The buzz this summer is all about alcohol-free, as the sector comes of age. Finally non-drinkers have worthy alternatives, and the good news is they’re delicious.

The trend is being led by ‘Gen Z’, those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s. Gen Z are health-conscious, exercise more, and value experiences. Unlike generations before, alcohol plays far less of a role in their social lives with a rise in mindful drinking.

Drinks expert Angela Mount says: “In the old days alcohol-free was for abstainers, recovering alcoholics or people just who didn’t drink. Today it’s all about moderators, people who are drinking less. It’s people who want to go out with their friends but not always drink alcohol. Now you can have a sophisticated drink like a margarita with zero alcohol tequila, which has the same flavour profile. You’re getting the same experience without the alcohol.”

One of the most developed categories in the Scottish alcohol-free sector is beer, a huge change from just a few years ago. For Sonja Mitchell, founder of Edinburgh-based Jump Ship Brewing, alcohol was no longer serving her lifestyle.

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 “I couldn’t find the beer I wanted to drink when I no longer wanted the alcohol,” she says. “I’ve always loved beer, drank a lot of beer, and then hit that point in my thirties with kids and a busy job where I didn’t want to stop drinking altogether but didn’t want to drink during the week. That fuzzy head in the morning, there wasn’t time for that.” At the time Sonja could only find imported alcohol-free lagers, and not the Scottish craft beers she so enjoyed, so set out to fix that.

Duncan Keith founded Days Brewing with Michael Gammell in 2020 with a similar motivation. Duncan says: “We love beer and its incredible ability to get people round a table and start conversations. But we found that we weren’t doing that as often, just because we didn’t want the alcohol or the side effects.”

The National: Founders of Days Brewing Mike & Duncan Founders of Days Brewing Mike & Duncan (Image: Days Brewery)

The Covid lockdowns propelled the alcohol-free sector in Scotland. For Days Brewing it was a chance to trial their products direct to consumers and get frequent constructive feedback as they perfected their recipes, settling on a refreshing lager and a full-flavoured IPA.

Sonja says this period made people question lifestyle choices: “People drank a lot to begin with, then realised they couldn’t keep drinking at that level. I think it accelerated a trend about health and wellbeing. People tried out alcohol-free at home and as the world opened up again, they went back to bars and restaurants expecting better choices than before.”

Sonja says draft enquiries are increasing and this summer kegs of Jump Ship Yardarm lager will be available for the first time. “It’s really exciting to be able to go into a pub and just have a pint, and it doesn’t matter what the ABV is, you’re just enjoying a beer.”

Another Edinburgh success story is Brulo, founded by James Brown who also founded subscription service He says: “The craft beer revolution changed beer for the better. I loved the focus on innovation, creativity, and quality but when it came to beers without alcohol none of that was true, it was very much still stuck in the 1990’s with poor quality and limited choice. I figured it was time to change that.”

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Recently Brulo’s 7 Hop 7 Grain IPA won best beer at the World Alcohol Free Awards 2023. Brulo is exported worldwide and is on track to sell over a million cans in 2023.

Spirits of Virtue is a non-alcoholic spirit brand from the Cairngorms, using water naturally filtered through granite. The company markets under separate brands for each spirit category: Glen Dochus, non-alcoholic whisky alternatives; Seven Giants, non-alcoholic tequilas; and Pearsons, non-alcoholic gin.

They also produce non-alcoholic bourbon, rum and vodka. Recently Spirits of Virtue redeveloped all their products with drinks expert Angela Mount, who famously once had her taste buds insured by her employer for £10 million. She is enthused by the potential in the sector and the capacity for innovation.

The National: Spirits of Virtue Spirits of Virtue (Image: Glen Dochus Range)

“It really is the wild west. There are no set rules. We know it’s growing and it’s destined to grow really, really rapidly over the next five, ten years. This sector is young, it’s vibrant, it’s relevant.”

Feragaia, made in Fife, is a sector leader in non-alcoholic spirits that don’t mimic existing types of alcohol. Feragaia is layered and complex, with citrus, herbaceous and spiced notes, and botanicals including chamomile and cayenne.

Founder Jamie Wild says, “The taste is all about trying to make the drinker slow down, to take your time to unpick the flavours and match the special moments in your life.

The National: Feragaia mocktailFeragaia mocktail (Image: Feragaia)

“Feragaia stands on its own two feet, unapologetic, with all that beautiful care and attention paid to it. The bigger mission is to really empower everyone’s individual free spirit.”

Cost is often cited as a barrier to experimenting with alcohol free. Sonja Mitchell says: “We use the same process, the same ingredients, and more expensive malts and hops because we’re having to work harder to get the flavour in. We do more, we lab test the alcohol and because we’re gluten free we test that as well.

"There’s also extra processing in terms of pasteurisation to make sure the beer is clean and stable. The only saving we really make is on the duty, which is not as much as people think. If you take into account small brewers’ relief, it’s about 12 pence a can or something like that.”

Jamie Wild says alcohol-free spirits are more expensive to produce, “we use five times more botanicals in our distillation because we don’t have alcohol in the maceration process. So it’s very hard for us to extract the essence, the oil and the flavours into liquid.”

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Caoimhe Duignan, Business Development Manager at Hawksmoor Edinburgh, tells me: “It’s all about inclusivity. As a venue we’re a place where people come for special occasions, birthdays and experiences,” she says, “We want to be able to match the eating experience with our drinks. It’s not the percentage of alcohol that creates that experience, it’s the quality, and no one should be left out. Hawksmoor has a ‘Temperates Menu’ of alcohol-free cocktails, not the sickly sweet mocktails of the past, but instead sophisticated punchy drinks with complex flavours and texture.

Since the pandemic, Caoimhe says: “Many people working in the hospitality industry are now teetotal. In their workplace they should see that their choices are included, respected, and considered.

“Not having no or low isn’t acceptable any more, it’s all part of diversity and inclusion.”

With a renewed confidence in the, and an increased consumer willingness to experiment – and feel a bit fresher the next day, alcohol-free really looks here to stay.




1. Yardarm Lager, Jump Ship fresh malt and hops with a touch of citrus

2. Brulo 7 Hop 7 Grain DDH IPA complex, full bodied and tropical

3. Lost Orchards 0.5 per cent cider crisp and balanced with a champagne spritz

4. Feragaia and tonic herbaceous and zesty, also delicious on the rocks

5. Days Pale Ale fresh and vibrant with tropical notes and a bitter twist

6. Brewdog Punk AF crisp and hoppy, a great summer sipper

7. Talonmore a sweet fiery ginger spirit, great as a sour.

8. Eden Love & Rose Lemonade, Eden Mill refreshing with notes of lemon.

9. Flying Colours Pale Ale, Jump Ship malty and full-bodied with a lime kick

10. Reposado margarita, Spirits of Virtue all the zip with no booze