Sober October: A Survival Toolkit


Giving Sober October a go? Know somebody else who might be? We’ve put together a survival toolkit – drinks to try, things to listen to, stuff to read and people to follow. Share it around and give it a go. We’d love to know how you get on.

In our experience, having a break from the booze – whether temporary or permanent – can have an amazing effect on how you feel. People get involved in the Sober October community looking for a clear head, renewed energy and all-round sense of wellbeing. What have you got to lose?

Here’s what we’ve included in our Sober October Toolkit. Click on the list to jump to the section you’re interested in.

Sober October: Drinks to Try

During our podcast episode with Ruby Warrington, we discussed the irony in the fact that the UK – once known for its wild relationship with alcohol – now seems to have produced a serious number of quality non-alcoholic alternatives. Whatever your situation, there’s bound to be a drink for you.

Non-alcoholic wine alternatives

Want to try an amazingly good non-alcoholic alternative to sparkling wine? At REAL, we’ve won awards for our Royal Flush – a sophisticated, delicious non-alcoholic Champagne option. With delicate, light fruity notes, but the unmistakable kick of a good ferment, it’s a low-sugar, low calorie drink that is immensely sippable – not too sweet, yet full of flavour.

If it’s a non-alcoholic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc you’re after, we also brew Dry Dragon, a wonderful non-alcoholic spritz with bite. We’re talking a deliciously refreshing serve, alive with notes of citrus and green apples. Click on the links above to find out more.

If you’re still not too sure about how tea can replace grapes in a non-alcoholic wine alternative, here’s what Virgin Wines had to say on the subject. We reckon they know a thing or two.


Non-alcoholic beer

We’ve spent years trying non-alcoholic drinks, and we can say without reservation that our favourite non-alcoholic lager is the absolutely scrumptious Lucky Saint. Chill it down for a few hours before serving and it really hits the spot. The story behind the creation of the drink is also fascinating, as we found out when we interviewed the founder, Luke Boase, on The REAL Podcast last year. Pour yourself a glass and check it out.

For something a little more ale-like, we’ve long been fans of Big Drop, whose selection of non-alcoholic craft ales have become increasingly visible in bars and supermarkets across the UK. You might also try East London’s Nirvana Brewery, whose range includes a non-alcoholic stout, an IPA and a pale ale. Quite the selection, if you’re in the mood for a session.

Other very good non-alcoholic beers on the radar include Infinite Session, Drop Bear Beers, and Freestar. Let us know which is your favourite on our social media channels.

Non-alcoholic cider

The trick with a non-alcoholic cider is to find one that doesn’t taste like basic apple juice. On our long quest, one of the finest to give that real bite and flavour of something properly fermented was Sheppy’s Classic. You’ll find something very similar with Stowford Press – a gluten free, non-alc cider that really does the business.

Further afield, we’re particularly taken with Braxzz Oaked Cider, brewed in Holland. It’s all about that fermented apple taste – again, something that really sets it aside from a traditional soft drink. There’s a hoppiness to it, too, and the oak finish gives it a complexity that really pleases the palate. It’s also a drink that clocks in low on the calorie counter, if that’s your thing. Only 79 cals in this bottle.

There are plenty more non-alcoholic ciders out there these days. For a full run-down, head to the Dry Drinker website. Their plethora of decent non-alc drinks options is always well-worth exploring.

Other non-alcoholic drinks

We started work on REAL about five years ago, and at that time the non-alcoholic drinks landscape felt somewhat limited. In the space of a few short years, however, the market for craft drinks minus the hangover has exploded.

You can now get wonderful non-alcoholic aperitifs in the form of Everleaf – a delicious, bittersweet concoction that mixes wonderfully in non-alcoholic cocktails. And if your Sober October needs a bit of fruity punch, try the tropical non-alcoholic spirit, Caleño. Lastly, if it’s something a bit more whiskey-like that you’re after, we’ve long had a penchant for Feragaia, Scotland’s first ever alcohol-free spirit.

Of interest is also Mother Root’s Ginger Switchel, which we love in our non-alcoholic cocktails, and Nonsuch shrubs and elixirs, who excel in taking ancient formulas and making them entirely new. Both of these really underline the fact that you needn’t simply try and replicate the drinks cabinet you have known and loved. When it comes to food and drink, we’ve often felt that experimentation with the unknown is worth a try.

We should also point out that if you’re into mixing things up a little, we’ve started building a great library of non-alcoholic cocktails, which you can find here. Also worth a trip to visit is Cami Vidal’s website, La Maison Wellness, which hosts a library of great non-alcoholic cocktails for you to try your hand at.

