I MADE a decision to remove alcohol from my life over two years ago and since then I think it’s fair to say I’ve sampled my fair share of alcohol-free drinks. So when the opportunity came up to do a Sentia review, I couldn't resist.
I’m not one of those people who is happy with just a soda or fruit juice; one or two are okay, but after a while, the sweetness is just too much. Fizzy water now and then is also acceptable, but after a while becomes pretty boring.
I have my favourite zero-alcohol wines, spirits and beers, all of which offer a grown-up taste and satisfy the need for a drink that suits me. Some people, however, want more — they’re looking for the buzz that alcohol brings but without the alcohol. As far as I know, that’s not been possible, until now.
There’s a new category of alcohol-free drinks emerging; functional spirits that aim to capture the essence of the alcohol high, but without the bad stuff. Sentia Red is one of those, and I couldn’t wait to try it.
- Sentia Red GABA Spirit, £29.50 for 50cl bottle – buy here
- Tastes good
- Feels like you’re drinking a ‘proper’ drink
- It has a good mouthfeel
- Is one of a new breed of functional alternatives to alcohol that contains natural ingredients
- It can help you cut out (or at least cut down on) alcohol if you wish to improve your health
- It’s not cheap
- The fact it’s alcohol-free isn’t easy to see on the label
- Effects wear off after 45-60 minutes
What is Sentia?
Sentia is a new breed of functional spirit that doesn't contain alcohol but aims to recreate its relaxing effects. The blend of botanicals in Sentia does this by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain.
Sentia review: quick summary
- Sentia Red GABA Spirit, £29.50 for 50cl bottle – buy here
I love this. It’s one of the few alcohol-free spirits I could drink neat, as well as with mixers. It’s designed to provide the buzz you get after a couple of drinks, but without the alcohol.
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The flavour is fruity, but there’s a bitterness that lasts once the initial flavour has dissipated – it’s sort of like grapefruit, but nicer. The colour is rich and deep, and even when diluted with tonic it has a pleasing, deep-red hue.
The botanicals Sentia contains are included because of their ability to enhance GABA in the brain, naturally reducing stress and promoting relaxation. A small amount of alcohol does this as well apparently – but if you can have the beneficial effects of GABA without alcohol then why wouldn’t you?
According to its inventor, Professor David Nutt, Sentia is “Neither alcohol nor alcohol-free, but a great tasting, effective alcohol alternative.”
I get where he’s coming from – but it is alcohol-free.
Ingredients include blackberry juice, passionflower, liquorice, ashwagandha, hawthorn, hibiscus and spice extracts among many others.
- The best alcohol-free drinks
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Sentia Red: full review
Sentia doesn’t try to look like anything other than itself. It’s not an alcohol-free version of something else so it doesn’t come in a lookalike bottle, it is an original.
To me, the bottle resembles a potion bottle of the kind you’d perhaps see on the shelves at Hogwarts. I don’t know if that’s deliberate or if it’s just in my head, but the bottle fits with the idea of a ‘magical’ new kind of drink. This is especially so if you buy the 20cl version.
The fact Sentia is alcohol-free isn’t emblazoned across the bottle — if it weren’t for the ‘0% ABV’ printed at the bottom left of the label you wouldn’t know.
I’m guessing this is deliberate as this is not the spirit’s main selling point and the manufacturer wants to grab your attention with the ‘GABA spirit’ description rather than its lack of alcohol. Interestingly, the label also includes the words ‘food supplement’.
When you get down to it, taste is the most important factor in a drink – happily, Sentia hits the mark in that department.
The first neat taste of fruit and berries soon gives way to a pleasant spicy bitterness, reminiscent of the way whisky hits the back of your throat at that first sip. It tastes nothing like whisky, but I hope you get my drift.
I would go so far as to say that the bitter kick replaces the one you get from alcohol and so as a result, you don’t even notice it doesn’t have alcohol in it. There is nothing missing in the flavour experience. Obviously, the effect is not as strong when you’ve added tonic, but it’s still noticeable.
Now I realise after two years of not drinking alcohol my taste buds may have changed, but as mentioned, I’ve tried many zero-alcohol drinks and none have provided the lingering kick that this one does.
Sentia is also designed to replicate the sweet spot you get after your first couple of alcoholic drinks, that relaxed and de-stressed feeling that washes over you after your first glass of wine. It does this by stimulating GABA activity in the brain.
Does SENTIA work?
GABA is a neurotransmitter naturally present in your brain and your gut, which promotes relaxation and harmony, reducing stress.
The patent-pending blend of botanicals in SENTIA is designed to enhance GABA activity and when drank in the company of friends, it creates the same social feelings of well-being that alcohol does – conviviality, happiness at being together – but without the detrimental health issues.
It was developed by Professor David Nutt at GABA Labs after 40 years of scientific research and five years of product development.
“The discovery that GABA is at the heart of the ‘good’ alcohol experience and the development of the ‘botanical GABA blend’ is a game-changer for the industry,” he says.
“2023 will see the ‘No and Low space’ expand into interesting territory… ‘No and Low’ has become a functional sector where mindful drinkers can opt-in and socialise with sophisticated drinks choices that add proven holistic benefits to their wellbeing.”
Is SENTIA healthy?
Sentia contains plant botanicals and doesn’t contain alcohol, so is better for you than drinks containing alcohol. However, the manufacturers say you shouldn’t drink Sentia if you’re on medication, pregnant or breastfeeding and you should not drink more than 200ml in a day.
Sentia is classified as a food supplement; it doesn’t get you drunk, but it does relax you to varying degrees, so for that reason you should be mindful about driving after drinking it and use common sense as to whether or not you should drive. (The effects depend on the individual and how much of the product you drink).
None of the ingredients in Sentia has been shown to be addictive. With alcohol-free drinks in general, there is the slight possibility of a triggering effect in some susceptible people.
Sentia contains herbal ingredients that are full of antioxidants and it has no refined sugar. It is vegan, GM-free and gluten-free, is 65% organic and has only 9kcal per 25ml serving.
Where to buy Sentia
Currently, you can buy Sentia from the Sentia website, from Amazon, Planet Organic and Selfridges.
A new variant, Sentia Black, is due to launch next month.
Sentia Red review: the verdict
I’m fascinated by neuroscience and how the brain works, and to think certain ingredients can recreate the relaxing effects of alcohol is pretty mind-blowing.
As a non-drinker it doesn’t matter to me that my choice of beverage doesn’t contain alcohol – I’m well over it, and the awful hangovers and regrets it brought with it.
However, for somebody just starting out on their alcohol-free journey, those people who want to give their bodies a rest during January after the excesses of Christmas, or somebody who really does miss that alcohol buzz, then Sentia and zero-alcohol functional spirits like it could be the way forward.
Alcohol Change UK estimates that this January, nearly nine million people are turning their back on alcohol for the month (or trying to), which shows the demand is there. The fledgling alcohol-free drinks sector continues to grow and functional drinks could well be the next stage.
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Did Sentia have the desired effect on me? I think so, in that I felt relaxed while drinking it and after, but the effects were subtle. I remained in control and there was no risk of drinking too much, getting lairy, causing a row and having to be poured into a taxi home. And best of all – always best of all – no hangover the next day!
- SENTIA Red, £29.50 – buy here
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