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Working from an old-fashioned recipe for haymaker’s punch, the English wine writer created Jukes Cordialities, which come in non-alcoholic red, white and rosé versions that use organic apple cider vinegar as a base.Images courtesy Jukes Cordialities

The lack of serious alcohol-free drink options encouraged Matthew Jukes to develop a line of cordials inspired by popular wine styles. Working from an old-fashioned recipe for haymaker’s punch, the English wine writer created Jukes Cordialities, which come in non-alcoholic red, white and rosé versions that use organic apple cider vinegar as a base.

“I wanted to make something sophisticated, something that would replace wine for a wine-savvy palate,” Jukes explains. The ability to enjoy a glass with a meal was crucial to the founder, who has worked in the wine trade for more than 30 years.

Jukes didn’t look to make alcohol-free wine. He developed concentrated fruit vinegar syrups, also known as a shrub, that are sold as a box of nine small bottles (30 mL), which instructions suggest will yield approximately two 125 mL glasses when diluted with sparkling, still or tonic water. Boxes sell for $60 plus shipping.

Jukes spent more than a year trialing different recipes based on the haymaker’s punch recipe he found online. The original method used cast off bits of vegetables and fruits — “the nobbley bits of fruits and veg, cores or skin or whatever bits you don’t use are covered in apple cider vinegar and left to macerate,” Jukes recounts.

Flavour and pleasure were the goals as he tinkered. The organic cider vinegar he settled on comes from a producer in Milan, he explains, having ruled out many others as he refined the recipe.

In a bid to mimic the experience of different styles of wine, his contemporary version embraces quality fruit and vegetables as well as flowers, herbs and spices to create complexity and layers of flavours. Along the way, the operation outgrew Jukes home kitchen. A purpose-built kitchen and production facility was established around the corner from his house in Battersea, south London.

Three of the Jukes cordials were recently introduced in Canada. The Classic White, labelled as Jukes 1, is based on citrus and herb notes, while The Dark Red, also known as Jukes 6, reveals spicy, dark fruit and berry flavours. The Rosé, Jukes 8 for those keeping score at home, conveys the delicate, fragrant expression of the popular pink wines from Provence.

Many alcohol-free wines look to sweetness to make up for the loss of weight or mouth feel that alcohol brings to a drink. These are vegan-friendly, gluten free, low-calorie beverages, ranging from 16 to 21 calories per serving, with impressive depth of flavour.

My preference is mixing with sparkling water for more refreshment, while using more than half of the one-ounce bottle to keep the vinegary tang on the finish. Tonic water adds more depth and richness to flavours of The Classic White and Rosé, but spoils the harmony of the Deep Red to my taste.

The ability to tailor the flavours through different levels of dilutions and different mixers adds to experience of these cordials, which admittedly few would confuse for being wine. That said, their thoughtful, enjoyable and refreshing style really delivers, especially when bought to the dinner table.

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