You CAN do fine dining in Dry January! Experts reveal the best alcohol-free tipples to pair with food - from black tea with steak to kombucha with chicken and cheese

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Thousands of Britons have given up alcohol again for dry January this yearYounger people are drinking less with non-alcoholic spirit market worth £190M Here, four experts tell FEMAIL how to pair non-alcoholic drinks with dinner, from tea with steak to kombucha with chicken and fish

The rules for pairing wine and food are well-known. Never serve red wine and fish, always think about acidity, and drink a wine at least as sweet as the food being served. 

But what happens, if like the thousands of Britons who have given up booze for January,  you can’t have a drink when sitting down for a slap-up meal?

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For some it’s a concern that foes beyond Dry January, with Britons giving up alcohol in record numbers, for the benefit of their livers, waistlines and wallets. One in four adults under the age of 25 are now teetotal, while sales of alcohol-free tipples reached £190million last year.   

Yet, being booze free shouldn’t stop you enjoying fine dining – with the likes of tea, kombucha and alcohol-free kombuchas pairing with foods just as well as chardonnay or rioja.

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‘Don’t think that food and drink pairing is the sole preserve of wines and whiskies, and if you want to elevate your dining experience by pairing a non alcoholic drink with your food, then do it,’ Simon Pearson, owner of alcohol-free restaurant The Great Chase in Islington, north London which has a four-page long rare tea menu told FEMAIL.

Here, Simon and other experts tell FEMAIL the ways to pair your dry dinner parties, for January and beyond… 

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Simon Pearson, owner of alcohol-free restaurant The Great Chase in Islington, north London which has a four-page long rare tea menu told FEMAIL steak goes perfectly with black tea (stock image)

Simon Pearson, owner of alcohol-free restaurant The Great Chase in Islington, north London which has a four-page long rare tea menu told FEMAIL steak goes perfectly with black tea (stock image)

Beef with black tea  

Simon told FEMAIL: ‘There are loads of little tips, tricks and pointers for pairing flavours in drink and food, and people tend to get very excited about them. 

‘Generally, almost all pairings of flavour fall into one of two categories; congruent pairing and complementary pairing. 

‘Simply put, Congruent pairing is pairing flavours that are alike. Bitter with bitter, fruit with fruit, smokey with smokey etc. It sounds pretty easy to do (and it kind of is to be honest), but there’s always a risk that things then become too bitter/fruity/smokey.

‘Complementary pairing is a bit more of an art; instead of matching like with like, the flavours are balanced or enhanced by contrasting elements. 

‘There are loads of flavour wheels and pairing profiles out there, but think of things like ‘bitter-sweet’. 

‘Tea is great. It has thousands of cultivars, is grown all across the globe, and has a staggering breadth and depth of both terroir and flavour. 

‘You can share a cup of tea with almost anyone the world over (hygiene considerations notwithstanding). Possibly the only thing closer to a universal language than a cup of tea is mathematics, and you don’t need a calculator to do a cup of tea. 

‘Black teas are generally heavier on the tannins, are bold on the nose and palate, but often have a lighter mouthfeel. It can be earthy, fruity, and smoky. It can have malty notes and notes of dark chocolate and slightly burned caramel. Generally when I’m pairing an aged piece of red meat, it will be with a black tea. 

‘Think roast beef on a Sunday or a ribeye steak.

Green tea with BBQ

Simon added: ‘Green teas are generally brighter; think green, grassy notes (perfect with Asian cuisine). 

‘Green teas can have a much more luxuriant mouthfeel than a black tea, and something like Sencha (which is a little more vegetal than grassy) is to me reminiscent of nori seaweed; bright flavors and a buttery mouthfeel that goes beautifully with seafood. 

‘Green Gunpowder teas (hand rolled pellets of tea where small is generally good and larger are generally more accessible) have a lovely smokey flavor, which pairs well with BBQ’d meat! 

Oolong with duck

If you’re heading out for crispy duck, have a look for Oolong teas, Simon says.

‘Oolong teas vary wildly in flavour. 

‘They can be bright, fresh and complex, or woody, deep and mellow. Some can be fruity and sweet with an almost honeyed nose. 

‘A darker Oolong tea goes very well with duck, but unlike most teas (which will usually enjoy around two) an Oolong will enjoy around seven infusions using the same leaves, and each infusion will be deeper, richer and more lovely than the one before’.

