Conde Nast Traveller: Sober stays are on the rise

Credit: Anya Meyerowitz |

Sober stays are on the rise meet the UK spots catering for sobercurious travellers

Ditch the orange juice and coffees in favour of something altogether fruitier at these hotels ideal for the sober curious travellers of the 21st century.

The staycation smorgasbord has much to recommend it, from access to some of the UK’s most charming rural spots to memorable gastronomy and gorgeous spas seriously dedicated to the art of wellness. But there is a new era dawning, one that is beginning to shake up both country house hotels, nestled deep in the English countryside, and city-tucked properties alike: the rise of the sober staycation. There was a time when a glass of fizz was as rudimentary to a good holiday as a bucket and spade, but quietly bubbling for many years, the low- and no-alcohol hotel scene is now making its way to the fore, with trend-leading properties creating booze-free offerings that feel like seamless parts of the luxury experience, rather than an afterthought, better communicated in hushed tones as you lean over the bar so as not to be heard by other guests or staff.

And it should perhaps come as no surprise, given that research suggests that 29 per cent of pub visits and 37 per cent of restaurant meals involve zero alcohol consumption, while the number of adults who participated in Dry January this year was up by 22 per cent – with the number of people who said they would continue to stay sober, or semi-sober, after the month was up also increasing. Leading brewers are now beginning to bank on non-alcoholic lagers and various UK-based vineyards are taking pride in offering alcohol-free versions of their much-loved favourites.

So it seems natural then, that Britain’s staycation scene should follow suit. Lots of hotel bar’s have introduced specific no or low alcohol menus, The Library Bar at The Lanesborough, for example, the Albie at The Hoxton or the afternoon tea offering at The Charlotte Street Hotel in London, due to demand, and the more you delve, the more you notice the sheer number of properties now specifically catering to alcohol-free guests, rather than just having a one-mocktail menu. Like Grantley Hall in Yorkshire; the sprawling five-star property launched a non-alcoholic wine pairing in late 2022 as part of their Michelin-starred restaurant Shaun Rankin experience, an addition they say has proved highly popular. “Our guests have welcomed the arrival of a more inclusive drinks offering and we have received great feedback,” the food and beverage team say. "Now, more than ever, the non-alcoholic movement has been paving the way in the industry, therefore it is important for fine-dining restaurants to ensure that all guests have a dining experience to rival any other.” And other esteemed institutions have also adopted similar offerings, including the Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square and The Londoner who have created their very own alcohol-free wines.

The message is clear: move with the times, or risk losing guests.

“We are certainly starting to see more diners and guests of the hotel looking to our non-alcoholic offering,” Jonathan Ellson, director of food and beverage at Coworth Park, part of the Dorchester Collection, tells Conde Nast Traveller. “And our bar team continues to evolve our non-alcoholic cocktails with long standing products such as Seedlip whilst also experimenting with new offerings such as Crossip.”

Coworth Park now offers an alcohol-free pairing at its Michelin-starred restaurant Woven by Adam Smith, as well as non-alcoholic afternoon tea accompaniments as standard. “As with our traditional wine pairings, we make [non-alcoholic options] bespoke to each guest depending on their preferences,” Ellson explains. “From non-alcoholic wines to beers or spirits, they are all very different and we want our guests to enjoy drinking them while also matching the food.”

And the changes haven’t gone unnoticed. "Our guests have definitely appreciated the higher quality non-alcoholic options that we have been able to provide as the selection for us to choose from has rapidly increased over the past couple of years.'"

So, if you fancy a sober staycation yourself, we’ve rounded up a clutch of hotels that will take care of your every whim, alcohol-free or not.

Coworth Park

 Coworth Park, Berkshire

The hotel of choice for none other than Prince Harry the night before his wedding to Meghan Markle, Coworth Park – The Dorchester’s not-so-humble country dwelling – spans 240 acres of manicured and meadow-mimicking gardens, polo fields, tumbling viridescent lawns and various outbuildings, including a state-of-the-art spa and a detached, three-bedroom Dower House (available for exclusive use), all on the fringe of Windsor Great Park. Those enjoying sober stays here are catered for just as seamlessly as any other guest, with mocktail menus thoughtfully and skilfully put together and all drinks mixed up with the highest quality, alcohol-free spirits, wines and fizz. Jonathan Ellson, director of food and beverage, has taken great care to handpick components for cocktails and is just as enlivened about the hotel’s low- and no-alcohol offerings as he is the alcoholic ones. This zest for the sober side is perhaps best demonstrated at Woven, Adam Smith’s one Michelin-starred restaurant, where fish is freshly delivered from the Cornish coast – on its way to London’s most prestigious establishments – sustainability is seamlessly entwined into every dish and the string of snacks, starters, mains and puddings weave together a story of flavour-infused passion from the down-to-earth chef.

