The 3 best non-alcoholic drinks for good taste and a clear head

Keen to stay off the booze? Here's the three best alcohol-free beverages we tried in Dry January and are still loving in not-quite-so-dry February

best non-alcoholic drinks
(Image credit: Zag)

A lot of us are keen to cut back on the amount of booze we drink, and little wonder. Whether you're cutting alcohol for weight loss purposes, to improve your mental health, or simply because you're fed up of waking up in a hedge, there is a lot to be said for it. The only issue is what to drink instead of booze. I find soft drinks are too sweet, and make me feel like I am constantly at a child's birthday party. There are some excellent alcohol-free versions of beers, but there are also some fairly terrible ones, and the amount of choice is becoming a little overwhelming. 

Now, I have a reputation as a man who likes a drink. And that's because I do. But after consuming just a teensy bit more than doctors would consider strictly sensible over the Christmas period, I decided to try out some less headache-inducing beverages for a month. And while I can't say I managed to stay completely 'dry' during Dry January, I did have more fun than I anticipated trying out some alcohol-free and low-alcohol drinks. 

So if you enjoyed Dry January (or not) and would like to carry on with reduced boozing for the rest of 2022 – or at least for a portion of February – these are my top three picks. 

Guinness Draught 0.0

Alcohol-free drinks

(Image credit: Guinness)

If you haven't tried alcohol-free beers for a few years, you'll probably be surprised at how much better they are nowadays. This is something else though. Guinness 0.0, aka Guinness Zero, is almost unbelievably good. It's produced by brewing the famed stout in the normal way, before a 'cold filtration' system is used to suck all the alcohol out. I would defy even the most ardent fan of Ireland's most beloved export to pick this out from the standard version in a blind testing. It looks the same, it's got the same mouth feel, and most importantly it has almost exactly the same flavour. Okay, if you try this and the alcoholic version in the same sitting, a sip at a time, you will probably discern a very slight difference in taste, but I think you'd be hard pressed to decide that one was better than the other. 

If you don't like Guinness, Becks Blue is probably my favourite non-alcoholic lager. But this is a much more impressive achievement, for me, and probably the best booze-free booze to date in terms of accurately capturing a complex flavour. 

Sea Arch Coastal Juniper

Alcohol-free drinks

(Image credit: Sea Arch)

Taking a different tack to Guinness, this is an alcohol-free gin substitute that, probably wisely, doesn't claim to be a carbon copy of the original mother's ruin. It's described as a mix of 'juniper, sea kelp, samphire, blood orange, grapefruit, coriander, cardamon, grapefruit and sage,' which, as the brand name suggests, gives an overall effect that's redolent of sea air. 

The important thing here is that you get the flavour of 'botanicals' that characterises gin – most notably juniper, which essentially is the taste of gin as far as most people are concerned. It's a sophisticated beverage that's dry, sugar-free and comes in a suitably tasteful bottle made of recycled materials and no plastic. 

It goes great with tonic, of course, but if you want to really push the boat out, try pairing Sea Arch's herby liquor with alcohol-free Vermouth (opens in new tab), for a completely booze-less dry martini. I tried just that and, while I wouldn't say it tasted anything like a real martini, it was quite an interesting drink in its own right. I wasn't exactly stirred by it, but I wasn't left shaken either.

ZAG

best non-alcoholic drinks

(Image credit: Zag)

Taking a different tack again, Zag is not trying to be a non-alcoholic version of anything. Instead, it's a completely original beverage that has the adult sophistication of booze, but without the adult sophistication of hangovers, vomiting and long-term memory loss. 

I have to say, Zag did not immediately appeal to me; its flavour is quite complex and also, as I say, new and unique. The flavours listed on the bottle are green tea, mint, lemon, kombucha and cucumber which could easily result in a busy mess of flavour, or taste like cold herbal tea. However, the people behind Zag have actually mustered up a very clean, crisp drink here. You can pick out all of those flavours, but they're extremely well balanced and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. This would be perfect on a summer's day but it's proved extremely palatable even in the British winter.

There's a low-sugar version of Zag, but even the standard version only packs 54 calories per bottle, so I'd stick to that if I were you.

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years, during which time he has attended every event going, apart from Apple ones, as he mysteriously doesn't get invited to them. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. 

Duncan's current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. Duncan also edits T3's golf section because fuck it, someone has to. Dave Usher does all the real work on that bit, though. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."