This Christmas I’m going alcohol free. I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol back in September and having put in all that hard work and commitment and feeling absolutely amazing because of it, I don’t feel ready to give up and jump back on the wagon just because it’s Christmas. But not going to lie, the prospect of going alcohol free at such a notoriously boozy time of year is daunting. So much of the festivities are centred around what drinks we have to accompany various parts of not just the big day itself, but during the run up to Christmas, the days afterwards and of course the big crescendo, New Year’s Eve, that I know temptation is going to be everywhere.

To give myself a fighting chance of staying alcohol free this Christmas I know I need to be prepared. And part of that preparation involves knowing which alternatives I can drink that a) taste nice and b) make me feel as though I’m not missing out. So, I’ve done my research. I’ve taste tested various alcohol free drinks and come up with some booze free beverages as alternatives to my usual Christmas tipples.

Here are the 8 alcohol free drink swaps I’ll be making this Christmas:

Christmas Day Morning

  • Swap This – Bucks Fizz
  • For This – Sparkling Mead

Christmas day mornings in our house go like this. The kids wake up and bring their stockings to our room to open, while we watch with a cup of coffee. A few chocolate coins get eaten while we finish our coffee and then we go downstairs to open the main presents under the tree. Now, it’s while this present opening is going on that we would usually have our first alcohol of the day, I mean it’s Christmas right, no rules. So, it’s Bucks Fuzz and chocolate brioche to start the day. We get out the special glasses that we bought in Singapore on our honeymoon, which we only ever get out for this Christmas morning tradition, so this is almost ritualistic in its nature.

The range of non-alcoholic sparkling mead from Bemuse is a fantastic alternative to my usual festive Buck’s Fizz. There is a choose of flavours: Ginger & Cardamom, Tarragon & Basil, Wild Raspberry, Original Hops, Original Brut, and Wild Raspberry Rosé, or you can try mixing with some orange juice to create an alcohol free Buck’s Fizz. My personal fave is the Wild Raspberry, but the other flavours are really nice too. Mead is a fermented honey based drink and so my concern was that these would be really sweet, but actually whilst you can taste the honey in there, they are not overpoweringly sweet in the slightest.

I love these Bemuse drinks because it makes me feel as though I still have the whole ceremony on Christmas morning that I am so accustomed to. I can make myself a Bucks Fizz with them, or have them on their own, drink from my special glass, and not feel as though I’m missing out.

Festive Family Gatherings

  • Swap This – Mulled Wine
  • For This – Mulled Cider

Mulled wine, it’s Christmas summed up in a glass, right? And sure you could heat up some alcohol free red wine, bung in the usual spices etc., but I’ve yet to find a non-alcoholic red wine that lives up to the flavours that I would expect from a tasty mulled wine. And so, I’m going slightly off piste with this one and instead rather than try to completely replicate mulled wine, I’m going to suggest going down the mulled cider path instead.

Now, I’m going to be completely transparent with this one, and it does open up a whole can of worms with regards to the whole non-alcoholic thing. You see, the cider I’ve used is by Maiden Mill, a Somerset company (I mean come on, that’s where all the best cider comes from, right?) who produces a medium dry and medium golden cider with a 0.5% ABV. So, here’s the deal with what counts as non-alcoholic… In the UK for a product to be classed as alcohol free it must be 0.05% ABV. However, if that very same product was available in Europe or the US it could be 0.5% ABV for it to be labelled alcohol free. Same product, different countries, and before Brexit there wouldn’t have even been a difference. The fact of the matter is, if you drink something that’s 0.5% ABV you’re not going to get drunk. Indeed, some fruit juices and yogurts contain as much, if not more, alcohol than this because of the way they ferment, which helps put things into perspective a little. But for the sake of transparency this cider cannot officially be labelled ‘alcohol free’.

Anyway, pedantics aside, lets crack on. Maiden Mill cider is delicious in its own right, however I personally associate cider with summertime drinking, so I’m going to spice things up a bit and transform this into mulled cider instead.

