Alcohol-free: why temperance beverages are making a comeback

March 16, 2017

Compared with more modern soft drinks, traditional botanical brews is a possibility old-fashioned, but they are packed with flavour and anything but boring

Booze. Were so over it now. Not only is the government trying to wean us off our swift halves with its new alcohol guidelines( so good luck with that, then ), but theres been shocking exposure of Britain on the Booze, and a dramatic rise in the number of young teetotallers shunning their alcopops and Bacardi Breezers.

Add Lent to the cocktail and the self-righteous whiff of abstinence is definitely in the air, so what better time to stock up on your temperance drinks? The Temperance movement started in the early 19 th century, mostly in the industrial north, as an antidote to the voracious boozing of the working day and, allegedly, to sober up the workforce.

I have always been a lover of these old-style botanical brews: the sweet furriness of cream soda, the aniseedy kicking of dandelion and burdock, the medicinal-smelling sarsaparilla that tastes ever so faintly of toothpaste. For one thing, they have a depth of flavour you dont usually found under soft drinks, although, apparently, Coco-Cola and Vimto started life as temperance liquors.

Then theres the perfume of bubbling oranges filling the kitchen with a knuckle of ginger, a pan of stewing blackberries, sticky and sweet. I like the names too: black beer and raisin, rhubarb and rosehip, blood tonic.

Temperance drinks were big in aromatics, so if you want to induce your own, stock up on your spices and extracts; cleaves, nettle, cardamom seeds, liquorice, essential oils. For a glimpse of the real thing, head to Fitzpatricks in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, thought to be the last temperance bar in the UK and founded in 1890. Here, herbal brews were supped for their reputed medicinal benefits too( lemon and ginger for the immune system, for example, nettles for the kidneys. But lets not even mention the sugar ). If foraging is your thing, tug on your wellies and dont be afraid to dig( although do get the permission of the landowner ).


Sarsaparilla: medicinal-smelling, but full of flavour. Photo: Food and Drink/ Rex/ Shutterstock

For dandelion and burdock, look out for burdocks large, furry, heart-shaped foliages and boil with dandelion roots sweetened with sugar, two spoonfuls of black treacle and lemon juice. Many temperance cordials use syrup as a fruity base. Try this simplified peach syrup from Bertha Stockbridges 1920 prohibition classic What to Drink: simmer 10 oz of peach slices with 8oz of water and 8oz of sugar for 30 minutes, then stres. From there on, the world of flower power opens up. Dont be afraid to experimentation. The Anthologist in London does a whole scope of cheeky tipples made from its homemade syrups and infusions, which you can attain from pretty much anything: vegetables, herbs, even meat.( It even does a bacon-infused , non-alcoholic bloody mary .)

Beware of attaining them too sweet, however a common misstep, according to the great mixologist Tony Conigliaro. So combine the lemony-tartness of hibiscus with zingy raspberry puree. Purists can check out the original 1904 Recipes for Temperance Drinks, which includes gingerette, peppermint cordiale and Boston cream, although I think Ill pass on Mrs Hibberts Temperance Brandy, which is basically cinnamon powder dissolved in a wineglass of hot water.

Mostly, I like to keep it simple: hot Luscombe ginger beer with a splashing of grenadine and a squeezing of lime juice. One of the tastiest temperance drinks I have ever had was a violet and jasmine crush at The Botanist in Leeds, the mix of mint, violet and jasmine syrup with lime juice, apple juice and soda water was like a mouthful of honeyed sunshine. Who requires gin?

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