It's Sober October: Taking on the challenge of going alcohol free, but don’t want to be stuck sipping water on an evening out? Knightsbridge’s cocktail bars have a sophisticated and delicious range of alcohol-free options for Sober October (and beyond)
A stylish Sober October in Knightsbridge
Words: Jane Fulcher
Forget Dry January, its post-summer and pre-festive-season cousin, Sober October, has come along to make abstinence more fun. An initiative started to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, Sober October is an annual challenge, taken on by thousands, to quit booze for a month.
Let’s face it, quitting alcohol is easier while the weather is fine and Christmas is still on the horizon. And to make it an even more enticing prospect, many of the best bars are embracing the increased demand for alcohol-free options when putting together their cocktail lists. Knightsbridge is, of course, home to many of London’s (and therefore the world’s) finest cocktail bars and offers a plethora of exciting teetotal tipples.
The Garden Room at The Lanesborough has launched a collection of four signature alcohol-free twists on cocktail classics designed for Sober October, including a Negroni Zero, which recreates the Italian icon using Tanqueray 0.0, Martini Vibrante, Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso and oak smoke bitters. And the Garden 75, a teetotal version of a French 75 made with Supasawa citrus cocktail mixer, gomme syrup and sparkling jasmine tea. A tart Apple and Cranberry Sour, and a summer-inflected Passion Sunrise made with pineapple and grenadine complete the enticing quartet. At The Lanesborough’s Library Bar you can also discover a selection of exciting mocktails including the tempting Scene Stealer, a mixture of cranberry juice, maraschino cherries, white peach foam, jasmine soda and raspberry coulis.
The salubrious Baccarat Bar at Harrods has a menu focused on metamorphosis and the joy of transformation. Excitingly, the core components of each cocktail have been selected to show how it can evolve through careful manipulation to create something new. This is especially fascinating when it comes to the non-alcoholic options, including the Ascent, for which mezcal has gone through acetic fermentation to transform the alcohol into acetic acid (or vinegar). The mezcal vinegar is then combined with clarified grapefruit juice, sudachi and agave to create something adjacent to a Paloma but much more interesting. The V&T uses a “buffered” sherry vinegar (where a substance is added to neutralise acid and add minerality) with ice verjus, pineapple and tonic to create something refreshing and complex; and the Bareskin cocktail includes slow-cooked feijoa skin extract (feijoa is a fruit native to South America in the myrtle family) along with Everleaf Marine, apple, ice verjus, and croissant distillate to create a drink that is at once multifaceted, unusual and delicious. At the ever-glamorous Fifth Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols, meanwhile, an inventive drinks list complete with a selection of “Temperance Cocktails” awaits. The highlight is perhaps the sparkling and energetic Opera made from Seedlip Grove 42, raspberries, gomme syrup, lemon juice and topped with Obird alcohol-free Spumante. Or the perfect evening ender, El Niño, crafted with Three Spirit’s mood altering Nightcap zero per cent spirit, pineapple and lime juice, coconut syrup and ginger beer.
The Blue Bar at The Berkeley has a well-earned reputation for innovation and boundary pushing, which is reflected in its ever-changing menu. The new Blue Move menu of 12 cocktails inspired by the bar’s musical history (Blue Bar has long been a favourite of Madonna, who allowed a remix of her song Music to appear on one of the bar’s legendary album releases) includes the refreshing, disco-inspired and alcohol-optional I’m Blue cocktail, crafted from Everleaf Marine and Amarico non-alcoholic aperitifs, Palette Roots alcohol-free spirit, passion berries, longan and lychee shrub, grapefruit soda water, peach and jasmine air; as well as the Party Animals which has a teetotal version made from Palette Roots, Everleaf Mountain, Martini Vibrante, lime, violet, aquafaba and OGGS vegan egg replacement.
The Bulgari Hotel is home to Sette Restaurant and its sister bar, the New York style Nolita Social. The bar is all about fun but cocktail culture is taken very seriously, including zero-proof, tea-inflected mixes such as the heavenly Black Stone Berry made with Seedlip Garden, hibiscus and berry tea, passion fruit and lemon juice; the sophisticated and complex Into The Groove shaken from Seedlip Grove 42, chamomile syrup, ginger, lemon and oak bitters; and the indulgent Jasmine crafted with Seedlip Spice 94, jasmine tea, vanilla, lemon juice and egg white. The same serves are available in the equally salubrious but more serene Bulgari Hotel Lounge, as well as the Bulgari Mocktail made with Seedlip Garden, spritz syrup, orange juice, pineapple juice, lime juice and egg white.
Over at The Hyde Bar at The Park Tower Knightsbridge, fruity versions of cocktail classics are the teetotal order of choice. Order a Berry Mojito, which comes without the rum but a hit of flavour, or one of the juicy alcohol-free Daiquiris. For a hit of holiday vibes, the Tropicana, a tasty mix of coconut cream, banana, mango and pineapple juice has all the joy of a piña colada without the headache. A great way to conjure holiday vibes in the elegant surroundings of this leading hotel bar.
Speaking of exotic getaways, The Aubrey at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London is inspired by 19th-century illustrator and author Aubrey Beardsley and promises an eccentric take on a Japanese izakaya. Its selection of alcohol-free options includes the herbal yet creamy The Woman in the Moon made from soy milk, Edi CBD, sea salt water, and Genmaicha tea, and the refreshing and exciting The Climax, mixed from Amarico, Everleaf Mountain, New London Light 0% spirit and tonic water.
How refreshing to have this much choice and so little compromise while browsing a cocktail list when alcohol isn’t on one’s personal menu. With this many compellingly alcohol-free cocktails on offer, it’s easy to see how Sober October could continue on into many deliciously teetotal nights out in Knightsbridge.
Jane Fulcher is contributing editor of drinkspiration website The Mixer