This award-winning London bar has gone to great lengths to find innovative ingredients and techniques that give its teetotal drinks more intrigue. “It’s easy to mistake an order for a non-alcoholic drink as the customer asking for something with sweet notes,” explains Oriole co-owner Rosie Stimpson, who also runs fêted basement bar Nightjar. “We always make a point of asking what flavour profile the drinker is after, and with the use of vegetable juices, tonics and bitters it’s possible to achieve drier flavours.” And few bars have a more exotic larder to raid than Oriole, which lists so many rarefied fruits, spices and preparations in its low-alcohol drinks (from £6) that the menu has a glossary at the back. oriolebar.com.
Some bars now even make their own tonic water. At Spring in Somerset House, a mouthwatering list of juices and cocktails is punctuated by a revitalising Espresso Tonic (£5), which sees a double shot of espresso served long over ice with Spring’s tonic, made from quinine, allspice, lime, lemongrass, orange leaves and jasmine – a recipe that could almost be a perfume. springrestaurant.co.uk.
Here, Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick are using smoky and savoury flavours to give non-alcoholic drinks a more adult edge. Iced tea (£6) is reinvented as a smouldering cocktail of lapsang souchong, Seedlip, and lemon and orange marmalade. merchantstavern.co.uk.
At Taiwanese sensation Bao, ingredients such as miso and soy are used to give the cocktails a distinctly Asian flavour. Its creations have included a sweet-and-sour glass of spiced guava, soy, Thai basil and miso, created in collaboration with London mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana. baolondon.com.
Green Bar at Hotel Café Royal
Having once collaborated with Givenchy to create a perfume-inspired list of five cocktails that could be served hard or soft, Green Bar’s drinks are wonderfully varied – ranging from a vanilla-laced mix of passionfruit and pineapple juice to a blend of raspberry, ginger, carrot and almond essence, topped with a light tonic water (£10). But bar manager Derren King is also in his element devising non-alcoholic cocktails à la minute. hotelcaferoyal.com.
45 Jermyn St
Another bar that’s done a splendid job of the with-or-without concept is 45 Jermyn St. Here, guests perched on a burnt-orange leather bar stool can choose from a rainbow of twists on the Rickey, a type of highball that rose to popularity in the 1880s on the back of the soda siphon. There are five of these zesty drinks (£4) to choose from, including the aperitivo-like No 7, made with blood orange, thyme and soda (with an optional shot of Islay malt Bruichladdich), and the scented No 9, made with Fortnum & Mason’s Countess Grey tea, ylang-ylang and soda (and an optional shot of Havana Club 3 rum). Three of the ice cream floats (£12.50) can also be ordered without booze: I stuck it to the sugar police and enjoyed one made with blackcurrant, lemon verbena, lemon sorbet and vanilla ice-cream, which was good… but I have a hunch it would be even better with a shot of Hepple gin. 45jermynst.com.
Bulgari Hotel London
Those with more abstemious tastes may prefer a visit to the bar at the Bulgari Hotel London, where the cocktail list includes a section that is not just alcohol-free but also sugar-free – a measure, I’m told, that was introduced at the request of guests who liked to hit the bar after a workout. Along with the inevitable green juices, there are mocktails such as the Natural Attraction, a long glass of aloe vera, mango juice, lemon and eucalyptus (£9) – all served with the kind of immaculate presentation one would expect from the Bulgari. bulgarihotels.com.