Alistair Frost, the founder of Pentire, who make non-alcoholic spirits, recommends pairings botanicals with seafood (stock image)

Alistair Frost, the founder of Pentire, who make non-alcoholic spirits, recommends pairings botanicals with seafood (stock image)

Non-alcoholic pilsner with fish 

Chef Owen Morgan, Estrella Galicia Brand Ambassador added to FEMAIL: ‘Pair a non-alcoholic pilsner such as Estrella Galicia 0.0% with fresh, citrus flavours because the sharpness of these ingredients complement the clean finish of the beer perfectly.  

He added pilsners also goes well with a seabass ceviche because ‘the fresh, citrus flavours of the dish complement the clean finish of the beer perfectly’.

Chef Morgan added that go well with pilsners too as ‘the clean, refreshing taste of the larger cuts well through the rich, salty creaminess of the croquettes’.

‘I’d also recommend cod cheek tempura. I serve mine with a chorizo sauce and spring onions. 

‘Cod cheeks in a translucent batter are meaty and pair with light beers so well. 

‘The spice and difference of a chorizo sauce contrasts as a great accompaniment too. For something more accessible, this would work well for the same reasons with fish ‘n chips!’.

Non-alcoholic botanicals with seafood

Alistair Frost, the founder of Pentire, who make non-alcoholic spirits, recommends pairings botanicals with seafood.  

‘Our spirits are made by distilling botanicals such as rock samphire and sea rosemary that thrive on our local headlands by the coast in North Cornwall, so naturally the flavours lend themselves really well to a range of dishes, but we love pairing them with fresh seafood,’ he explained.   

Laura Willoughby MBE, founder of mindful drinking movement, Club Soda, added that the drinks can be treated the same as their alcoholic-counterparts.  

‘Binary Botanical describes itself as a wine lovers’ beer and rightly so. 

‘Brewed with organic hop leaves, it tastes tangy rather than bitter. 

‘The aroma features lightly roasted malts, cider apple as well as a touch of pineapple, peach and honey.

‘Being light bodied, aromatic and flavourful, you should treat Binary Botanical like a white wine and pair it with seafood, chicken dishes and salads. 

 Kombucha with white meat, cream and cheese

Laura, who as part of Club Soda has also launched the UK’s first Alcohol-Free Off-Licence added that kombucha’s natural acidity helps to pair it with white meat.

‘Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, is perfect with food,’ she explained.

‘Its natural acidity gives it bite, cuts through strong flavours and creates natural speed humps so you sip your drink more slowly. 

‘Kombucha is also not too sweet, and when made with specific teas, takes on the characteristics of the leaf. Real Kombucha’s Royal Flush (made from first flush darjeeling) is fresh and floral with hints of rhubarb and berries. 

‘It is great for pairing with white meats, white fish and umami-rich cream sauces. But I love it most with cheesy dishes, or some charcuterie and strong cheddar cheese and biscuits. 

Laura Willoughby MBE, founder of mindful drinking movement, Club Soda, added that the drinks can be treated the same as their alcoholic-counterparts. She recommends pairing kombucha with chicken (pictured, stock image)

Laura Willoughby MBE, founder of mindful drinking movement, Club Soda, added that the drinks can be treated the same as their alcoholic-counterparts. She recommends pairing kombucha with chicken (pictured, stock image)

Alcohol-free stout with steak and chocolate 

Laura added: ‘I had never considered a strong dark beer as a pairing for food. Then I tasted stout (in its alcohol-free form) for the first time and realised that it has its role to play when eating chocolate desserts. 

‘Big Drop’s Galactic Milk Stout is great with steak and vegetable pie, oysters, seafood, fish and game meats – but most of all it enhances a chocolate fondant to beyond this galaxy!    

‘The number of restaurants offering alcohol-free drinks pairings on their menu has increased dramatically over the last two years. I have attended cheese events with a full flight of kombuchas, shrubs and beers, and fine dining that has offered a mix of cocktails, beer and sparkling teas to accompany each course. Things have really changed.

‘Most alcohol-free drinks work the same as their full strength counterparts, for example, the OddBird organic low intervention red wine, a supple blend of Merlot and Pinot Noir, which goes with spaghetti and meatballs, roasted vegetables, chicken or turkey sausages, mushroom risotto or an awesome mac and cheese.  

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