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Can a sin-free apertiNO measure up to the real thing, asks JILLY GOOLDEN

As we emerge from lockdown, many of us are seeking something delicious yet low-alcohol to enjoy with friends after maybe drinking a little too much over the months. Jilly Goolden tries out a selection of the latest ‘aperiti-nos’...

Sip on a sunny day 

Martini Vibrante 75cl, £12 (sainsburys.co.uk)

Offering an alternative to Campari, this smells weirdly like a dead mouse on its own. But add tonic and it is transformed into a lovely fizzy cough medicine (the tasty kind, trust me).

A pretty red, and sweet and sour to taste, this is a very fair imitation of the real deal. All you need is ice, an orange slice and a lovely hot day. 

3/5

So-so spritzis 

Aecorn Aperitifs Non-Alcoholic Dry 50cl, £19.99 (waitrose.com)

Promising to provide the perfect summer spritz when served over ice with soda water or tonic, this smells heady and inviting, like chewing tobacco, nutmeg and star anise.

Made from white English grapes, Aecorn is smooth and persistently aromatic. Maybe they went a bit overboard with the bouquet garni herbs and spices mix. Intriguing, yes, likeable, possibly. 

4/5

Golden dram

Everleaf Forest 50cl, £18 (sainsburys.co.uk)

Honey-coloured, this is described as a ‘complex blend of 14 sustainably sourced botanicals’, promising a spritz with notes of ‘saffron, Madagascan vanilla and orange blossom’.

Mixed with tonic, it becomes a cross between a herbal remedy and a wacky ice cream made of weird ingredients and a little vanilla. Delicious as an exotic soft drink, but not as a liquor alternative. Disappointing — I wouldn’t pay £18 for the privilege. 

2/5 

Yes to a NO-groni 

Seedlip NOgroni 20cl, £10 (waitrose.com)

As the name suggests, this offering from veteran no-alcohol brand Seedlip is a booze-free negroni alternative.

It comes in a squat medicine-type bottle holding two servings. 

Very much in the Campari vein, it’s sophisticated, aromatic and properly bitter and there’s a whiff of pine forest and balsam. 

With a deep orange note like candied peel steeped in brandy, you hardly notice the lack of alcohol. Cheers! 

5/5 

Spirit has a kick 

Lyre’s White Cane Non-Alcoholic Spirit 70cl, £26.99 (amazon.co.uk)

This claims to be a ‘homage to a timeless classic’, with Lyre’s website proclaiming it has been ‘crafted to capture the essence of a gently aged white rum’.

Despite the declared ingredients of ‘water, sugar, natural flavourings and preservatives’, it actually smells spirituous, and mixed with soda to approximate a mojito it tastes convincingly challenging and dry, with an encouraging stab of ginger giving a sting in the tail. Rather good. 

4/5 

Pour me a plant! 

Three Spirit Livener 50cl, £24.99 (amazon.co.uk)

Unlike many non-alcoholic concoctions, this ‘is not an imitation of an alcoholic drink’, but claims to be its own kind of stimulant ‘powered by plants’ (actually, a series of unpronounceable ingredients).

Dark red and cloudy, undiluted this rather murky liquid looks and smells unappetisingly like blood . . . But add a dash of soda and a brilliant kind of alchemy takes place. Suddenly it morphs into a nectar with notes of jackfruit and luscious berries, with tongue-tingling provocation from ginger.

Quite frankly, it’s a work of art, and mouth filling and provocative in a way none of the others I tested are. I’ll have another and hope to feel enlivened and invigorated. 

5/5

Martini misfire

Martini Floreale 75cl, £14.99 (thealcoholfreeco.co.uk)

Made by Martini, I have high hopes for the non-alcoholic version of white vermouth — which are very quickly dashed. Sadly, this is nothing like the real thing.

To compensate for the lack of alcohol, the botanicals have been upped to the extent this is aggressively medicinal, like a Chinese remedy squeezed from ugly roots. Cardboardy at the end, sadly it’s far from a joy to drink. 

2/5 

Cherry chin chin 

Aecorn Aperitifs Non-Alcoholic Aromatic 50cl, £19.99 (amazon.co.uk)

This cloudy, tawny- coloured liquid is evocative of liquorice and morello cherry. 

I think it definitely needs a splash of tonic (the bottle recommends to drink straight or cut with tonic or soda) then it smells like cherry cola.

It has a sweet zip, tasting of cherry pie with a sprinkling of clove and caraway, but manages not to be cloying. It’s very unusual, OK for a single glass, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. 

2.5/5

Tipple’s a triumph

Crodino Biondo 10 x 10cl, £16.99 (amazon.co.uk)

Wow! Describing itself as ‘The non-alcoholic Italian aperitivo’, drinking this is so evocative you could be in a gondola!

Nose in, take a sip and it’s just like an Aperol spritz, though much paler in colour. With delicious liquorice notes adding to the flavour, the association truly lulls you into forgetting that this isn’t alcoholic. It’s a total triumph! 

5/5

Nolo gets a no

Crossip Non-alcoholic spirit Fresh Citrus 50cl, £22 (crossipdrinks.com)

I recently found a bottle of years’ old orange squash in the nether reaches of my larder. Sadly this looks, smells and tastes very similar.

It claims to be ‘unapologetically bold’ and ‘inspired by our favourite fruity botanical spirits’, but I’m not sure which one.

Designed to be mixed with tonic or used for a nolo mojito or even a cosmopolitan, there’s a ginger kick, which is a plus, but that doesn’t rescue it. I couldn’t even finish one glass of this. 

1/5

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