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Thursday 17 January 2013

Mocktail Hour: Gran Stead's Ginger Wine

I always giggle at images like this as it looks like someone's having a wee

Last June, bemoaning the fact that so many non-alcoholic drinks are awful and boring, we held a little competition for you to name our new tasty unbooze. This year, with so many people doing Dry January, I've heard more people than ever compaining about the unimaginative options for those who want something other than alcohol.

So, over the next months, I'm going to be hunting down delicious non-alcoholic drinks that have complex flavours, and do something altogether more interesting than just hydrate you. But not just anything will make the cut. It will be properly tested and have to follow my set of rules.

To be classified as unbooze, a drink
  • Must taste absolutely amazing
  • Must look and feel like a proper treat you'd shell out money for
  • It shouldn't remotely feel like a woman's mag would recommend it for dieting or serving at a kids' party
  • A kick, or at least some layers of flavour, are a recommended bonus
  • Something you want to savour, rather than go "Well it's only a soft drink, let's have pints of it right now"
I was rather sceptical when I received bottles of Gran Stead's award-winning ginger wine. Made by a husband and wife team in Portslade, East Sussex, this booze-free tipple comes from a 150-year-old recipe from the original Gran Slade - the back story is charming, and I imagine numerous great-greats were left off the label for ease of PR. I was enthused about this. Except when I have to cook with it, I LOVE ginger. And not just because I am one, although I guess it helps.
I found my spiritual home in Singapore
A favourite winter tipple is a whiskey mac, the firy tingle of the ginger wine perfectly complementing the burn of the Scotch. So I thought the whole point of ginger wine was that it had, er, alcohol in it. Otherwise couldn't you just get a can of Old Jamaican and leave it open for a few days?

Anyway. While I was muttering over such things, I judged the bottle by its cover. The ginger wine comes in a 75cl green glass bottle, with a proper foil cover to break open before you can get to the screwcap. I really like this. Part of the great joy of drinking booze is the ceremony and preparation of it, and if I wanted a soft drink I could break into quickly I'd be guzzling Sprite straight from the bottle.
You can't have measures like that with whiskey or you DIE

First up, the Light & Fiery (£4.25, 75cl). Holy mother of HELL. This really is excellent! Even I, life's perennial chicken korma eater, adored the sizeable punch from the capiscum. I tried it out on my colleagues, one of whom thought it so excellent that she solemnly went back to the kitchen to get glass tumblers. Respect: it's all in the presentation. I am heading straight down to Brixton Hill to pick up as many bottles of this as I can fit in my bag: it's absolutely delicious, and will be a tremendous after-work pick me up. Apparently it's also good cooled down with apple juice, but by the time I remembered this tip, it had all mysteriously disappeared.

For those who are even worse at coping with hot stuff than I am, there's the Dark and Mellow (£3.25, 75cl) which looks like treacle in a glass. Gentle, rich and warming, this is quite special. They'd also sent me a bottle of their Traditional Still Lemonade (£2.25, 75cl) made with Sicilian lemon juice (fine, it's - well, it's still lemonade which is too hydrating to classify as UnBooze) and more excitingly, a lemonade with a zing of ginger (£2.25, 75cl). This was lovely. It wasn't as "Ooh, I'll get my crystal tumblers out" as the ginger wines, but if you're as bored of Bottlegreen as I am and want a halfway house, this comes highly recommended.

My last, and possibly my favourite, thing about Gran Stead is that they do a sort of Virgin Wine delivery service: if you live within Great Britain and Ireland, they will send you a crate of bottles to your door. Twelve bottles of either sort ginger wine, including VAT and P&P, will cost you £50, and you can also order mixed cases. Mixed cases of beautifully-packaged, delicious UnBooze! This is the sort of stuff I'm talking about. Oh, and they also sell gift boxes with crystallised ginger and that sort of thing too.

If you just want to try a bottle, they have an exhaustive list of their stockists (by county, if you please). All Gran Stead drinks are gluten-free and suitable for vegans and vegetarians.


  1. I'm a huge fan of Kittys ginger wine and drink it the same way I drink whiskey but I can't find it in London, this may be my alternative until I'm back up North!


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