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The pick of the no- and low-alcohol drinks crop for dry January | Fiona Beckett on wine

From a glorious, chocolatey stout to a trio of sparkling wine substitutes, the best drinks if you’re off the booze

Asking anyone how they’re doing right now is a bit of a case of: “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?” It’s hard to think of a less auspicious start to a year, so I could understand if dry January was just too daunting to contemplate. It certainly is for me, though fortunately I have the excuse of the day job.

Others, however, are more restrained if the new year trends reports are anything to go by, with the continued rise and rise of nolo (no and low alcohol) looking like an ongoing feature of 2021. Certainly, the rate of innovation is impressive, even if not all make the grade. Startups, in particular, struggle to nail the complex blend of botanicals needed to make alcohol-free spirits more interesting than tap water. Even the pros. Sipsmith, for example, has put back the launch of its much-anticipated non-alcoholic FreeGlider because they’re still not happy with it, despite having spent two years fine-tuning it. (I thought the prototype – the 186th version – I tasted was terrific, but they’re still not satisfied.) And if you’re charging the same price as a bottle of full-strength gin, you need to get it right.

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