Alongside this, while other guests sip on perfectly-paired wines, mocktails and no-alcohol fizz (including a sparkling, naturally alcohol-free wine from Wild Idol) have been created to superbly complement dishes, from Ellson’s own take on an alcohol-free Espresso Martini to an elevated Basil Sour and a Hibiscus Mimosa. Alcohol-free afternoon teas are also expertly catered for, leaving you clear-headed for a leisurely afternoon bike ride around the perimeter of the Georgian country house or a round of tennis.

Address: Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Sunningdale, Ascot SL5 7SE

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Grantley Hall

Grantley Hall, York

Dubbed Yorkshire’s “grandest hotel”, Grantley Hall, in the middle of the atmospheric Yorkshire Dales, underwent a £70 million renovation only a few years ago, one which turned the buttery-stoned country pile into a destination for the country’s most well-heeled residents, and those looking to splash out on a memorably indulgent break. Notable features include a pool roof designed to replicate nearby Fountains Abbey, a 12th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site, bespoke scents that waft through the corridors, differing in tone to denote the hotel’s various wings, and Shaun Rankin’s Michelin-starred restaurant, pairing a seasonal, modern menu with classical portraits that pepper the grand, wood-clad dining space. And it’s across the hotel’s various dining options where the detailed thought into the experience of guests opting for an alcohol-free staycation really shines. Across the tasting menus and fine dining options, non-alcoholic drinks pairings have been created to offer guests an equally tantalising pairing experience. This alternative pairing highlights different taste profiles using the finest ingredients, some of which are grown in the hotel’s very own kitchen garden, that complement each delectable dish.

And, just as the dishes on the tasting menu are ever-changing, so too are the pairings. “We are constantly creating new and delicious non-alcoholic drinks to pair with our menu,” the hotel says. “For example, we currently pair our Kohlrabi and lovage dish with the complementary infusion of lemongrass, Earl Grey, hickory.”

Address: Grantley Hall, Ripon HG4 3ET

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Le Monde Hotel

Le Monde, Edinburgh

This boutique, 18-bedroom hotel – nestled in and among the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s iconic George Street – personifies relaxed glamour at its finest. Unpretentious in its indulgence of its guests’ every want and whim, the art-filled guest rooms are sleek – featuring designer toiletries and eccentric touches – providing a quirky, yet quiet, retreat from the hilly pursuits of the city, while downstairs, a buzzy cocktail bar, lively nightclub, fireside library and sophisticated restaurant are all on offer to guests keen to make the most of the spoils.

Well-known for its vibrant evening atmosphere, Le Monde has also been noted as one of the capital’s best spots for a non-alcoholic tipple, where zero-proof cocktails include mint 75 – Casablanca with tastes of fresh lime, orgeat syrup (orange water and barley or almonds), cucumber syrup and cucumber tonic. Another is the Beijing Cooler – Beijing, a cold green tea with bitters syrup and lemon tonic, and can be enjoyed with gargantuan sharing platters.

Address: Le Monde Hotel, 16 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PF

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The Londoner

The Londoner, London

This hotel sits, its cobalt tile coating twinkling in the sunlight, on the corner of Leicester Square. And, once inside, it’s clear to see why it has caught the eye of the city’s creme-de-la-creme: the space, stretching both above and below street level, includes an array of eccentric bars, a subterranean spa complete with cabanas, a two-screen cinema and landmark-peppered vistas across London from every window. Bedrooms are light-flooded, thanks in part to towering windows, as well as clever positions, complemented by subtle pastel and muted pink tones splashed across walls and furniture.

No less than six restaurants and bars are embedded across the property, each overseen by Nobu alum Amir Jati, beginning with an opulent lobby bar (complete with vintage cake tray) and moving through to the signature restaurant Whitcomb’s, where contemporary upscale French Mediterranean small plates and mains are served. Notably, all dining and drinking options offer a thoughtful clutch of alcohol-free options, and so dedicated is the hotel to the sober movement they’ve created their own non-alcoholic wines. The team here designed the vino – Vin Blanc and Vin Rouge – to replicate white wine and red wine, to complement the mocktail menu and offer an alternative drinking experience for those looking to enjoy something full-bodied with their meal.

Address: The Londoner, 38 Leicester Square, London WC2H 7DX

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