I used to be a whisky drinker. But then, as I reached my 30s, my body started to reject anything alcoholic. First came the headaches, but I pushed on through them. Then came the red, swollen neck every time I’d sip a Talisker in the evenings. It was only when my face started swelling up that I thought perhaps I’d better get to the crux of why. Turns out I have a late-onset alcohol allergy. Over the next five years, my symptoms worsened and this allergy now means that I am projectile vomiting with a swollen face within minutes of ingesting alcohol, no matter how miniscule the amount.
For the most part, things were fine. In Norwich, where I live, nonalcoholic options like seltzers and Seedlip are abundant. But finding something celebratory (and fizzy) to toast an engagement or a friend’s new job was tough. For family Christmas, I’d drink Appletiser while the rest of the adults had prosecco. Birthdays saw me gifted with bottles of nonalcoholic spirits, but I couldn’t very well drink them neat from a Champagne flute. Then, one afternoon, almost six months ago, the answer arrived via an email from Fortnum & Mason.
I have bought my teas from Fortnum & Mason for the past ten years. (There is something luxurious about making tea with leaves, and I have yet to find better than their Wedding Breakfast blend.) This meant that I was on their mailing list when they announced a new addition to their tea range: a sparkling tea.
The email caught me in a good mood: I had just been offered a publishing deal for my debut novel and wanted to celebrate. So I spent £16.95 on a bottle of white — there’s a rosé option too — and took it to my friend’s house to share. It was fizzy and light, just like a Champagne should be, and the cork popped with a pleasingly loud sound. There were layers of taste with the eight types of tea leaf, lemongrass, mint, and jasmine. It felt sophisticated and adult. Like Champagne, I found it best drunk chilled, straight from the fridge.
I shared my find with my WhatsApp writing friends, who had been keeping up with my search. Of the 21 in the group, 8 went out and bought a bottle. One in particular, who had been searching for something to offer her teetotal mother-in-law, was thrilled with my discovery. I bought another bottle soon after the first: a rosé that I popped when I signed with a literary agent following my publishing deal. And in the fridge, I’m already chilling a fresh bottle of white, in preparation for my 40th birthday next month.
Another nonalcoholic drink we like
When we asked experts for the best nonalcoholic drinks options, Jarr’s kombucha was the most recommended (we’ve even spotted it in Shoreditch House). Rosamund Dean, deputy editor of Grazia and author of Mindful Drinking: How Cutting Down Can Change Your Life, said, “It’s packed with antioxidants and good bacteria; I love the ginger flavoured one, which is made with freshly juiced ginger root. It’s a warming, fuzzy drink,”
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