Treat Yourself to a Non-Alcoholic Buzz
Products that provide unadulterated pleasure
It’s not just the buzz that makes alcoholic beverages so popular. It’s the experience: celebrating special occasions, sharing memorable moments with friends, pairing with a fine meal, topping off a productive project and enjoying a variety of pleasurable tastes.
Forgoing the alcohol needn’t mean forgoing the experiences or settling for soda, juice or just a lime and tonic. Contemporary products targeted for adult palates offer quality alternatives for those seeking a natural “buzz” without sacrificing taste, enjoyment or presentation.
LIKE LIQUOR, FOR THOSE WHO LIKE LIQUOR
Some of these liquor alternatives mimic the flavors of specific spirits, so they can be used in cocktails as direct substitutes. Others follow their own star. Some have ingredients that tout other health benefits, too.
The best offer nuance, complexity and mouthfeel that help satisfy the discriminating palate. The complex “edge” encourages you to sip, not slurp – advantageous whether you’re celebrating your own happy hour or drinking with friends.
And with no-sugar and few-to-no-calorie options, you’ll be pleasing other on-your-shoulder angels besides just the teetotaling one.
Europe seems to be ahead of the U.S. in producing quality non-alcoholic options, but the products listed here are available in the states, mostly online.
CURIOUS ELIXIRS: FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
These “shaken, not slurred” drinks mirror traditional cocktails. Each single-serving bottle is made with organic juices, herbs, and spices. Each also boasts added herbal perks. No. 1, a Negroni-inspired drink adds rhodiola, for a potential “boost.” The pineapple-Margarita-slash-Dark-and-Stormy adds damiana, “to help you unwind.” Another adds ashwagandha; a fourth has ginseng, non-alcoholic prosecco, tulsi, and turmeric; and No. 5 is like a “smoked cherry chocolate old fashioned infused with elderberry and ginger for immunity and shatavari to restore balance.” No. 6, the only elixir in a can, presents tropical flavors and adds chicory root, lemon balm, nutmeg, aloe, and neroli. CuriousElixirs.com
PROTEAU LUDLOW RED
Designed by John deBary, who served as bar director for Momofuku, Proteau is promoted as a botanical aperitif, somewhat like a before-dinner wine or vermouth. It boasts notes of blackberry, violet, dandelion, fig vinegar, black pepper and rose. DrinkProteau.com
A craft pioneer in this fledgling industry, this UK-based company was inspired by early alchemists distilling herbal remedies – and by the founder’s three-centuries-old family farm. The three options offer earthy allspice-cardamom with a citrus finish, floral garden herbs, and citrus-focused. All work best with tonic water of choice and a garnish or with other mixers. Zero calories; free of sugar and other sweeteners. SeedlipDrinks.com
Dhōs markets three products, hand-crafted at an organic farm and distillery. They are certified pesticide free and made with natural flavors and no sugar. Dhōs Bittersweet is similar to bitter-orangey Aperol (but with no alcohol and only five calories per serving). The flavors blend bitter rhubarb, oranges, gentian root, bitter herbs, and spices. Given the powerful, tongue-tickling flavor of the Bittersweet, you can make a simple mocktail – i.e., non-alcoholic cocktail – by adding it to soda, seltzer, or tonic water.
Gin Free is a worthy substitute for gin, especially considering that it is zero calories! It presents notes of fresh pine, juniper berries, citrus, and mint. The combination of hot and cooling sensations on the palate, from warming spice to refreshing menthol, mimic gin’s alcohol bite. Use Gin Free in mocktails by substituting it for gin, as in a Gin & Tonic. Or mix Gin Free with Bittersweet for a Phony Negroni.
Dhōs Orange, only 5 calories per serving, serves up flavors of orange, tangerine, and vanilla, with a hint of menthol and spice. Curaçao oranges add a touch of bitter spice. Like Gin Free, Orange finishes with a mix of warming spice and cooling menthol.
Euphoric options use adaptogens, nootropics, and botanical supplements to target beneficial effects such as clarity, calmness, and relaxation. If your drinking is social, try the High Rhode: herbaceous, earthy, floral and tart. For a nightcap, choose Dream Light: earthy, smoky and spiced. With these added ingredients, however, the drinks are not meant to be combined with alcohol or with certain medications or physical conditions. You can also get single-serving cans: the Lightwave for relaxation and Kin Spritz for “social energy.” KinEuphorics.com
This company makes alcohol-free alternatives to gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila for those times we choose to avoid alcohol: “whether you’re downshifting, making a baby, on call, training for a marathon, or just want to crush tomorrow, you can always enjoy the Ritual.” The tipple replacements are made with all-natural botanical blends that add flavor as well as the viscosity and “heat” of alcohol. Enjoy the faux spirits neat or as a 1-to-1 substitute for the real thing. The gin and tequila are zero calories, while the rum and whiskey are only 10 calories per 1.5 ounces. RitualZeroProof.com
Around since 2011, Arkay produces about two dozen faux-alcohol flavors that mimic whiskies from around the world, liqueurs, variations on rum, brandy, gin, tequila and several mocktails. Oh, and vodka. Production includes an extract of capsaicin in order to create the burn and kick associated with alcohol. ArkayBeverages.com
GROOVY NEW BEERS & PROSECCO
The Grüvi brewing process uses malted grain, hops and an arrested fermentation process to produce non-alcoholic beers, a “prosecco,” and a bubbly rosé. Trace amounts of alcohol can be found, typically between 0.1% and 0.3% ABV (NA beer is legally defined as measuring less than 0.5% ABV).
Better yet: Grüvi products are low calorie, too. The Weisse is 25 calories. The hoppy IPA, with Citra, Galaxy, Ekuanot and Mosaic hops, has 60 calories. The dry, smoky, toasty Stout adds 45 calories to your day. Pale Ale is a tad higher, at 80 calories. Look for limited-release seasonal beers, too. The prosecco, made with Chardonnay grapes (no added sulfates or sugar), comes with 50 calories, and the rosé at 60. Available for purchase online at GetGruvi.com.
From Grüvi and Twospoons.ca
- 3 cups Grüvi prosecco (about 3 bottles), chilled
- 1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed and chilled
- 1 orange, sliced (optional for garnish)
Pour orange juice into glasses, about 1/3 full. Top the rest with Grüvi Prosecco. (Hold glasses at a slight angle while pouring to stop the sparkling wine from bubbling over.) Garnish with orange wedges. Serve.
Makes 8 small glasses.
- ½ lime
- 4-5 raspberries
- Mint leaves
- Grüvi Prosecco
Muddle the mint, lime juice and raspberries at the bottom of an Old Fashioned cup and top with Grüvi Prosecco. Garnish with mint and lime wedge. Sip and enjoy!
Originally published May 8, 2020; updated Nov. 22, 2021.