Here’s the recipe I like to use:

  • 1 bottle of Maiden Mill cider
  • 4 Cloves
  • 2 Star Anise
  • Grated Nutmeg
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 50ml Orange juice
  • 50ml Pomegranate Juice
  • 1 teaspoon Caster Sugar

Pour everything into a saucepan and warm on a low heat. You don’t want the cider to boil, so when you start seeing steam coming off of it that’s when it’s done. Pour into heatproof glasses – I like to use this butterbeer one that I got from the Harry Potter Studio tour – and don’t forget to garnish with a cinnamon stick to use as a drink stirrer.

Winter Walks

  • Swap This – Lager
  • For This – Alcohol free beer

I absolutely love going for a Christmas morning walk. We’ve got a dog, so we need to get out with him anyway, but usually we’re still waiting for my son to get out of bed so myself and my husband drag out our daughter, all wearing festive Christmas Santa hats or reindeer antlers. Last year we moved into a new house and we’re incredibly fortunate that it backs on to the forest, so we literally have amazing walks right on our back doorstep. I love walks at any time of year, but the Christmas day walk seems even more special. There’s usually no one else around and it feels as though the world is all ours. It’s truly magical.

After a brisk, winter walk, it’s nice to come back to the house, sit in the garden in all our layers and have a beer. I’m not much of a beer drinker I’ll be honest, but sometimes it’s just nice to have one, and this is one of those times. For one thing it’s good to hydrate after a walk, but in this instance I’ve found an alcohol free beer that has other added benefits.

ERDINGER Alkoholfrei is another product on my list that would officially be labelled as ‘low alcohol’ in the UK. It contains less than 0.5% alcohol but as we have learnt above, this doesn’t make it ‘alcohol free’. But we know the deal. Interestingly, this beer has been around a lot longer than other non-alcoholic beers having been produced since 2001. Aside from attracting non-drinkers ERDINGER Alkoholfrei is also targeted at sports people and athletes. Mainly because of its low alcohol content, which therefore means it’s healthier than standard beers, but also because of its isotonic properties, as it contains vitamins B9 and B12, meaning it not only helps to quench thirst but also replaces lost fluids from exercise a lot quicker. Now, I’m not saying my Christmas morning walks are strenuous, far from it, but it’s good to know I’ll be putting something good into my body that also tastes like beer.

The beer itself tastes malty and slightly spicy, but at the same time lovely and light, which is good for me as like I say I’m not usually much of a beer drinker. Best of all there’s no nasty chemical after taste, which you can sometime get with alcohol free or low alcohol beer. All in all a delicious, thirst quenching weißbeer, perfect for post walk drinking.

Drinks With Friends

  • Swap This – G&T
  • For This – Alcohol free gin

My alcoholic drink of choice is pretty much anything with gin in it, and so finding a decent alternative is a biggie for me. Whether it’s gin and tonic, a gin cocktail, or my personal fave, rhubarb gin and ginger ale, Christmas isn’t Christmas if there isn’t gin involved. However, this year, because I’m not drinking alcohol, I’ve been on a mission to find a delicious tasting and authentic alcohol free gin which will make me feel as though I’m not missing out. And I’ve found one!

Clean Co’s alcohol free gin is a blended mix of juniper and aromatic botanical ingredients. And I think that’s the key with non-alcoholic drinks, it’s all about packing those flavours in so that you produce a drink that is about as close to the real thing as you can get, without that harsh taste of alcohol. And Clean Co have done just that with their Clean G. It’s crisp, it’s dry and in my opinion makes a better G&T than an alcoholic version would. You see, when you give up drinking alcohol your taste buds change. Your body no longer craves the alcohol and you start to taste it for what it really is… ethanol.

