The Confidentials editorial team try 0% ABV bevs

Whether you’re the designated driver for the night, attempting Dry Jan, or you’ve been on the wagon for years, you’ve probably tried (or been tempted by) a non-alcoholic replacement of your favourite tipple. 

However, like all things, some drinks are better than others. 

We decided to separate the wheat from the chaff (or should that be the barley from the hops?) and try a variety of non-alcoholic beverages, readily available in supermarkets, to see each one compares. 

Each drink is rated out of 5 for flavour, authenticity and branding. The higher the score, the better the booze-free beverage.

Without further ado, it’s time to meet our judges:

  • Harley (H)
    A recently sober twenty-something whose favourite tipples were spiced rum and amaretto. 
  • Jonathan (J)
    A glass? I’ll have the bottle please.

  • David (D)
    Unofficially sponsored by Tanqueray.

2024 01 12 Vintense Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon by Vintense Image: Confidentials

Vintense: Cabernet Sauvignon

J: It’s like a weakly-flavoured Ribena.

H: I’d say it’s more like a cold mulled wine, to be honest.

D: That’s foul. It’s actually horrible. Why would anyone ever pay for this?

J: Apparently if you put balsamic vinegar in cheap red wine it helps balance the flavour a bit. 

H: I don’t hate it, but it’s doing nothing for me. It doesn’t have the same viscosity as wine. It doesn’t coat your mouth properly.

D: We don’t have any balsamic vinegar in…we’ve got soy sauce?

J: [After rooting around the office cupboard] Soy actually does improve it slightly. 

H: No. You didn’t…

J: Add an extra point for the soy sauce. 

H: 1.5/5
J: 2/5
D: 0.5/5

Score: 1/5 

2024 01 12 Mikkeller Non Alc Winter Ale
Drink'in in the Snow by Mikkeller Image: Confidentials

Mikkeller: Drink’in in the Snow 

J: It smells hoppy.

H: It’s really sweet, that.

D: Yeah, almost like molasses or toffee. 

J: That’s not that bad actually. It tastes of a very sweet porter mixed with toffee.

H: 3.5/5
J: 3/5
D: 4/5

Score: 3.5/5 

2024 01 12 Beavertown Lazer Crush
Lazer Crush by Beavertown Image: Confidentials

Beavertown: Lazer Crush

H: This smells very hoppy compared to the previous one, but it’s a lot clearer.

D: That looks like Sprite. It’s almost non-existent. 

J: I’m sorry, that’s just Tizer or something. It doesn’t taste like beer.

H: It tastes like when the barrel’s gone and you end up with the watery leftovers. 

D: Yeah. Like weak, flat lager. No, that’s not nice. 

J: No it’s not. It’s actually got 0.3% alcohol in it though.

D: Why’s there so little ‘kick’ in it? You know, a bit of something. It just tastes flat.

J: It is made out of barley, hops and yeast mind you…which are the classic ingredients of a beer.

H: 1/5
J: 1.5/5
D: 1.5/5

Score: 1.5/5 

2024 01 12 Flying Colours Jump Ship
Jump Ship by Flying Colours Image: Confidentials

Jump Ship: Flying Colours

J: That actually looks like a beer, unlike the Beavertown one which looks nothing like beer.

D: Brewed in Scotland. 

J: It smells a little of barley.

H: You don’t get any flavour but then a really awful aftertaste with that one. 

J: I think you’ve just said it all there. You don’t get any flavour, then a really horrible aftertaste, then that dies really quickly as well.

D: Yeah, that’s not good.

J: I suppose the one plus is that, if you’re at a party, you can fill your glass with this and make it last you four hours. 

D: And still have enough for the cab ride home as well. 

H: 1.5/5
J: 2/5
D: 2/5

Score: 2/5

2024 01 12 No Worries Lervig
No worries, Driving Home for Christmas by Lervig Image: Confidentials

Lervig: No Worries, Driving Home for Christmas

H: This one’s a Christmas beer if you hadn’t guessed. Looks like a Stout-type thing? 

J: Ergh, that is the worst. That is fucking awful. [Walks off to pour it down the sink.]

