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Food & Drink

Five booze-free sippers to satisfy your Dry January drink cravings

It’s the first week of January and you find yourself thinking you’ll crack open a beer while making dinner. Not so fast, pal: you’ve given up booze for the month, remember? These five sipping options will help satisfy your cocktail cravings without breaking any of your promises.

Alcohol-free spirits

This seems like a contradiction right? Made in the U.K., Seedlip’s offerings start as alcoholic macerations of a variety of botanicals before the alcohol is removed, leaving behind a distillate with vibrant, highly refined aromas and flavours. Seedlip Garden 108 smells of sweet peas, spicy watercress, wildflowers and thyme. It doesn’t have the mouthfeel of a spirit: it’s best mixed with a quality tonic water, like Fever Tree, to add a bitter complexity, or with soda water and a squeeze of Meyer lemon. $45 for a 750ml bottle. Available at Pusateri’s and McEwan, or online at seedlipdrinks-ca.com.    

Shrubs

A tablespoon of one of these concentrated syrups—made from vinegar, sugar and infused with fruits and herbs—in a glass of sparkling water or tonic evokes the sweet-and-sour balance of a cocktail. You can also try brewing your favourite tea and adding an ounce or two to the mix. Wild Muskoka Botanicals’ shrubs are made by ecologist and herbalist Laura Gilmour, who forages ingredients from around her homestead near Algonquin Park. We like the strawberry-sumac shrub the best. $20 for a 250ml bottle. Available at Cocktail Emporium, or online at wildmuskokabotanicals.ca.    

Sparkling apple cider

Caledon’s Spirit Tree Cidery presses an award-winning alcohol-free sparkling cider from 100 per cent Ontario apples. It’s a knockout; clean, crisp and full of ripe dessert apple flavour. You don’t even miss the alcohol in this beauty. $2.75 for a 341ml bottle. Available at the cidery, 1137 Boston Mills Rd., Caledon, spirittreecider.com    

Switchel

Made from apple cider vinegar and water infused with spices, fruits and some sugar, switchel is a tart, still sipper. Toronto’s False Ox makes four kinds of switchel (and shrubs too). The unsweetened switchel is lightly spiced with saffron, cloves and cardamom. Serve chilled or over ice as an alternative to flavoured water. Or, if you’re craving a vodka cran, mix switchel with equal parts cranberry juice. $4 for a 473ml bottle. Available online at falseox.com and specialty grocers like Rosedale’s Finest, The Big Carrot and McEwan.    

Non-alcoholic beer

Speaking as a certified beer sommelier who took two nine-month sobriety stretches while growing babies, trust me, there are some decent options out there for booze-free beer. Wheat beers are a smart pick because the fluffiness and carbonation adds weight to the palate, and the spicy, fruity aromas totally carry over to the non-alcoholic version. Erdinger Alkoholfrei is a solid choice. $9.99 for a six pack. Available at Loblaws.

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