Food & Drink

The new wave aperitifs that won’t give you a hangover

Forget sweet and unsophisticated non-alcoholic drinks, no-ABV aperitifs are bitter and brilliant

Until very recently, if you were out but not boozing, a mocktail would have been your only option when it came to no alcohol aperitifs; a sickly, often pink wallop of sweet-and-sour, a fruit salad in a glass. But, because alcohol consumption patterns are changing fast, so is the non-alcoholic drinks market. The Office for National Statistics says the number of people drinking alcohol at least once a week has declined by seven per cent in the last year alone, and that over a quarter of 16- to 24-year-olds (that is, health-conscious younger millennials and post-millennials) do not drink at all. This makes drinking rates in the UK the lowest they’ve been for 18 years. According to the International Wine and Spirits Record (IWSR), 65 per cent of 24- to 34-year-olds have cut back on drinking.

This summer marks an almost perfect moment for brands like Seedlip, which recently launched a small range of grape-based, non-alcoholic aperitifs called Aecorn; Everleaf, a new aperitif developed by Paul Mathew, a conservation-biologist-turned-founder of the Hide bar in London; or Feragaia, distilled in Scotland. In the UK, the low-to-no-alcohol sector currently makes up only 0.5 per cent of the adult drinks market. However, the potential customer base is huge. The IWSR forecasts that global no-alcohol mixed drinks sales will grow by 8.6 per cent between now and 2023, with a similar increase for alcohol-free beer. Call it the wellness effect, the Sober Curious trend, or plain good sense, low-to-no-alcohol is here to stay.

Of course, the trend can only survive if there are delicious products for non-drinkers to knock back. Fortunately, there are several new aperitifs that really do the job, unlike many so-called adult soft drinks, which are really just fizzy pop wrapped up in clever branding. (See also: non-alcoholic wine, which is forecast to grow, but is still uniformly revolting.) The Aperol Spritz might just have to stand down as London’s most ubiquitous summer drink; if you’re craving that ruby-red sparklingly bitterness, fill a wine glass with Aecorn Bitter and tonic, ice and a wedge of orange, and sip it in the sunshine.

Aecorn Bitter

What is it?

At the launch of Aecorn, co-creator Claire Warner said she didn’t want anyone telling her Aecorn Bitter is too bitter, given how sweet non-alcoholic drinks have been. It is punch-you-in-the-face bitter. We’ve no complaints.

How do I drink it?

As a ‘Nogroni’. For this you’ll need 25ml Seedlip Spice, 25ml Aecorn Bitter and 25ml Aecorn Aromatic. Pour over ice and stir.

£20 for 50cl, aecornaperitifs.com

Crodino

What is it?

Crodino has been made in northern Italy since 1964, and finally launched in the UK in 2017. It comes ready mixed with soda water, in short bottles, making it an excellent picnic, beach or barbecue aperitif. The exact recipe is a secret, so no one knows what gives it its bittersweet, herbal and citrus notes.

How do I drink it?

Make it long with extra soda. Or make it alcoholic with Prosecco.

£9 for 10 x 100ml bottles, melburyandappleton.co.uk

Everleaf

no alcohol aperitifs

What is it?

Instead of using sugar syrup to attain the familiar mouthfeel you get from alcohol, Everleaf is made with voodoo lily – not something you often see. Heads + Tails bar in West Hampstead use it in this no-ABV drink.

How do I drink it?

As an Everlong. For this you’ll need 50ml Everleaf, 10ml elderflower cordial, 20ml lemon juice. Pour over ice, top with tonic.

£18 for 50cl, everleafdrinks.com

Palermo Amarino

no alcohol aperitifs

What is it?

Made by Bardinet, this has been available in French supermarkets for 30 years, and now you can buy it in the UK online. It’s by far the closest match to Italian amaros we’ve ever tasted, and much cheaper than its competitors.

How do I drink it?

As a Palermo Amarino Spritz. For this you’ll need 50ml Palermo Amerino and soda water. Pour over ice and top with soda.

£7 for 100cl, deliciousdrinksshop.co.uk