Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Grown-up soft drinks

I'm always on the look out for decent, grown-up soft drinks, but they do seem to be hard to come by. Too often the fall-back option is fruit juice, often sweet and inappropriate for food, and sometimes mineral water can fit the bill. San Pellegrino and Badoit can work for me with their salty bite, but, nevertheless, they are just water, so lacking on the flavour front.

However, just recently I've rediscovered my love for Fentimans drinks. In 2012 they introduced tonic water to the range – which the company claims to be the world's first botanically brewed tonic water (kaffir lime leaf features in the herbal infusion). It's fresh with a subtle complexity and, amazingly, the Light Tonic Water is nothing like the usual confected, synthetic tasting slimline tonics. I am partial to tonic water as I explained here back in January when we eased off the booze for a while.

Fentimans also offers the rather beautiful Rose Lemonade – a delicate, petal pink coloured lemonade flavoured with ginger and rose oil. This is a fabulous drink – deliciously perfumed and refreshing on its own (and rather special as a mixer with gin).

Another recent discovery is Hot Ginger Beer from the Devon based organic producer Luscombe. This is spicy, dry and an ideal winter tipple. On their website, they suggest drinking it with 'barbecued chicken or pork or anything with a sweet glaze or marinade. Or spicy Caribbean-style grilled fish – served with tropical fruit like mango. It also pairs well with Chinese food, especially sweet and sour dishes and stir-fried crab'. I'm happy to believe them.

If you can't get your hands on these (try Waitrose and independent grocers and wine merchants – eg Earth Natural Foods in Kentish Town) a good party option is a Virgin Breeze that you can make up in jugs or punch bowls. Simply mix together two parts grapefruit juice and one part cranberry juice (or to taste) for a dry tasting and pretty looking drink. With plenty of ice, it's great for the morning after, too, but that's another story...

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