Want to stay sober but still feel... something? We put buzzy booze-free drinks on trial

sentia three spirit blurred vines review
'Buzzy' AF drinks are a thing - and we tried themJaime Lee - Getty Images

Sobriety and mindful drinking have never been a) more mainstream or b) easier to stay on track with, thanks to a plethora of new apps, sober influencers, events, and a tonne of alcohol-free drink launches.

But while a 0% beer may taste decent, it’s still going to lack a certain… something. Step forth: a new range of tipples hitting the market - known as nootropics or adaptogenic drinks - that promise to give you the same energy levels and dance moves as a glass of fizz, minus the hangover and morning after paranoia. Or, go the opposite way, and chill you out.

Sound tempting? We put them to the test...

THE TIPPLE ON TRIAL: Blurred Vines’ Sharp, £16.99 for a bottle

Tested by: Jennifer Savin, Features Editor

The method: Drank a bottle on a Friday night out…

The result: These days, after a super full-on work week, Friday nights are strictly for chilling. Saturdays are the biggies. But in the spirit of testing Blurred Vines’ Sharp, an alternative to white wine which claims to be 'bursting with electrolytes, amino acids and Vitamin D for an invigorating dose of liquid sunshine', I decided to rope a pal into hitting our local club on a Friday – despite being so tired I was practically drooling when I clocked off work.

After a glass and some tunes, I was starting to get in the mood. Following the whole bottle (which has a pleasantly sharp, dry taste, unlike a lot of the other overly sugary alcohol-free wines I’ve tried), I was unstoppable.

When we eventually moved on from ‘pre-drinking’ and made it to the club at midnight, I hit a second wave and danced until 2am. I clocked up over 6,000 steps on my FitBit from my enthusiastic moves to trashy 80s pop: quite the turnaround for someone who had been fantasising about crawling under a blanket with a pizza and bingeing The Kardashians mere hours earlier.

Though not cheap, Sharp warranted a strong thumbs up from me, especially when I woke up hangover-free the next day, ready to go again on Saturday. And hey, I’d probably have spent the extra cash on a takeaway anyway.

THE TIPPLE ON TRIAL: Sentia, £16 for 16cl/£31 for 50cl

Tested by: Alice Snape, Contributing Editor

The method: Drank a couple while getting ready for a festival

The result: I love a pre-drink, but my days of downing a bottle of cava before leaving the house are numbered. I can’t hack it – the memory blanks and gnawing hangxiety – no thanks. But I still want to *feel* something when I go out out... could a plant-based, alcohol-free spirit hold the answer?

Sentia seems legit. I trust its creator, neuropsychopharmacologist (pause for breath) Professor David Nutt, who literally specialises in how drugs affect us, and it’s scientifically designed with a mix of botanicals to get you to that ‘two-drink sweet spot’ by accessing receptors in your brain. You know, the ones that make you feel sociable and relaxed but, crucially, not irritable and hungover – ideal scenario, right?

I decide to put it to the ultimate test when I’m getting ready to go to my first day festival in actual years. Disclaimer: I’m a sensitive soul who is tipsy after one glass of wine. But I definitely felt a vibe shift with Senita: chatty, giddy, fuzzy inside and super-sexy in my festival sparkles.

The smell is sort of musty floral – like the waft of your bedroom when you’ve burnt incense. You can drink it straight, but I mixed a shot with lemonade poured over ice (it’s also nice with tonic, FYI), making it taste like a summery mulled wine. It’s a grower but after two drinks, I can proudly say I’m a total convert. Pricey but worth it.

THE TIPPLE ON TRIAL: Three Spirit’s Nightcap, £24.99 for a 50cl bottle bottle

Tested by: Maddy Alford, Shopping Editor

The method: Sipped two while winding down for bed

The result: I’m terrible at falling asleep. I’ve tried various methods including nightcaps – but while they initially help, I’m left tossing and turning later on. So, when Three Spirit’s Nightcap promised a natural 'calm, dreamy feeling', I was intrigued.

I gave it a whirl one weeknight, when my brain was doing its chaotic ping through my to-do list. I poured out the recommended 50ml over ice and curled up on the sofa to watch TV. The initial whiff of aromatic spices and bright citrus herbs almost tricked my brain into thinking it was actual booze. The flavour is rich and spiced, a bit like a hot toddy but with a slightly bitter edge. I could see how someone might find the taste a little medicinal, but I was into it.

Nightcap describes itself as containing 'adaptogenic ashwagandha, therapeutic terpenes, and valerian root' – herbal remedies believed to aid relaxation. Natural remedies have never really been my thing, so I was surprised when, forty-five minutes later, I was feeling pleasantly hazy. When my partner arrived home, I poured myself a generous second glass while we chatted and not long later, I felt like I’d taken a sleeping pill and put myself to bed.

Although I did wake up once in the night (normal for me), I conked straight back out, and in the morning felt like I’d had a deep slumber. I would absolutely recommend trying this to anyone who, like it or not, leans on booze for sleep. I’m converted – and am already planning to gift Nightcap to family members.

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