Food and wine writer Fiona Beckett offers some dry versions of the classics. By Sam Wylie-Harris.
As Fiona Beckett writes in her new book, How To Drink Without Drinking, there’s never been a better time to give up or cut down on booze, temporarily or permanently.
“And that becomes progressively easier as more and more quality alcohol-free products come on the market, and we learn to devise new and delicious drinks to replace the alcohol-based ones we’re used to,” says Beckett.
To help you stay dry or just cut down on the booze, here are some of her seasonal serves to try at home…
1. NG&T (serves 1)
“Although I love a G&T, I’m convinced many of the things that make it so appealing – the tonic, the ice, the garnish, the glass – can be replicated in an alcohol-free drink. So much of a drink is about presentation. My local tapas bar, Bar 44, has recognised that and serves an alcohol-free G&T, which I quite often order when I’m there.
“It comes in one of those huge goldfish-bowl-sized glasses with loads of orange and lemon slices and a few juniper berries floating around in it, which makes you feel like you’re having a proper drink. Here’s my slightly tweaked version. (The ‘N’ obviously stands for ‘not’).”
Ingredients: 4–5 ice cubes, 2 slices each of orange and lemon, 2–3 juniper berries, 75ml (5tbsp) juniper syrup, tonic water (I like Fever-Tree Naturally Light), to top up.
Method: Add the ice to a large glass, followed by the slices of orange and lemon and juniper berries, then pour in the juniper syrup. Top up with tonic water and serve.
2. Sea Breeze (serves 2)
“A simple two-ingredient version of the popular 1970s cocktail that tastes just as good without the vodka. Despite its summery vibe, the fresh ingredients are most likely to be available through the winter, so think of it as a cheering shot of sharp bright citrus through the dark days of January.
“I like it made with pink or ruby grapefruit juice, which is sweeter than the yellow variety, so you don’t need to add sugar syrup to it (though obviously do if you feel it needs it). Do make it with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, though. You can shake it with ice in a cocktail shaker, but I’m perfectly happy to drink it over ice.”
Ingredients: Ice cubes, freshly squeezed juice of 1, pink or ruby grapefruit, about 150ml strained equal quantity of cranberry juice, 2 slices of lime, to garnish.
Method: Fill 2 tumblers with ice. Mix the grapefruit and cranberry juices together and pour over the ice. Garnish each drink with a slice of lime and serve.
3. Breakfast Martini (serves 1)
“This is an alcohol-free version of one of my favourite cocktails, British steakhouse and cocktail bar Hawksmoor’s Marmalade Cocktail. You need more marmalade than you do with the gin-based version (not a bad thing), and a couple of drops of orange oil or bitters really boost the flavour.”
Ingredients: 1tbsp Seville orange (i.e. bitter) marmalade, 50ml Seedlip Spice 94 or other alcohol-free gin alternative, 50ml freshly squeezed orange juice, 20ml (4tsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice, 15ml (1tbsp) sugar syrup, handful of ice cubes, 2 drops of orange oil or bitters (optional).
Method: Spoon the marmalade into a cocktail shaker, pour in the Seedlip Spice 94 and stir. Add the orange and lemon juices, sugar syrup and ice and shake vigorously. Taste, adding a couple of drops of orange oil or orange bitters if you want to intensify the orange flavour. Strain into a martini glass and serve.
4. Lychee Martini (serves 1)
“It might look incredibly sophisticated but this cocktail is so simple, it hardly deserves to be called a recipe. You can even make it without the alcohol-free spirit if you can find a good enough lychee juice (I like the Rubicon brand). But it really is so pale, pretty and delicious that you should definitely
give it a go.”
Ingredients: Ice cubes, 25ml Ceder’s Classic or other alcohol-free gin alternative, 100ml lychee juice, 5ml (1tsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice, a few drops of hibiscus syrup (see below), edible flowers (optional), 1 canned lychee to garnish.
For the hibiscus syrup (makes 750ml): 100g granulated or caster sugar, 850ml water, 20g dried hibiscus flowers, juice of 1 lime.
Put the sugar in a saucepan and add the measured water. Heat over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and add the hibiscus flowers, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the lime juice, then cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the contents of the pan through a fine sieve into a wide-necked jug or bowl, then pour the liquid through a funnel into a sterilised 75cl bottle. Leave to cool, seal and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Method: Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all the ingredients except the garnish and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Cut the lychee almost in half and slide down on to the rim of the glass to garnish, then serve, sprinkled with edible flowers (if using).
5. Frozen Strawberry and Watermelon Margarita (serves 1)
“Strawberry and watermelon is a great combination even without the tequila of a classic Margarita, though you could add a shot or two of alcohol-free vodka, if you like. Obviously, it’s best made in summer when both strawberries and watermelon are ripe – the perfect drink to sit and sip in the garden. You don’t have to add salt to the rim of your glass – it’s equally delicious without.”
Ingredients: 1 fresh lime, halved, sea salt flakes (optional), handful of ice cubes, 175g strawberries, hulled and halved, plus an extra slice to garnish, 175g watermelon, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks, sugar syrup to taste (optional), basil, to garnish.
Method: Juice half the lime. To salt the rim of your glass, wipe the cut surface of the other lime half around the rim of each glass, then dip into a saucer of sea salt flakes. Crush the ice cubes in a powerful blender, or wrap them in a clean tea towel and smash with a rolling pin if your blender isn’t powerful enough.
Add the strawberries and watermelon chunks and 1tbsp of the lime juice to the crushed ice in the blender and whizz until you get a frozen slush. Check for sweetness, adding extra lime juice or sugar syrup to taste if needed, then pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a basil leaf and a slice of strawberry.
Extracted from How To Drink Without Drinking: Celebratory Alcohol-free Drinks For Any Time Of The Day, by Fiona Beckett, published by Kyle Books, priced £15.99. Available now.