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Whether you’re practicing Dry January, Damp January or just want to know what the fuss is about when it comes to non-alcoholic spirits, today is a good day to dive in. The non-alcoholic world is admittedly small, although growing quickly. On Drizly, the NA category experienced a 62% increase in 2023 over 2022, making it among the fastest-growing subcategories across the drinks marketplace. That said, non-alc accounts for just .42% of the total share of the site’s sales.
Interestingly, about 41% of U.S. adults surveyed last year intended to take part in Dry January 2023, but only 16% actually managed to abstain from alcohol all month, according to CivicScience. Maybe it’s more trouble than it’s worth? Or maybe the only thing lacking in the non-alcoholic drinks space is knowledge. People seem to know if they like whiskey, but do they want to part with the equivalent amount of money on a bottle of a plant-based botanical non-alc “spirit” with nebulous tasting notes?
Things to Consider
- Taste: As an experienced drinker but someone curious about the booze-free market, I’ve had mixed results with n/a products. Most of them admittedly lack the viscosity or depth that you’d find in alcoholic spirits, even if they offer wonderful flavors. Speaking of taste, some of these no-ABV spirits stray from what you’d expect; a “tequila replacement” probably won’t provide the same experience on the nose, palate or finish as a real blanco or reposado. Recognize that you’re going to get something that isn’t a 1:1 replacement for your favorite booze.
- Price: Most of these bottles are in the $30 range, though some are also available in individual cans/bottles and sometimes the bottles are 750ml (fairly standard for booze) or 375ml. There’s not a lot of variance, but if smaller sizes are available, you may want to test those out first.
- Versatility: At their best, non-alcoholic spirits can be served on ice, as a base for a mocktail or even as a modifier in a low-ABV cocktail.
Thankfully, given where we were a few years ago — when it was basically O’Douls and then up-and-comer Seedlip — the non-alc market has grown exponentially in quality. Below, some of our favorite bottles in the non-alcoholic space. We’ve left no-ABV beer and wine for future articles, and while we mention hemp a few times below, we’re also leaving out the CBD- and THC-infused drinks (though we’ve covered all of these before and will do so again).
This UK non-alcoholic brand was founded by a celebrity (British television personality Spencer Matthews) but even if you don’t know Made in Chelsea, you can appreciate this line of zero-sugar alternatives to gins, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey, which only have 10 calories per serving.
Drink: Clean R is a rum alternative and it made for a really nice and slightly spicy “rum” and Coke.
This mindful Danish brand offers non-alcoholic spirits, sparkling wines and canned cocktails, crafted from plants and botanicals that are “extracted, distilled and steamed” to create familiar boozy flavors.
Drink: London Botanical Spirit offers up a take on London Dry Gin, a juniper-forward alt-gin that utilizes the shells from chili seeds to provide some heat.
Zero-proof spirits (gin, agave blanco, mezcal and whiskey) that, unlike most n/a bottles, never had booze in them at all. Instead, these no-carb, low-cal expressions combine natural flavors derived from flowers, herbs, plants, fruits, roots, barks, leaves and vegetables to (re)create flavors. They also offer full cocktail kits through their site.
Drink: Not many non-alc brands offer a mezcal, so if you like a smoky flavor — here, derived from a combination of Cubeba pepper extract, chipotle pepper extract, Persian lime oil and “a touch of smoke” — this is your best option.
This Netherlands-based brand expands the concept of being alcohol-free with these distilled botanical bottles. Recently sold, the brand is expanding in the U.S. and introducing a Bitter variation early this year.
Drink: Their Spiced Cane Dark Roast, a 2023 Ultimate Spirits Competition winner for best non-alcoholic spirit, is crafted from Dominican sugar cane and features notes of chocolate and coffee.
Based in Seattle, The Pathfinder was co-founded by Steven Grasse (creator of Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum), Chris Abbott (the cannabis entrepreneur behind Mr. Moxey’s) and Guy Escolme (ex-Diageo). This is a non-alcoholic “spirit” fermented and distilled from hemp (among other ingredients).
Drink: Their core product, Hemp & Root, adds bitterness and complexity — and, a rarity in the non-booze world, actual body and heft — in a non-alcoholic cocktail, but can also be used in boozy drinks like an amaro or sweet vermouth. In a boozy, spirit-forward cocktail, bartenders approach The Pathfinder much the same way they would an amaro or sweet vermouth.
Review: The Pathfinder Is a Non-Alcoholic Spirit That Shines in Boozy DrinksThis new hemp-based elixir adds an unusual complexity to classic cocktails
The Brooklyn-based, Italian-inspired spirits brand already has a Phony Negroni, a Phony Espresso Negroni and a Phony Mezcal Negroni — alongside a line of cool bottled (boozy) and boxed Negronis and Boulevardiers.
Drink: The ready-to-drink Amaro Falso utilizes a mix of all-natural citrus, botanical, and herbal ingredients that drinks like an Amaro Highball (fun fact: carbonation and nitrogen are added to the brand’s non-alc lineup to “help mimic the bite and mouth feel that alcohol typically provides.”)
