by Warner’s, it has a zesty kick thanks to the herby blend of cinnamon, cardamon, lemon verbena and lemon thyme.

Housed in a beautiful bottle, it’d also make the perfect gift for a friend who is newly tee-total.

Cocktails

While we usually associate a cocktail with going out, a pre-mixed version means minimum effort to enjoy one, or a few, at home, without the need for any equipment.

Seedlip is one of the most well-recognised alcohol-free brands and its Seedlip and tonic (Dry Drinker, from £18.94) won us over in our guide to the best pre-mixed cocktails.

This refreshing cocktail won’t leave you hungover the next day, no matter how many you haveSeedlip
This refreshing cocktail won’t leave you hungover the next day, no matter how many you haveSeedlip

Our all-time favourite is the garden 108 with cucumber tonic. According to our reviewer, “It’s bursting with bright, fresh flavours, with a lovely savoury note from the homegrown peas the gin-style spirit is distilled with.”

Recipe books

If you want to perfect your inner mixologist, a little guidance from a recipe book will work wonders to ensure you get it right every time, even if you’re going booze free in October.

In our guide to the best cocktail books, we loved Redemption bar – Alcohol-free cocktails with benefits by Andrea Waters and Catherine Salway (Amazon, £9.33) which covers every type of drink imaginable, from martinis to mojitos.

You can still enjoy cocktails thanks to alcohol-free alternativesAmazon
You can still enjoy cocktails thanks to alcohol-free alternativesAmazon

It’s not just step-by-step guide however, inside you'll also find the health benefits of each drink to accompany the recipes too.

Our reviewer said: “This book – from the brains behind London’s popular Redemption Bar group – is a tasty tour de force of all things non-alcoholic.”

Glassware

Once you’ve mixed your concoction, pour, serve, sip and enjoy in a decadent glass such as this Clare V. for Anthropologie striped glass tumbler (Anthropologie, £12).

Inspired by Picasso, this is a fine piece of glassware that's perfect for special occasionsAnthropologie
Inspired by Picasso, this is a fine piece of glassware that's perfect for special occasionsAnthropologie

Made from hand-blown, recycled glass, it’s inspired by the artwork of Pablo Picasso, so is a bit bold and unusual.

A pair would also make the perfect housewarming gift as their an artistic addition to any kitchen cabinet.

If you’re planning to drink an alcohol-free wine this October, treat yourself to some new wine glasses to help your drink feel like the real deal.

Taking the top spot in our round-up of the best wine glsses was the Riedel performance riesling glass set of 2 (Riedel, £45). The brand offers grape specific glasses, though we found this set would handle white wine and champagne.

Sip your alcohol-free wine from a wine glass that will help ensure the taste is just as goodThe Independent
Sip your alcohol-free wine from a wine glass that will help ensure the taste is just as goodThe Independent

“With a wide stable base, long elegant stem and lightweight bowl, we were surprised to learn these can be popped in the dishwasher. For those that love their wine, there really is no other choice,” our reviewer said.

For more alcohol-free drinks, read our guide to the best booze-free beers

Read more

12 best low and alcohol-free drinks that are as good as the real thing

8 best wine glasses for enjoying red, white or rosé

9 best tumblers: Glasses for every drinking occasion