As well as Clean G, Clean Co also make Clean G Rhubarb, which let me tell you is the absolute perfect alternative to my much loved rhubarb gin and ginger ale. If there was one drink that I knew I was going to miss when I gave up the booze it was this. But thankfully Clean Co have ensured I don’t need to give it up entirely. This non-alcoholic gin has all the taste, oodles of style (I mean, just look at that bottle!) and best of all it comes without a hangover. I am for sure going to be drinking this throughout Christmas and beyond.

Christmas Hot Tub Dip

  • Swap This – Beer
  • For This – Alcohol Free IPA

At some point on Christmas day it’s a real treat to get in the hot tub, especially if it’s super cold or a little bit drizzly outside. And a Christmas hot tub dip wouldn’t be a Christmas hot tub dip without a Santa hat on my head and a cold can of drink in my hand. This year, as I’m not drinking alcohol, I plan on switching out my usual can of premixed gin and tonic for a can of Poolside IPA from the Big Drop Brewing Co. It’s an alcohol free IPA with a lovely citrus zing to it, so nice and light which suits my palate perfectly. Arguably more suited to the summer, if truth be told, I was drawn to it because of the name. I mean if I’m drinking in the hot tub, something called Poolside just fits the bill perfectly, right?

If you fancy something different, Big Drop have a range of other beers on offer. From milk stout and brown ale to craft lager and pale ale, as well as the IPAs, there is a non-alcoholic beer for everyone. Interestingly, Big Drop uses a mixture of barley, rye, wheat, and oats in their beers which helps give them their unique depth of flavours. And I think that’s a big thing with alcohol free drinks, they kind of have to work that bit harder than alcoholic drinks because they actually need to taste good. People aren’t buying them to get drunk and most of them don’t yet have the well established reputation and big brand loyalty that the big alcohol brands have. So taste is a big deal. It needs to not just taste good, it needs to taste special, and it needs to taste better than the alcoholic versions. It’s a difficult task, but Big Drop have done it. And when alcohol free beer tastes this good, I reckon I might even be able to persuade the husband to switch out his usual lager and go for one of these non-alcoholic versions instead.

After Dinner Drinks

  • Swap This – Irish Coffee
  • For This – Alcohol free rum hot toddy

I’d heard of alcohol free wine, and beer, and even alcohol free gin, but this was a new one on me. This is another absolute cracker from Clean Co, Clean R is alcohol free rum and I am LOVING it!

As a rum alternative, it does really well. Flavours consist of warm, golden caramel spices with a hint of cayenne pepper to give a little kick at the end. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. Clean R is a versatile little number. You can drink it plain and simple with cola, mix it into a cocktail, or do as I do and pour some into a coffee to make a delicious hot toddy for those after dinner vibes.

Here are some more ways to use alcohol free rum:

  1. Mince Pies – Making your own mincemeat for your mince pies? Whack some of this Clean Co rum into the mix to give a depth of flavour without the alcohol.
  2. Egg Nog – For a Christmas classic, whisk 2 egg yolks with 3 tablespoons of sugar until fluffy. Stir in 100ml whole milk, 100ml double cream, and 100ml of alcohol free rum. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they form soft peaks and then fold into the rum mixture. Pour into glasses and top with some grated nutmeg.
  3. Hot Buttered Rum – Mix 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of soft light brown sugar in a bowl. Add 100ml of non-alcoholic rum and 2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter. Pour into two heatproof glasses or mugs and top up each with 100ml of boiling water. Stir well with a cinnamon stick. This one will warm your cockles right up!
  4. Rum Cream – Looking for the perfect alternative to brandy butter to have with your Christmas pudding? Try whisking some Clean R and sugar into some double cream for a punchy dessert accompaniment.

