The best non-alcoholic drinks you can drink right now
I don't remember my first drink, but I imagine it was a sneaky sip when my age was in single digits. I do, however, remember my first legal round of drinks: the landlady of the pub I'd been drinking in for a few years was stony-faced as my dad proudly, and pointedly, told her it was my 18th birthday.
I remember, hazily, Red Bull and vodka, and snakebite concoctions in my university years; a summer of monstrous fishbowl cocktails in the tourist bars of the Greek islands; my Guinness period; the London local I still pine for after 15 years; the coming of craft beer and the affinity I felt for that movement; and a funky glass of Jauma 'Somewhere on Another Hill', the first time I knowingly bought natural wine.
I can plot my life along these liquid lines - my first forays into journalism on the back of writing about beer, then food, travel and wine.
I'm a committed drinker: someone who revels in discovering good booze and has some amount of financial dependence on it.
So, with all that in mind, it may seem strange that I recently stopped drinking. It's not an outright declaration of permanent teetotalism nor a dry month ending with the inevitable thirsty pour; more an open-ended break from booze.
I'm far from original. At present there's a demonstrable shift in drinking behaviour in Australia.
In 2018, La Trobe University revealed that 30 per cent of Australians "recently reduced the quantity of their alcohol consumption and a further 29 per cent reduced the frequency of their drinking, while six per cent kicked the habit for good".
Young adults aged between 24 and 29 are heralded as "generational leaders in reducing alcohol intake". They're more likely to attribute a reduction in drinking to matters of lifestyle or say they simply don't feel that alcohol enhances their social experience. Older drinkers - a bracket I fall into - are driven by the thought of immediate or future issues with physical and mental health.
As much as something is a part of your life, genuinely an enjoyment and not (in your mind) a dependency, at times it serves you well to be able to let go for a while.
In the past, going without drink meant a gaping hole in social experiences - bars, pubs and restaurants weren't equipped for catering to the teetotaller.
The picture is different now, with a raft of zero-alcohol options on offer.
Sophisticated mocktails that stand up against their liquored equivalents are now a given in most bars of note.
I've been most impressed, surprised even, by the enthusiasm of bartenders to work within zero-alcohol confines; perhaps for some it's a welcome challenge to their creativity.
Elsewhere within the drinks space we're seeing zero-alcohol wine. As a country with such a strong wine industry we're perhaps a little further down the track on our zero- and low-alcohol journey. Winemakers I know applaud the leaps in teetotal options, though they're less convinced by the quality of zero wines.
Brewers large and small have also been getting in on the act, and it's only set to grow.
I'm told I am 'sober curious', the tag given to a growing band of (mainly) Millennials who try abstaining from drink altogether - curious about sober life - or drink mindfully and by virtue moderately. While I think I'll fall into mindful and moderate, I don't feel the need for labels; for now I'm relishing the opportunity to take a booze break and to explore another vibrant and emerging segment of the drinks market.
MIKE BENNIE'S BEST NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS
Brunswick Aces Hearts Sapir, $50
A warm, piquant drink that works a treat with soda water in long glasses.
Lyre's Highland Malt Spirit, $45
This warm, mellow, lightly spicy malt-and caramel whisky alternative is best sipped on a single ice cube in a good tumbler.
Seedlip Grove 42, $49
With strong orange and citrus characters this works a treat with drier tonic waters, served with a wedge of lemon.
PS40 Wattle Cola, $5
This cola is as adult and complex as soft drinks get, featuring a blend of wattleseed and kola nut with cassia bark, nutmeg, anise, coriander seed, lavender, citrus zests and vanilla bean.
Non 3 Toasted Cinnamon & Yuzu, $30
A great switch for textural whites and orange wines, with overt cinnamon spice, the tang of orange juice and a lush texture.
Sobah Lemon Aspen Pilsner, $5
Lemon aspen, native to Far North Queensland, is the key ingredient in this zesty, crisp beer.
Originally published as The best non-alcoholic drinks