If there's one thing us Brits are known for, it's our drinking culture. But while we love nothing more than sinking a pint of the cold stuff at some storied boozer, we can't help but acknowledge the benefits provided by a Dry (read: occasionally damp) Jan stint. We're not alone. Interest in teetotal living is on the up, with the number of self-defined "sober-curious" individuals sky-rocketing in Gen Z and millennial age groups. It's a step change that has led bars across the globe to add low- or no-alcohol options to their cocktail menus, with innovative and playful results. On their wavelength? We've called upon the help of expert Paul Mathew to help us navigate London's teetotal terrain.
Mathew, a biologist-turned-bar owner and founder of non-alcoholic aperitifs brand Everleaf, grew up as the son of a botanist, spending much of his life surrounded by plants. His fascination for flora now shapes the flavours of the award-winning label, which can be sampled in well-crafted mocktails across the country, as well as at his three London bars: The Hide, The Arbitrager and Demon, Wise & Partners.
Paul Mathew, left, and the low-lit interiors at Nine Lives bar.
We caught up with Mathew to get the lowdown on London's best addresses for a sober adventure. Read on for his tips on exploring the city's ABV-free nightlife.
A teetotal adventure around London with Everleaf's Paul Mathew
Give us a run-down on London's non-alcoholic scene.
How long have you got? If you know where to look, you'll find that the city's non-alcoholic bar scene is second to none. Over the last few years, London's top drinking dens have well and truly upped their game. Be it the glitzy and glamorous rooms at The Savoy and The Connaught or the cutting-edge cocktail concepts at Lyaness, Seed Library and Tayēr + Elementary, you'll find something that tickles your non-alcoholic fancy. Prefer a neighbourhood vibe? Shoreditch-based Happiness Forgets and West Hampstead's Heads + Tails have got you covered. Lucky Saint beer is set to open its own boozer in Marylebone this year, too.
It's a Saturday night in the city. Where should we head?
Bermondsey Street is where it's happening on a Saturday night. Start by popping into Borough Market for a cheeky cheese toastie courtesy of Kappacasein. Then, swing by Electric Shuffle and Nine Lives, before enjoying a sober cocktail at The Hide.
The exterior of Mildreds in Soho, and a look inside the plant-based hangout.
What about a booze-free brunch?
I love the plant-based menus at Mildreds in Soho; their spiced pineapple spritzes go well with a spot of people-watching.
Any hotels suitable for a sober-curious weekend break?
Some old friends have a small boutique hotel on Ebury Street in Pimlico, the Lime Tree Hotel. Its central location makes it a great base, and it's very much an urban oasis. There's a beautiful walled garden in the back where they're growing their own produce, and the bedrooms make me wish they'd give my own place a makeover.
Any favourite shopping spots for drinks aficionados?
Bermondsey Antique Market, open on Friday mornings, has a brilliant offering of old-school bar tools and esoteric drinks collectables.
A cosy bedroom corner at the Lime Tree Hotel, alongside the hotel's streetside dining.
Your career as a biologist helped inspire Everleaf. Any green spaces we should visit?
When I was growing up, I often visited my dad, who worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He worked in the Herbarium, a house storing one of the largest collections of dried plant specimens in the world. I got to know the best hidden spots and trees to hide in, and I still love going to the gardens whenever I get a chance. It's an incredibly relaxing space.
The Barbican Conservatory is worth a visit, too. There's something pretty special about the lush vegetation against the brutalist architecture. It's an example of the ability plants have to flourish when given the chance.
What ingredients make for a killer non-alcoholic cocktail?
Everleaf Mountain. It's a gentle tonic water infused with cherry blossom, rosehip and strawberry - there's no better aperitif to get the party started.
Any non-alcoholic bars worth a visit further afield?
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Hekate in New York's East Village, plus the newly opened Binge Bar in Washington DC. If you're in Dublin, you need to try The Virgin Mary. Next on my list? Sans Bar in Chicago.