D: You sound offended.  

J: It’s trying to be a Christmas pudding I think. No way for me, that.

D: Eugh, no thanks.

H: I don’t mind that. I used to like drinking a stout.

J: I love a stout, but I don’t like that one.

D: What’s the dominant flavour there?

J: It’s like sultanas or something. It’s horrible. 

D: I’d say it’s good for about two days out of the year; when you’re feeling Christmassy but you’re not drinking. 

H: It’s got a bit of a burnt aftertaste to it. 

D: It’s got that slightly toffee-ish note that the other had. I’d say the last dark beer was better.

J: I’d say so, too. In the same way that one cow pat is better than another cow pat.

H: 2/5
J: 1.5/5
D: 2.5/5

Score: 2/5

2024 01 12 Flat Tyre By Pistonhead
Flat Tyre by Pistonhead Image: Confidentials

Pistonhead: Flat Tyre

J: I don’t mind this one too much. It doesn’t taste of much. That’s alright for me.

D: There’s a kind of flat, watery aftertaste to that. 

J: Yeah, but at least it’s drinkable. 

H: To be fair, if you were to get that in a bar, you’d probably just think it was a cheap lager. 

D: Yeah, it tastes like Carlsberg. 

H: 2/5
J: 3.5/5
D: 2.5/5

Score: 3/5

2024 01 12 Mc Guigan Zero Chardonnay
McGuigan Zero Chardonnay Image: Confidentials

McGuigan: Zero Chardonnay

J: It smells disgusting. That’s the worst smelling one. It smells even worse than the red.

H: I don’t think it’s as bad as the red but it’s up there. That one was like pure vinegar. 

D: Jesus Christ. That is awful.

J: And the taste is even worse. 

D: That is…

H: Oh, it lingers…

D: The smell is horrendous. 

H: It tastes like when you put olives in the fridge and you ask yourself ‘How long have they been in there? Surely they’re still ok?’. Then you taste them and realise they’ve definitely gone rancid. 

J: It tastes like the brine the olives are in. 

D: If I could give that less than zero I would. 

J: That is simply unpalatable. 

D: I couldn't drink that.

H: I’ll give it half a point because the bottle looks legit. 

H: 0.5/5
J: 0.5/5
D: 0/5

Score: 0.5/5

2024 01 12 Captain Morgan Spiced Rum 0
Spiced Gold 0.0 by Captain Morgan Image: Confidentials

Captain Morgan: Spiced Gold 0.0

J: See, I’m thinking this should be ok as it's a ‘spirit’.

H: I already know this is going to be nicer. 

J: It smells of rum. 

H: It smells alcoholic, doesn’t it? It smells really boozy which is confusing. 

J: Once you taste it you realise it’s not rum, though. 

D: That’s weird. All the top end of the taste has been completely eradicated. All you’re left with is the water and this vague sweet taste. None of the cane sugary flavours.

J: There’s a vague rum-iness to it. 

H: It’s got a bit of a banana-y flavour. But it’s not got the texture you expect with a rum. 

J: I don’t know what it is about these drinks but all of them are watery and thin, whether it's wine or beer or anything else. 

D: Put some coke in it. See if it tastes like rum and coke. Maybe it’ll trick my mind. 

J: That’s really weird.

D: Normally when you have Morgans spiced and coke, they taste like one drink but you can taste the two separate things together. That is like Coca Cola but someone’s left it in the sun. It’s made it all warm and weird.

J: I don’t mind it actually. It’s alright.

H: I feel like, to get some flavour in your drink, you’d probably need quite a big slug of it. A 50ml measure wouldn’t fool you much. 

J: I don’t mind it with coke, actually.

H: I’d say it's my favourite out of the lot.

J: Yeah, agreed. 

H: 4.5/5
J: 4/5
D: 2.5/5

Score: 4/5

Perhaps its best to put these drinks back on the shelves and leave it to the mixology pros who know how to make a temperance tipple or two. 

If you're looking for recommendations, check out our guide to 10 of the best bars in Manchester for alcohol-free drinks.

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