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Planning Retirement Online

Let's Party!

December 2011 

Let's party in later life article series...

This series looks at some of the more unusual ideas to help you celebrate with style and panache – at affordable price levels, of course!

To see the full list of articles see the main Celebrating in Later Life page


Let's Party!  Special celebrations, this month: Non alcoholic drinks

by LaterLife features editor Sally Smith

It’s Christmas so it must be time to celebrate! Here our monthly feature on entertaining and celebration looks at an aspect that is becoming increasingly important both among our age group and also among society in general - non-alcoholic party drinks.

Let's party








Christmas is a great time for celebration and many of us will be inviting friends and family over for special events and evenings.

But once you are over 50, entertaining takes on a slightly different pattern from those wilder parties of our youth and we often want to cater for a wider range of tastes and dietary restrictions.

Offering vegetarian food has never been easier; supermarkets are full of great ideas and if you want to cook yourself, there is an enormous range of cookery books available offering great vegetarian party food ideas.

But people wanting to offer non-alcoholic party drinks are not quite so well catered for. Certainly there is a great choice of sparkling non-alcoholic drinks, from sparkling elderberry to Schloer available in both red and white, but for alcohol free wines, beers and cocktails you have to search carefully for retailers or buy online. On the internet there is now a very good choice but here you obviously have to plan ahead to allow for delivery time.

That said, non alcoholic drinks have come a long way from when the first rather flavourless thin beverages were introduced into the marketplace.

Non-alcoholic wines for instance are today made and sold with the same attention to detail and loving care as a year’s top vintage, and non-alcoholic beers are made with the same dedication as the best beers from a boutique brewery. Because most of the flavours and colouring comes from the traditional sources of grapes for wine and grain for beer, the taste, colour and feel of the drinks really is very similar to their traditional alcoholic counterparts.

Many non-alcoholic drinks are based on the traditional alcoholic version but simply have alcohol taken out. This is not as difficult as it sounds and there are different ways this can be achieved.

One way is by vacuum distillation, when the wine or beer is made normally and then put into a vacuum. The liquid can then be gently heated but because of the change in atmospheric pressure, it boils at a much lower temperature than normal. This way the alcohol can be distilled off without affecting the colour or intricate flavour of the wine or beer.

Another way is by reverse osmosis and doesn’t require any heating. The wine or beer is pressure directed along a special filter or membrane with small pores that allow just the alcohol, water and a few volatile acids to pass through. The wine or beer is then filtered and is rehydrated either with the water mix which has had the alcohol removed by conventional distillation methods, or with fresh pure water. Either way, the results are usually very good indeed and retain the bouquet and complex depth of flavours of regular fermented wine or beer but without the alcohol.

Be aware though that some de-alcoholised wines can still retain a minute level of alcohol - usually less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, but if someone is avoiding alcohol because of their religion or because of an allergic reaction rather than just to avoid the normal effects from alcoholic drinks, care needs to be taken.

The range today of de-alcoholised and non-alcohol wines and beers is extensive and covers all types of wine from reds and whites to champagnes and rosé and all types of beers from bitters and pale ales to lagers.

Non-alcoholic cocktails can really help make a party, and there are lots of recipes available now using everyday ingredients such as pineapple juice and ginger ale. Grenadine syrup is a popular additive to non-alcoholic drinks; it is a strong red syrup made from red currants and pomegranates and gives a great colour and a slightly sophisticated flavour. You can also buy non-alcoholic versions of made up cocktails or of specific drinks such as Amaretto.

One key thing about serving non-alcoholic drinks is not to treat them as second best; a non-alcoholic cocktail needs to be decorated with a cherry, piece of lemon, a cocktail stick - all the embellishments you would give to a normal alcoholic cocktail; beer needs to be served at the right temperature in proper beer glasses; just because it is non-alcoholic doesn’t mean guests expect a standard water drinking glass!

It can be a good idea to put aside a small section of a table with a sign indicating the drinks there are non-alcoholic. That makes it easier for guests and can help stop them feeling pressurised into joining the alcoholic drinkers if they prefer not to.

Non-alcoholic drinks are becoming more and more a normal aspect of modern celebrations; and with the great varieties now available, you certainly don’t need to rely on the alcohol drinks to add colour and spice to the party.

There is a host of information on the website, including the following two sites which both offer a large range of non-alcoholic drink recipes:

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