Christmas Dinner

  • Swap This – Prosecco
  • For This – Sparkling tea

It was a friend that first introduced this one to me, and when she described it I’ve got to say I wasn’t entirely convinced. You see Real Drinks make non-alcoholic sparkling teas. Yep, that’s right, tea. And as a non-tea drinker I wasn’t overly enthused. However, I am truly converted. Real offer 4 different types of sparkling tea; Peony Blush, Dry Dragon, Tiger Hill, and the one that I have tried, Royal Flush. They are made by naturally fermenting loose leaf teas like Darjeeling and Longjing with other ingredients which then somehow produces a drink that is crazy good.

What I like about it is that it’s not trying to be something else. Many alcohol free drinks try to directly mimic their alcoholic counterparts. Sometimes it works, but other times it can fail miserably and this is particularly noticeable in the alcohol free wine market. Many wines and sparkling wines can taste too sweet, like a cheap and nasty bottle of plonk, and you’re left feeling completely unsatisfied. Royal Flush is a fruity little number, carrying flavours of rhubarb and white peach. It’s incredibly moreish, easy to drink, and looks for all intents and purposes as though you’re drinking an alcoholic drink. If you’re getting stick for not drinking (because trust me there is massive prejudice on people who don’t drink – everyone has an opinion!) this can easily be mistaken for a glass of prosecco, so if you can’t be bothered with the hassle, this is perfect.

Along with gin, prosecco is usually my drink of choice. There are some alcohol free proseccos out there, and they’re ok. What I want you to know with this one, is that where I’ve said you can replace Royal Flush with your trusty bottle of prosecco, please don’t come into this thinking that you’re going to get a like for like swap, because you’re not. But what you will get, is a really delicious, fresh, fruity, sparkling drink that feels uniquely special. It certainly earns itself a place at the Christmas dinner table. And the Christmas party for that matter. It’s not prosecco, but that doesn’t matter, because prosecco was soooo last year. If you’re dabbling in the sober curious world, the designated driver, pregnant, or you just want something non-alcoholic I urge you to give this a go, you won’t be disappointed.

New Year’s Eve

  • Swap This – Champagne
  • For This – Wild Idol

Arguably the trickiest night of them all to go alcohol free, and aside from when I was pregnant, I can’t remember a New Year’s Eve when I didn’t drink. Society expects you to drink on this night. Your mates expect you to drink on this night. If you don’t drink on this night people think there’s something wrong with you. The pressure is 100% real. But of course, it doesn’t mean the night has to be any less fun just because you’re not drinking alcohol. So, the best thing you can do is find an alternative… and it helps when it looks and tastes like the real deal!

Wild Idol is a premium non-alcoholic drinks brand that you would be forgiven for thinking was a champagne. The packaging certainly looks high end, and the vibrant bubbles and zesty, fruity notes also scream luxurious. Unlike most alcohol free wines, Wild Idol hasn’t been dealcoholized (had the alcohol removed) and this is because the alcohol was never in there to begin with. The result is a slightly warm, spicy dry drink with a lovely sharp aftertaste. There’s none of this sweet sickly, grape juice thing going on, that’s for sure!

This is your New Year’s Eve secret weapon. Save it for the midnight celebration, when everyone is clinking glasses and toasting the start of a new year. Available from Wild Idol, at just under 30 quid a bottle it is on the pricier side of what you’d want to pay for an alcohol free drink, however when you’re looking for something a little bit special, I totally think it’s worth it.

Final Thoughts

I know it will be a challenge not drinking this Christmas. Years of habitual drinking have cemented alcohol into my mindset, and it is hard to break those associations, especially around Christmas time. But I am feeling positive about it, and it no longer feels as though not drinking alcohol is a big deal. I’m still the same person, I just don’t drink the hard stuff anymore. Simple.

I’m hoping that by replacing my usual festive tipples with alcohol free alternatives, it will make it feel as though I’m not missing out and that Christmas can be just as fun without alcohol. It will certainly be much more fun without the hangover, that’s for sure!

If you’re interested in finding out more about why I decided to stop drinking alcohol and how I went about it, you can read my article:

Why Being Sober Curious Isn’t Just For Dry January

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