alcohol free

BOOK REVIEW: How to drink without drinking

Fiona Beckett’s new book may not be what you’d expect from the acclaimed wine writer. But in How to Drink Without Drinking, she shows her characteristic confident knowledge and attention to detail applied to the gamut of alcohol-free drinks.

I received this book to review with some excitement a couple of months ago. Then unfortunately my attempts at making as many of the drinks as I had planned from it were stymied by my diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Now not only were alcohol and caffeine on my no-go list, but also sugar too. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t have any sugar-free options. Simply put, it became a lower priority for me as I had to completely turn my food habits on their head. I have since been gradually adding more of the recipes into my repertoire. This is increasing now that I am coming to grips with my new dietary regimen.

How to drink without drinking - alcohol free book by Fiona Beckett

I always enjoy Fiona’s down to earth and beautifully minimalist prose in her previous works and it is much in evidence again in How to Drink Without Drinking. There is no nonsense and no judgement, with the thrust of the book being very much focused on the idea of creating flavourful drinks for a couple of abstemious days through the week rather than an evangelical tirade on the (often sanctimonious) path of the tee-totaller. This makes the whole much more accessible and inviting.

What’s in it?

What I really like about this book is how comprehensive it is. For a long time alcohol free cocktails and collections of recipes for making them have been around. This book goes far beyond that. Fiona examines making your own cordials, fermented drinks, teas, tisanes and coffees to mention but a few. I really liked the fact that there were plenty of new ideas for me to get my teeth into. Those sufferers with gestational diabetes will be especially interested in shrubs. These add vinegar to fruit and sugar to make a sort of tart cordial. Of course there is a lot of sugar in there potentially, but as you are drinking it dilute it’s probably worth trying as apple cider vinegar (the base of a lot of shrubs) is considered to help manage blood glucose levels when taken every day.

I also really liked the creativity in the tea and coffee section. The Vietnamese style coffee was a particular favourite of mine, although I had to up the double cream and reduced the condensed milk to keep the sugar levels down, and of course I can only have one a day to keep my caffeine levels in check.

The Verdict

It may not be the only alcohol free book that you ever buy. But it will certainly be the only alcohol free book that you need for a long, long time. It’s an easy read to pick up on a Sunday afternoon. The recipes will have you dipping in and out for ideas and inspiration for months to come. There is plenty of advice on what kit you need and technique too so this is perfect for absolute beginners. The fermented drinks aren’t for me, but there is a great selection that is. I’m quite confident there genuinely is something to suit everyone in this well written and beautifully illustrated book.

Thanks to Kyle Books who gifted my copy for purposes of review.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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