Low Alcohol, Low ABV, Reduced Alcohol.. At times, it can all get a bit confusing. While the terminology around alcohol-free, zero alcohol and non-alcoholic can be equally perplexing, we’re going to park that discussion around any drinks below 0.5% ABV for the purposes of this blog (in fact, we’ve already shed some light here). But wait, what is ABV? How does that relate to Units? How do they both play a part in Low Alcohol drinks? We’re here to explain it all!
Let’s start with “ABV”. The simple definition is Alcohol By Volume, in other words for every 100ml of liquid, how many millilitres of alcohol are present. That’s the easy bit..
When it comes to “Low ABV”, the UK Government’s guidance is that any drink between 0.5% and 1.2% would fall under this category. We’ve highlighted the word “guidance” deliberately as it is not strictly a legal requirement.
But at CROSSIP, we realised there’s a few issues with this blanket descriptor. There’s no dissemination between whether that “Low ABV Drink” is a beer, lager, spirit, cocktail, wine, cider etc. When it comes to full-strength alcoholic drinks, we have a broad expectation for the ABV of each. Beers and Lagers are typically 4%-5%, Spirits are commonly around 40%, Wine fluctuates between 12%-14%.. For non-alcoholic versions, it’s fairly simple to create drinks that are (or near-to) 0% ABV. But for Low Alcohol, does it make sense for each of these very different drinks to abide by the 1.2% rule?
This leads to quite wide gaps in ABV for each style of drink where there is no “ABV category”. If a spirit is 20%, or a Beer is 2.5% or Wine is 6%, according to the guidance, these are neither Non-Alcoholic (clearly), Low ABV or Full Strength. But why should this be the case? Should we ignore this wide spectrum altogether?
This chart raises another oversight when it comes to the guidance around Low ABV. Clearly there is a grand difference between say beers and spirits because of the volume that each drink is served. With a pint being 568ml and a typical short cocktail being around 60ml-80ml, it’s clear that a 1.2% ABV of each will lead to vastly different total alcohol volumes in each drink.
Enter the (sometimes just as confusing) world of Units. Introduced in the UK in 1987, Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour. This means that within an hour there should be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in the blood of an adult (although this will vary from person to person). For context, a pint of strong lager contains around 3 units of alcohol.
We feel units are a much better way of categorising “Low Alcohol Drinks”. Ultimately, what is the purpose of a Low Alcohol drink? More often than not, it’s simply where the consumer is looking to reduce their alcohol intake, but not necessarily stop altogether, and units allow the consumer to quickly choose the option that suits their lifestyle.
The wave of Moderation has become a global phenomenon, whether that’s blending non-alc and full-strength drinks in a single sitting, or substituting full-strength for non-alc on certain occasions or days of the week. At CROSSIP, we believe the choice is wider still. The introduction of Low Alcohol Drinks that fill the gap between non-alcoholic and full-strength drinks has greatly expanded the options available to the consumer.
Take Seed Library’s Low Alcohol Surplus Cobbler recipe, designed by renowned UK bartender, La’Mel Clarke, which is the signature serve on their Moderation Menu for January;
When you crunch the numbers, you’ll find that the Surplus Cobbler, with the inclusion of white wine and El Tequileno Tequila is around 7.2% ABV. But when calculating as Units, this serve actually comes in at 0.5 Units. In other words, you could drink around 6 of these delicious cocktails for roughly the same amount of alcohol as a pint of Stella Artois. Hence we believe this is indeed a “Low Alcohol Drink” despite the ABV on paper.
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With Low Alcohol Drinks such as the Surplus Cobbler, your choices have been greatly expanded and the drinking experience has been heightened by avoiding the stigma around “not drinking” (although we firmly believe this stigma is reducing everyday!). Yes, if you have two or three, you may have to call an Uber to take you home rather than driving, but you are unlikely to wake up feeling tired and groggy. It’s a happy medium that we feel both consumers and on-trade are yet to tap into!
But let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Can Low Alcohol Drinks actually taste good? If I make my favourite Gin & Tonic but with 5ml or 10ml of gin rather than my usual 25ml, surely the tonic will simply overwhelm the gin, leaving me with a rather unsophisticated serve? Enter CROSSIP Non-Alcoholic Spirits..
Thanks to our proprietary maceration process, the properties of CROSSIP in fact lengthen the flavours of alcoholic spirits, so that when mixed, the drink “tastes stronger” than it actually is. Furthermore, the depth of flavours from the CROSSIP itself yields a taste experience that you would struggle to match with any other non-alcoholic spirit.
So there you have it! Hopefully we cleared up some of the confusion around Low ABV and Low Alcohol while also opening up a huge range of drinks at different ABV percentages that you may never have considered before! If you’re looking for inspiration to create your first Low Alcohol drink, check out CROSSIP’s Defy January Interactive Calendar where each day you can discover a brand new Low Alcohol recipe as recommended by some of the UK’s Leading Bartenders. Give them a go at home or see if you can order them next time you’re heading to your favourite bar or restaurant!