Last week's column on alcohol drew a predictable response. I'm a wowser, complained one tweeter, neatly demonstrating what I said about us having a blind spot about alcohol.

I misrepresented the data, said another correspondent. What about all the tourists who come here and drink up large?

Another claimed I am not up with the research, and that for health we are better off if we do drink than if we don't.

I am not an anti-alcohol campaigner. I drink a little myself and while I could easily abstain altogether, I don't really want to. I enjoy the taste of wine with a meal.


But I am very mindful of the evidence here, which continues to build. Too much alcohol is not good for us, so if we drink, we should do it mindfully. This is what I try to do.

To that end, I've been asked for ideas on what to drink when you're choosing not to drink alcohol.

The challenge for non-drinkers (whether permanently, for a short time or just for that day) is that the options are often pretty dull. When you go to functions, the choices are usually boring old water or sweet juice, neither of which is particularly inspiring.

This was the dilemma faced by Ben Branson, the founder of non-alcoholic spirit company Seedlip, who was in NZ last week.

At the product launch event, he described being in a high-end London restaurant and asking for something non-alcoholic to go with his very nice, expensive meal. He was presented with a frothy, fruity pink mocktail that made him feel silly and didn't go with the food.

The idea for Seedlip was born.

Distilled from peas and other plants, the Seedlip product is a subtle, sophisticated drink designed to be used as you would any spirit, mixed with tonic or in cocktails.

It's been a global hit, and is currently stocked in more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants, demonstrating the demand for interesting non-alcoholic drinks.


If that's not to your taste or budget (it's priced similarly to other spirits), there are some other interesting non-juice or water options.

There's kombucha, which is having a bit of a moment - the less-sweet versions of these can be quite food-friendly. Look for kombucha with lower sugar levels, or try making your own - it's super easy and kind of fun.

I also like many of the teas, both fruity and traditional, which can be brewed and chilled, or made with cold water. These are sugar-free, too, although some have fruit pieces to sweeten. The flavours are many and varied. I love a chilled, unsweetened jasmine tea with Japanese food.

Alcohol companies are also getting in on this territory. Low-alcohol or alcohol-free beers are worth trying. And low-alcohol wine is a growing category; local winemakers are doing a lot of work on finding ways of reducing the alcohol while keeping maximum flavour.

Current guidelines suggest several alcohol-free days a week. Those days don't have to be fun-free.

*Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide,