So, it’s been almost a whole year since I wrote a Ginspiration post. For good reason of course – my love for all things juniper had to take a backseat while I grew a little human. I loved being pregnant, I really did, but boy oh boy, did I miss my gin! And to make things worse, gin seemed to be everywhere. My favourite brands were churning out limited edition batches, gin festivals were popping up on every corner and Aldi kept insisting on adding interesting new flavours to their Special Buys! It was torture, and to make it worse, Dan finally decided, after years of me trying to convince him, that gin was his new favourite tipple! He even kept asking me to make him one as we settled in for a night in front of the TV, I mean, how rude?? Well, they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that certainly seemed to be the case, because the requirement for me to abstain only made me want it more, so much so that I embarked on a one woman mission to find the perfect alcohol free alternative, if only to stop me going completely insane. Here’s how I got on…
My foray into the world of non-alcoholic gin substitutes started low key. I remembered my Dad telling me that on nights he had to drive, a good quality tonic water was enough to quell his desire for a gin, so I decided to begin here. The idea made Dan grimace a little, having realised it was tonic he didn’t like so much rather than the gin, and I have to admit, while my taste buds have matured to accommodate the dry quality of the mixer, I still harbor memories of swiping a gulp from my parents drinks cabinet as a child and being bitterly disappointed, so I wasn’t convinced either. I decided to go with something a little fancier than the norm and sample some of the oodles of interesting flavours now available since gin became the ‘it’ drink of the century. I was spoiled for choice – you can pretty much get any flavour imaginable these days – but in the end I went with Lamb & Watt Hibiscus Tonic, because it sounded a little different and I had a bottle I’d swiped from a festival in my pre-pregnant days, and Aldi’s Ridge Valley Cucumber & Mint Tonic, because it was Summer and it sounded super refreshing!
The Verdict – Delicious, both of them! But did they taste like gin? No. I can see what my Dad was getting at. Pour one into a large goblet with plenty of ice and a tasty garnish and you can kind of trick your brain into thinking there is a gin in there. The cucumber and mint was the most convincing, but honestly? While they took the edge off a craving they didn’t go far enough to replace the original for me.
Funnily enough, after finding out we had a baby on the way I started finding myself far more frequently in the alcohol free aisle of the Supermarket, and it was there that I found Gordon’s offering. Not my favourite gin by any stretch, but still, it was a big enough name for me to think it was worth a try, so try it I did. Weighing in at under 0.5% alcohol, it comes in two flavours – lime and grapefruit, of which I selected the latter.
The Verdict – This was a nice enough drink, but did I detect a hint of gin? No, to be honest, I did not. It was refreshing and had a lovely zesty taste thanks to the grapefruit, but I’d be lying if I said this felt any different to drinking a fancy tonic, most of which are much cheaper. Sorry, Gordon’s.
Now, thanks to my job in the industry I’d heard of Seedlip – a non alcoholic spirit that was created as a ‘grown up’ alternative to all the sugary mocktails out there – already, and I’m ashamed to say I mocked it. Why on earth would anyone want to drink non alcoholic gin?? Well, didn’t I feel silly now?? Thing is – and I feel horrid saying this because I know full well the cost is down the the craft and skill involved in making it – I just didn’t like the idea of spending £20 on a bottle which didn’t contain booze, so I’d planned to try one in the pub, but fate stepped in and Dan arrived home with a freebie bottle of the Garden 108 variety (that isn’t a pun, BTW!) from work so here are my thoughts for your reading pleasure…
The Verdict – Hmmm. The first time I tried it I really wasn’t sold. It had a very fresh grassy taste which wasn’t exactly unpleasant, but not my usual kind of thing. I persevered though, and I have to say, while it doesn’t hold a candle to my beloved gin, it has grown on me. I’ve also found out you can buy miniature bottles in Holland & Barrettin case you’re also nervous of splashing that much cash on something you might not like! It doesn’t taste like gin though unfortunately. Not one bit.
This one was another that we scored as a freebie from work, which was handy as I’d not heard of it before. Honestly though, the tag line on the bottle – ‘Sensibly Flavoured Sparkling Water’ – really pissed me off, so much so I almost didn’t want to feature it. It was just so smug sounding, as though anyone that does enjoy a drink is the epitomy of silliness and can’t be trusted! But feature it I have, all in the name of research. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!
The Verdict – Begrudgingly, I have to admit, this tastes kind of nice. Almost like sherbert? However, it doesn’t taste anything like gin. Sensing a theme here? Me too…
These were a last minute addition to my list to try. I received them as a gift for Christmas and in all the excitement of finding out we were pregnant, forgot about them. They are essentially little muslin bags of mixed herbs and spices designed to infuse and enhance your G&T, so admittedly, they aren’t actually supposed to be a gin alternative, but I thought it was worth a try. There were a range of different combinations in the box but I went with the spiced apple one as apple isn’t a flavour you see that much in gin.
The Verdict – Again, perfectly tasty. This one turned the tonic a delightful tinge of pink and reminded me of Christmas and cosy nights by the fire. Alas, though, that real gin experience was still eluding me and I was started to think it didn’t exist….
…Enter the Hayman’s! Towards the end of my pregnancy I heard the very exciting news that Hayman’s had a very exciting project in the works – a real, bonafide gin so well balanced that only a 5ml measure is enough! Needless to say, I hastily placed a pre-order, and ironically, it arrived a couple of days after Bailey was born.
The Verdict – HALLELUJAH!! Finally, I found the Holy Grail – IT TASTES LIKE GIN! Because it IS gin! It really does what it says on the
tin bottle and delivers all the flavour of my favourite spirit with just 0.2 units per serving! I would prefer it tasted a little stronger, of course, but you can’t have everything, and even though I’m not pregnant any more this is the perfect evening drink for me now I’m breastfeeding and need to watch my alcohol intake. I only wish it had been released earlier!
Final Thoughts: It should come as no surprise to me that the only product to satisfy my cravings was, in fact, an actual gin. There is very good reason for this, and that reason is ALCOHOL. There was me, swanning around looking for the perfect balance of botanicals, but in truth, it isn’t the taste that makes a gin. IT’S THE ALCOHOL. Nothing else will do unfortunately, because it isn’t the juniper or the carefully selected herbs and spices that I was missing. It was the tingle on the lips, the heat that spreads down your esophagus and into your belly as you swallow, the warm fuzzy feeling in your cheeks. Let’s face it, with all the alcohol free options out there these days it’s a good time to be forced to forgo the booze, but in reality there just isn’t a substitute!
I love you, gin. Thank god I’m allowed to drink you again!