Hold the drink

British culture has long been associated with hedonism, and alcohol-fuelled takeovers of our towns after dark are nothing new. But on the same streets, a quiet movement is building towards a different relationship with booze

I walk up a black staircase towards a woman with blue hair, draped in fur and swaying rhythmically atop towering wedged heels. She wraps me in a warm hug before letting me through the door behind her, where I’m met with a pulsating buzz of colour and bass. People with glittering skin and adorned with feathers dance, leap and caress with abandon. The club’s intoxicating swirl of movement and connection is immediately familiar. But things aren’t quite what they seem at Morning Gloryville. For a start there’s no reek of booze and the floor is mostly clean. In one corner, a stream of sunlight pours in to where three young casually dressed dancers are bobbing babies encased in giant headphones. It’s also 6.30am on a Wednesday, and everyone is sober.

Morning Gloryville, now in its third year and with branches across the world, describes itself as an ‘immersive morning dance party’. Founder Samantha Moyo was a self-confessed party animal before the project, and was looking for a way to let loose without the hangover and memory loss: “We also wanted a space where people can party without judgement,” she says.

Career coach Anna Levy has been starting the occasional work day with a morning rave for the past two years, and credits the first as part of a personal transformation: “It was a really powerful moment for me: I didn’t realise it was possible to be at the best party of my life and for everyone to be completely sober. There’s this false idea that you need chemicals, whether that’s drugs or alcohol, to really let your guard down and be in tune with the music and each other. It’s just a lie.”

Judging by the growth in ‘conscious clubbing,’ she’s not the only one to feel this way. But there’s an increasing array of options for the less expressive punters too.

I didn’t realise it was possible to be at the best party of my life and for everyone to be completely sober

Former chef turned campaigner, Siôn Elis Williams stopped drinking a couple of years ago after reassessing a “problematic relationship with alcohol.” He grew tried of the same alcohol-free lagers and sugary alternatives on offer at bars and missed the complex flavours of real ale. He was still up for a good night, but found few options in London that appealed.

In late 2015, he and long-time friend Ed Cherry took matters into their own hands, and set about sampling the best low-alcohol beers they could find from around the world. After 60 taste tests, and armed with a selection of seven, they launched a pop-up bar – the provocatively named Soft and Wet – for nine days in London’s Hackney this May. They promised the same indulgent food, quality music and sophisticated flavours of a London bar, minus the alcohol. “I wanted to see if anyone else felt the same way I do, and whether or not there is a viable business in this,” Elis Williams says. “I was interested in the idea of creating a space where people can have fun and enjoy all the pleasures life offers, and which just happens not to serve alcohol.”

While there is some way to go before non-drinking takes quite the same hold as its more potent counterpart, some in the British food and drink scene are taking notice. Many of the capital’s most esteemed cocktail bars and restaurants, including Dandelyan and the Duck and Waffle, now offer a non-alcohol drinks menu curated with just as much thought as the wine list. Now, I’ll drink to that.

Soft and Wet will feature at the Popup Patio in Finsbury Square, London on Friday 19th and Sunday 21st of August.

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More bars for alcohol free fun

Alcohol free bars 

The Brink, Liverpool

Redemption, London

Sobar, Nottingham

Bars with alcohol free options

The Grain Store, London

Cielo Blanco, Leeds and London

Boda Bar, Edinburgh


Chinotto recipe

Chinotto is an Italian drink traditionally made from the myrtle-leaved orange tree. Its complex bittersweet flavours and light carbonation make it an interesting alternative to alcohol.


  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • A sprinkle of black peppercorns
  • 5 cloves
  • A good sprinkle of coriander seeds
  •  2 cinnamon sticks
  • Sugar syrup, made with 1L of water and 1kg of sugar
  • A good selection of citrus – we use 1 white grapefruit, 1 pink grapefruit and 2 oranges


1. Lay the citrus (sliced into even pieces) on a large baking tray, sprinkling the herbs and spices on top

2. Pop into oven at 220C/425F/Gas 7 and roast until blackened and caramelised (around 30-40 min)

3. Take out of the oven and pour into the syrup 4. Once cooled, cover the mixture with cling lm and a plate, or put into a container. Refrigerate for up to a month (the longer it’s kept the more herby the taste)

5. Mix with a good drizzle of soda and a generous slice of orange to drink

Recipe courtesy of Lardo 

Photo: Paul Taylor/Getty Images

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