The alcohol-free spirits that are spicing up Dry July

A mocktail made with Brunswick Aces gin.
A mocktail made with Brunswick Aces gin. Photo: Supplied

When my husband asked if I wanted anything special to drink on Friday I replied gleefully that I'd love him to make me a G&T. He obliged, handing me the drink, before we settled in to watch a family show with the kids. Nothing unusual here – except that I'm teetotal. The G in my G&T was alcohol free. 

Strictly speaking it's not G – or gin at all. As one gin expert told me, by very definition it cannot be called gin unless it's over 37.5 per cent ABV. But despite the technicality, a number of brands are using gin as inspiration to create alcohol-free (as well as sugar-free) sprits.  

Brunswick Aces are one such brand. The Melbourne based start-up set out to create a delicious drink that would make a decent substitute for popular sprits. 

Brunswick Aces, the kid on the alcohol-free block.
Brunswick Aces, the kid on the alcohol-free block. Photo: Supplied

"Gin was the obvious place to start for us because it's all about the different botanicals and the flavour profiles that can be generated from them," says co-founder Stephen Lawrence. 

Lawrence also adds that the popularity of gin in recent years means that people know how to drink it. "The way gin is consumed is how we suggest people consume Aces, so it's a more natural progression for people familiar with how to drink gin," he explains. For me this means enjoying a measure of Aces with tonic, ice and a slice of cucumber. 

It doesn't taste just like gin – but it definitely has a gin vibe. Having a "fake G&T" as I call it, on a Friday feels like more of a treat than my usual cup of tea. And while gin-lovers are not impressed (one friend physically winced at the idea), the alcohol-free version doesn't affect the way I sleep or how I feel on the sideline of my daughter's 9am soccer match. 

 

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Brunswick Aces are new in the game. But, Seedlip, now a global brand, have been making alcohol-free sprits for years. Seedlip comes in two varieties: Spice and Garden, and is best served with tonic water and peas. The botanical sprit, branded as "what to drink when you're not drinking" has been a huge hit with those of us that don't drink at all and a welcome change for those looking to cut back on booze. 

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Seedlip is also popular with bartenders. I asked award-winning bartender of Sydney bar PS40 Michael Chiem what he likes about it. "We work really closely with Seedlip and the love and care that has gone into this really shines through," he says. 

"It allows us to come up with interesting drinks that can accommodate guests who might not particularly want something alcoholic but still want to enjoy a drink with friends." 

PS40 is not alone in embracing the alcohol-free drinks trend. "Within the last couple of years I've seen leading restaurants and cocktail bars focus as much time on their non-alcoholic drinks as they do their cocktail list or wine list. Places like Momofuku Seiobo or Attica have shown us that you don't need alcohol to have a delicious pairing," Chiem says. 

So what's behind the trend for alcohol-free sprits? Trevor Schofield is the founder of ALCOfree, a one-stop shop non-alcoholic beverages. He says that there are few factors driving the demand for better alcohol-free drinks. 

"There are growing social movements to cut down on alcohol, promoted by groups like FebFast, DryJuly, Ocsober and Hello Sunday Morning and the message is starting to get through." 

In addition, the wellness movement we've seen over the last few years means that we're all a little bit more conscious of our health. "[We're looking for healthy alternatives to both drink and eat," Schofield says. 

Although alcohol-free sprits are still a fairly new concept, Schofield tells me that Whissin (a whiskey substitute), Seedlip, and Ronsin (a rum substitute) are all selling well. 

While the idea of alcohol-free whiskey would have my late dad rolling in his grave, it's a trend that I am happy to get behind. Being teetotal has never been so good.