Non-alcoholic spirits can make for pleasant, interesting cocktails

John Wilson: The range of low- and no-alcohol options continues to expand

Lyre’s Amaretti, American Malt and Dark Cane nonalcoholic spirits, and Silk Tree nonalcoholic Irish spirit

Lyre’s Amaretti, American Malt and Dark Cane nonalcoholic spirits, and Silk Tree nonalcoholic Irish spirit

 

As demand for alcohol-free drinks increases, the range of low- and no-alcohol options continues to expand. More adventurous bars now offer a range of alcohol-free drinks and cocktails. However, you can have fun creating your own cocktails at home.

Australian Mark Livings is chief executive and founder of Lyre’s, an ambitious alcohol-free drinks company that sells a range of non-spirits. Lyre’s launched in Australia in July 2019 and now produces 13 smartly-packaged drinks. “This was a side project that became an obsession and then a business,” he says. “It is now in 30 countries, plus another 18 online. We are about to produce our millionth bottle.”

Livings has been pleasantly surprised by how receptive the consumer has been. “The major retailers and bars actually lagged behind; consumers have moved quicker. Customers have turned to the internet and e-commerce has been explosive,” he says.

“All three generations or strata are coming in at a consistent rate but for different reasons. The youngest generation are less enamoured with the hard drinking culture, and care more about their health and appearance. Generations Y and X dip in and out; giving up alcohol for a month, whether that is a dry January or November. Then the boomers are drinking less to improve their own longevity and health.”

Lyre’s provides non-alcoholic versions of familiar spirits and bitters. “We were convinced the world wanted to drink their favourite existing flavours and finished beverages,” Livings says. “Consumers use them exactly as they would the original spirit.” Here in Ireland the alcohol-free gin has been very successful, as has their homage to whiskey.

I tasted a selection of the Lyre’s drinks both on their own and in cocktails. Tasted neat, most had a vague resemblance to the alcoholic version, although the flavours were quite simple and a little crude. However, once used in cocktails, with plenty of ice, most made very pleasant, interesting drinks. 

I tasted Lyre’s, Silk Tree (see below) Seedlip and Ceders, two other non-gins, with tonic water. The Silk Tree and tonic had that bitter tanginess and freshness of a gin. Lyre’s had more subtle flavours, as did Seedlip and Ceders. None would fool a G&T drinker, they certainly didn’t this one in several blind tastings, but all were attractive adult alternatives in their own right and not too sweet either.

Customers can buy Lyre’s online through their EU or UK website for €25.99 a bottle. From this month on, they will be stocked by SuperValu nationwide. 

Lyre’s Amaretti

Medium sweet with marzipan, almonds and vanilla. I am not an amaretto fan, but this seemed a good representation. Try it on the rocks, on its own or with citrus juice.

From: SuperValu, supervalu.ie; lyres.eu; lyres.co.uk

Lyre’s American Malt 

This does smell a little like whiskey, or bourbon to be exact, with burnt, toasty and vanilla flavours. I made a decent whiskey sour and John Collins with it.

From: SuperValu, supervalu.ie; lyres.eu; lyres.co.uk

Lyre’s Dark Cane Spirit

An alcohol-free rum with bananas, figs, toasted nuts, fudge and sweet vanilla. Try it with cola or other mixers.

From: SuperValu, supervalu.ie; lyres.eu; lyres.co.uk

Silk Tree Alcohol-free Gin

Refreshing with juniper, cinnamon and coriander alongside refreshing notes of lemon peel. Try it in a Tom Collins, with soda or tonic water.

From: SuperValu, supervalu.ie; Donnybrook Fair, donnybrookfair.ie; The Celtic Whisky Shop, Dublin 2, celticwhiskeyshop.com and other independent off-licences. 

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