For Bitter For Worse
Started in 2020, this non-alc brand utilizes a “reverse bootlegging” process (and added decoctions, juices and syrups made from Pacific Northwest ingredients) to create tasteful, spirits-like but non-boozy elixirs.
Drink: Smoky, citrusy and bold, the Smoky No. 56 works wonderfully on its own or with seltzer.
A line of NA sparkling, low-cal apéritifs made with natural adaptogens and founded by Katy Perry and Morgan McLachlan, available in individual-sized cans or larger bottles.
Drink: Available in multiple expressions, we’re partial to Purple Lune, made with ashwagandha and tart cherry (among 15 botanicals).
These alcohol-free botanical spirits (crafted by a master distiller) are inspired by their Southern California origins. Serve with tonic and club soda, the flavors here (Bright, Fresh, Smokey, Cali Amaro) are gentle but flavorful.
Drink: Smokey, a take on tequila, utilizes Lapsang Souchong, bitter red orange, clove, ginger, cinnamon leaf and habanero botanicals to create a citrusy and spicy mixer with depth.
Recommended to us by author Julia Bainbridge (Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason), Ghia is a non-alcoholic aperitif “inspired by the Mediterranean” with extracts of natural nervines.
Drink: While the brand offers some canned spritzes and a berry variation, the Original Apéritif bottle is herbal, floral and flavorful.
Aimed at calming, this hemp-infused, non-alcoholic spirit is herbal, citrusy and earthy (but not overly so), and also infused with adaptogens. Plus, these were formulated in collaboration with award-winning master mixologist Lynnette Marrero.
Drink: Arise has a pleasant lemon tang with a hint of smoke — it feels like an ideal base for a non-boozy highball in summer.
The highest rated in the 2020 Ultimate Spirits Challenge Non-Alcoholic Spirit category, this is a non-boozy, gin-like release from the Amsterdam-based Lucas Bols, the oldest distillery in the world.
Drink: The distillery only crafts one non-alc option, so go with the citrus-forward alt-gin.
Vegan, low-cal and no-booze spirits meant to emulate nearly a dozen different styles of alcohol — even the more obscure, like coffee liqueur and absinthe.
Drink: Their Italian Spritz won Double Gold in the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and it’s about as close to non-alcoholic Aperol as you can get.
“Euphoric” mixers with adaptogens and nootropics geared toward different moods and times of day — social hour, nighttime, etc. From citrusy to herbaceous, these are fine on their own but also work as a mocktail base with juice, soda, bitters and/or simple syrup.
Drink: Can a non-alcoholic beverage help you sleep? Dream Light is infused with adaptogens, nootropics, and botanicals like Reishi Mushroom, Melatonin, and L-Tryptophan, with notes of cinnamon, oak and clove.
The “world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit” is crafted via a bespoke, six-week maceration, distillation, filtration and blending process, where each individual botanical ingredient is distilled separately.
Drink: Seedlip Grove 42, featuring notes of Mediterranean orange, lemon peel, lemongrass and ginger, is the basis for the brand’s most popular recipe, a take on a margarita with fruity and spicy elements.
Primarily a canned cocktail brand — though they offer one booze-free spirit (see below) — Little Saints crafts their non-alc palomas, margaritas, Negronis and ginger mules with reishi, terpenes, palo santo and lion’s mane, among other unexpected ingredients.
Drink: St. Ember is your mezcal replacement, offering a smoky lift to your non-alc drinks.
A line of zero-proof “restoratives” inspired by Italian amari. These 100% whole plant, additive/preservative-free, booze-free elixirs can be used as a base or modifier for both mocktails and cocktails, or sipped on their own.
Drink: The brand’s Rose Bergamot, crafted with white ginseng, Schisandra berry, rose petals, angelica archangelica and bergamot citrus oil. It’s equal parts earthy, bitter, floral and sweet (and you’ll get all those notes on the nose, too).
Martini & Rossi
The long-running vermouth brand now offers two non-alcoholic Apertivo bottles, using the same wines they use for their vermouths.
Drink: Vibrante is a fruity and balanced mixer with notes of bergamot.
Wilderton Botanical Spirits
A non-alcoholic spirits brand produced in Portland, OR and crafted from globally-sourced botanicals — it’s won a lot of praise from esteemed bartenders such as Jim Meehan.
Drink: The spicy, smoky Earthen, crafted with white peppercorn, pine-smoked tea and cardamom, does well in boozy cocktails as a modifier and as a base for n/a drinks.
Booze-free craft cocktails infused with adaptogens and released in various and sometimes limited-edition flavors.
Drink: We’ll go with the advice we took a few years ago from Douglas Watters, the founder of Spirited Away, New York City’s first booze-free bottle shop. He’s into No. 5, which he called their “richest and most complex offering to date … I love how they’ve balanced the spice with the warm chocolate and cherry notes.”
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