Introducing: Laura Willoughby MBE, the Drinks Distilled Low ABV Guide
Laura Willoughby MBE is co-founder of Club Soda, the Mindful Drinking Movement. Their aim is to help people drink more mindfully and live well.
The inspiration for Club Soda comes from Laura's experience of giving up drinking ten years ago. A campaigner at heart with a background in movement building and politics, she realised that one of the big sticking points was a way to support people to take a self-guided journey to change their drinking. She is co-author of How to be a Mindful Drinker published by DK books.
Laura is Imbibe’s No & Low ambassador and judge for the IWSC awards.
Laura was voted one of 2022’s 100 most influential women in hospitality by CODE, named as one of Drinks Retailing’s latest Top 100 Most Influential People in Drink and is a Trustee for The Drinks Trust.
We had a quick catch up with Laura to hear about her selection and advice on picking no and low:
Why did you pick Adnams Smidgin Gin?
This gin is in fact full strength at 50% ABV but, by using just a smidge of gin with the help of the handy copper spoon that comes with it (equal to half a teaspoon), it can be used to create a reduced alcohol gin and tonic at 0.6% ABV per serving.
Despite coming in a smaller bottle and using a smaller serving, Smidgin still manages to pack a big flavour punch and can be used for up to 80 serves, with eight serves of Smidgin equating to a single gin and tonic - genius!
What are the most common misconceptions people have of the No and Low ABV category?
Some people say they don’t get the point. But when you are out with friends, being able to drink alongside them and have an equal experience in a venue is really important.
If you were drinking traditional soft drinks you would soon be sugared out by the end of drink one and those drinks just don’t go with food.
View adult no and low alcohol drinks as good drinks in their own right that are designed for an adult palate and for pairing with food.
What are your top tips for picking No and Low ABV spirits?
You won’t ever replicate the hit you get from alcohol, because, well, it is alcohol! I suggest spending some time exploring flavours to find a profile you like, feels like a reward and makes the occasion.
There is a great variety in no and low spirits and once you are not drinking alcohol, you and your taste buds can be much fussier. Discover the provenance of each producer's ingredients and use what you liked in the alcoholic world as a reference.
Where are your favourite places to enjoy NoLo cocktails?
Hide Bar, London Bridge (founded by another brilliant Non-Alcoholic innovator, Paul Mathew the founder of Everleaf)
Ugly Butterfly restaurant and bar in Cornwall by Adam Handling
- Dishoom, various spots across London
What’s your favourite home bartending tip?
Slap mint between your palms to release the essence – it really does work!