If you’ve a little time to spare and you fancy finding out more about non-alcoholic drinks, take a listen to the Laura Willoughby episode of The REAL Podcast, in which we try out a full non-alcoholic bar’s worth. You’ll find that embedded below.

Sober October: Stuff to Listen to

The world is full of fascinating podcasts. Whatever you’re interested in, someone somewhere will have thrown together an hour’s worth of chat catering precisely to your tastes. Naturally, that includes Sober October subjects, too.

Our own REAL Podcast is a series of deep dives into stuff that we’re obsessed with, whether that’s food, flavour, non-alcoholic drinks or fermentation. Behind each point of interest there’s always an amazing human story, and that’s what we’re keen to dig into. With Sober October in mind, here are a few of our favourites…

Ruby Warrington on becoming sober curious

Formerly the Features Editor on the Sunday Times Style Magazine, we believe that Ruby Warrington coined the phrase “sober curious“. In this episode, she chats with Jon Wilks about the ways in which communication can hinder someone new to a less alcohol-dependent life, just as much as a lack of choice can. On the way, they discuss the demise of ladette culture, the differences between US and UK drinking culture, and the ways in which the world is now opening up to alternative drinking and eating habits.

Lucy Rocca on the success of Soberistas

Lucy Rocca is a genuine star in the sober curious firmament. The founder of Soberistas, she has been talking about the peculiar nature of our relationship with alcohol for years, and continues to help people make a go of a more balanced life, both here in the UK and in America. If you’re struggling to stick with Sober October, listening to Lucy can help you refocus and see the month through.

Sobriety and creativity

As huge music and art fans, the nature of creativity often crops up in our conversation at our brewery. Rather than simply ponder how being “under the influence” effects the creation process, we went to have a chat with some sober (formerly non-sober) musicians. This is a great conversation with jazz musos, Tobias Ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater, on how alcohol frees up spontaneous improvisation. Dig it, you sober cats.

Of course, we’re not the only people podcasting on Sober October topics. Ruby Warrington is a formidable podcaster herself (you’ll find her collection of sober curious conversations here), as is Laura Willoughby (mentioned in the section above), who regularly podcasts for Club Soda (check out their first series here).

Sober October: Stuff to Read

It’s worth noting that World Mental Health Day falls slap-bang in the middle of Sober October. Our very own Jon Wilks has written on numerous occasions about his own journey to sobriety, but in this new article he discusses how ending his relationship with alcohol improved his mental health. (Please note that this is merely one man’s experience, and that if you feel you have alcohol dependency issues, it should be discussed with a medical professional.)

Elsewhere on this website, we’ve posted plenty of stuff to read on the subject of going sober, whether you’re trying to do it temporarily just to cut down during a month like Sober October, or you want to ditch the booze altogether. Take a look at our Sober Diaries page for a full round-up.

We’ve also seen some really good articles this year on bigger news sites. Take this one by Brigid Delaney, for instance, who discusses that strange experience of finding your body just can’t keep up anymore. We’re sure this is something many of you will recognise and understand. It’s good to find you’re not the only one!

Blogs out there in the Sober Curious world include Laurie McAllister’s 100 Days (Girl & Tonic), the Club Soda blog (which contains loads of information on mindful drinking), and the Soberistas blog (although you have to become a member to read it). Do let us know if you’ve seen any others you think we ought to include.

In terms of books to read for Sober October, Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious is a great starting point (clicking that link will take you to its Amazon page), but for our money the most powerful on the bookshelf these days is The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, by Catherine Gray. It’s a few years old now, but it never fails to underscore just how a change in your relationship with alcohol can have a profound influence on your life.

From a more scientific standpoint (although far from being overly academic) is Say Why to Drugs, by Dr Suzi Gage (see the snippet in the photo above). The book encourages an inquisitive approach – a 360° look at why specific drugs affect you in a certain way, how they might be bad for you, how they might even be good for you, and how they fit into our lives in a cultural sense. The section on alcohol (and how it is declining in popularity amongst the youth of this country) is well worth a read.

Sober October: People to Follow

Many of the people we’ve mentioned in this article already are social media influencers, of some kind or another, in their own right. Here are a few of them, in alphabetical order (so as not to show favouritism!), as well as a few other people we know and love.

Here’s to everyone out there that’s giving Sober October a go. More strength to your (non-drinking) elbow.