Finding Alcohol Alternatives: Thirsty Work

This post is a response to a request from my lovely friend Cara, who’s having a baby. (Congratulations!) Cara asked for a blog detailing places that serve both alcoholic and a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks, “not just Coke and mineral water.” She’s not the first pregnant pal who’s faced this dilemma and despite my aversion to babies in every format, I can sympathise. As someone who loves eating but isn’t mad on exercise, each month I have 20 “dry” days, because reducing my alcohol intake is a good way to control calories.

No drinking pregnancy symbol

But going out for drinks when you’re not consuming alcohol is tough – there’s only so much ginger beer a gal can consume before the same old sugary concoctions begin to grate. In general, I find that if a pub serves good quality beer or wine, their range of soft drinks is superior too. Still, some creativity can be required and I get odd looks when I ask for cranberry juice, tonic and lime whilst my mum orders a tomato juice. With a dash of Worcestershire sauce. And Tabasco, please. Oh, and do you have any lemon? Luckily, most bar staff will entertain these requests.

Anyway, fellow EF blogger Caroline and I put our heads together to come up with some more-interesting-than-average possibilities. Unfortunately Cara, this blog isn’t a perfect solution due to our inclusion of strong coffee and, um, alcohol, but hopefully, it’s a start.


What did we miss? Leave us a comment with your thoughts and suggestions for Cara!


Amy: Roots Soda ‘I Need My Girl’

I’m already a big fan of Roots Soda and the newest addition to their range, I Need My Girl, is ideal in place of a pint. Its main ingredient is beetroot but there’s also hints of pink grapefruit and apple, with delicate floral notes of star anise to balance out the beetroot’s earthiness.  The combination of fruit and vegetables was inspired by Middle Eastern cooking and was intended to create a more interesting, well-rounded soda with less sweetness. I Need My Girl contains 69% less sugar than commercial sodas, so it won’t coat your tongue in sugary residue whilst the full-bodied appeal of beetroot makes it easy to sip slowly. It’s a satisfying beverage that offers sensory delight; it’s packed with flavour, offers a rewarding mouthfeel and is a visually stunning colour.

Some of the places you can find Roots Soda are listed here. Check out their fiery Hoodoo and sweet-sour Kaleidoscope too.

Amy enjoyed I Need My Girl at the invitation of Roots Soda.

Roots Soda 'I Need My Girl'

Roots Soda ‘I Need My Girl’


Roots Soda

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Caroline: Coffee Tonic

I first had this at Söderberg and was surprised to enjoy it. The tonic sweetens the coffee and makes this a refreshing drink. Best enjoyed on a warm day, it goes better with ice cream than with biscuits or cake. I use a shot of Nespresso Volluto and a bottle of Fevertree naturally light tonic. (Amy also recommends using several heaped tea spoons of Percol fair trade organic ground coffee, left to steep for a few minutes.) I reckon they’d make this up for you in a pub – just think of it as a ‘virgin’ espresso Martini…

Coffee Tonic
Preparation time
Total time
A refreshing and unusual, very adult, summer drink.
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1
  • Ice
  • Tonic
  • Espresso
  1. Put ice in a glass (ideally chilled).
  2. Fill with tonic.
  3. Tip in the espresso.
  4. Stir* and enjoy.
  5. * Stir with caution or there might be a sudden explosion of foam.


Amy: Brewdog’s Nanny State

Love them or loathe them, the guys at Brewdog take flavour seriously. They certainly remained true to themselves with Nanny State, an alcohol free hoppy ale, which is bursting with fruity, floral American hops but isn’t too bitter. Brewed in response to an outcry over their creation of the world’s strongest beer, 0.5% Nanny State is unlike many alcohol free beers in that it actually tastes really good. You can find it in Brewdog bars, obv, as well as a few other select locations.

Brewdog's Nanny State

Brewdog’s Nanny State (copyright: Brewdog)


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Caroline: YumCha instant iced tea

YumCha like iced tea but are not impressed by what’s on offer in the shops: too sweet, no tea flavour. I share their distaste of the over-sweet fruit-flavoured teas that come in tins. I first drank iced tea in the states where you can get it un-sweetened tea. When I make iced tea at home, it’s with brewed black tea and fruit to retains the refreshing astringent bitterness of black tea. YumCha has come up with another solution: tea concentrate.

Image courtesy of New Chapter Marketing

Image courtesy of New Chapter Marketing

Easy as dilutin’ juice, YumCha’s concentrate is made with real tea that you can taste. I tried the Earl Grey and Sour Plum flavours. They’re both good: refreshing, well-flavoured without being cloying. Put a tablespoon of liquid in a glass with a good amount of ice, fill with cold water and presto! Instant iced tea. There’s no waste as there always is when I make a litre at home and then drink only one glass.

YumCha comes in a range of flavours. As well as the two I tried they offer elderflower, nettle and jasmine flavours, lemon Ceylon and Moroccan mint. We’d love to see this listed in bars but until then, you better keep some in your handbag Cara to (discreetly) liven up your lemonade!

PS. The Sour Plum flavour is lovely mixed undiluted with gin and tonic, adding refreshing fruit to the classic drink. I’ll continue to experiment with the Earl Grey flavour: I’m certain it will make a perfect vodka-based cocktail. In 9 months.

Caroline tried YumCha teas on the invitation of New Chapter Marketing.

YumCha Drinks

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Tonic tasting: what's the nicest I can get? | Edinburgh Foody

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