When the sun goes down and we put the kids or the laptop to sleep for the night, there is something very satisfying about picking a grown-up bottle from the shelf, a quality glass from the cupboard and some fruit from the fridge to mix a carefully constructed drink.
And cutting out — or cutting down on — alcohol does not mean we can’t enjoy a well-crafted nightcap or have an alluring drinks cabinet.
As many of us focus more on our physical and mental wellbeing, the demand for alternatives for alcohol is growing fast and the industry is reacting.
No longer does abstaining from alcohol mean resigning to a life of sparkling water, or worse, soda.
So check out these alternatives to the most popular spirits to replace, or supplement, the booze in our homes — and some non-alcoholic cocktail suggestions too.
Seedip and its inspirational founder Ben Branson, who is interviewed for one of our feature stories this week, have led the way in zero proof spirits since launching in 2015. One of their campaign slogans — “bye bye boring” — gets to the heart of the concerns of many trying to stop drinking or drink less. And we think they deliver on that promise to with a product that tastes and looks great.
The brand was founded by British botany enthusiast Ben, who was inspired by the 1651 book ‘The Art of Distillation,’ by physician John French, documenting non-alcoholic herbal remedies. After two years of tinkering with herbs and copper stills and inspired by his farming heritage, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit was born.
While the process of making the drink and its potential uses are similar gin, they have left juniper out of the mix, so it is not classified as a gin. But this gives them leeway to create a variety of complex and delicious new flavors that can be used to replace gin or vodka in non-alcoholic versions of our favorite cocktails.
The Seedlip Grove 42 is a “zesty and citrus-forward blend of three types of orange and uplifting notes of ginger and lemongrass.” Mix with tonic, ice and a garnish of orange peel for a great G&T alternative. Or mix with soda and a splash of orange juice in a champagne flute for a mimosa.
Seedlip Garden 108 “features clean, fresh notes from peas combined with herb garden distillates.” Mix with Elderflower tonic water for summer garden party take on the G&T or with mint, cucumber and lime, poured over ice and garnish with cucumber for an East Side.
And Seedlip Spice 94 is “an aromatic, complex blend with warm spiced notes, citrusy top notes and a long bitter finish.” It’s perfect with non-alcoholic bitters and aromatic from Seedlip’s partner brand Æcorn for a alcohol-free Negroni or with ginger, lime and soda for a Spiced Mule.
Or for those looking for a non-alcoholic gin alternative that does feature the distinct juniper flavor, then try Caleño.
Caleño founder Ellie Webb traveled to her family’s heartland of Columbia for inspiration and developed a “tropical infusion of juniper, citrus and spice botanicals, steam-distilled in stainless steel drums” that was launched last year. It’s sweet but tangy with flavors of pineapple, mango and the South American inca berry alongside the unmistakeable juniper taste.
Perfect with tonic for a G&T alternative or pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar syrup and mint for a zesty tropical drink.
Ritual Zero proof have recently introduced the first alcohol-free tequila to the market.
The brand was started by three childhood friends in Chicago. And they say: “Ritual began because we like to drink. To eat, too. And have adventures. Wrestle with our kids. We like to climb mountains and we like to make art and we like to stay out too late laughing.”
“It took more than a year and hundreds of iterations to perfect our recipes. We learned how to blend jambu and prickly ash, how to extract the essence of blue agave, reduce the oil in juniper and heighten the perfume of pine. We taste-tested vanilla from Madagascar against vanilla from China. We sought guidance from master chefs and held tasting sessions for Chicago’s best bartenders.”
The Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative is free of alcohol, calories, carbs and gluten. And to make a non-alcoholic margarita, mix Ritual Tequila Alternative 1:1 in place of traditional tequila along with triple sec and lime.
And they explain: “Greeting you with a rich golden hue, a traditional blue agave aroma opens up on the pour. Ripe tropical guava is underscored by the mellow spice of black peppercorn as the flavor grows, going deeper with charred oak and mesquite smoke. Bright Mexican lime gives way to a clean, spicy finish, with a kiss of cracked sea salt for good measure.”
The brand are now among the leaders the in alcohol free spirits industry, and also offer a non-alcoholic gin and whiskey that can be swapped 1:1 for traditional spirits for non-alcoholic versions of our favorite drinks.
Australian brand Lyre’s Spirit Co. offer three good non-alcoholic rum alternatives with their Dark Cane Spirit replicating a dark rum, the Spiced Cane Spirit a spiced rum and the White Cane Spirit a white rum.
The non-alcoholic drinks startup only launched last year, posting $1 million sales in the first eight weeks and is already in 15 countries.
Speaking about spotting the opportunity for the business, co-founder and CEO Mark Livings says: “For the first time since we’ve been recording alcohol consumption, we have a generation that’s approaching the category and either consuming far less and in moderation, or not coming into the category at all.
“There’s clearly a desire for a more ethical, or healthy choice from consumers in a number of categories. If they can make that choice without sacrificing their consumption experience, they will absolutely take it.”
The Dark Cane Spirit was a gold medallist at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition while the Spiced Cane took a silver.
The Dark Cane has “notes of caramel, fudge, fig, toasted nuts are enhanced by a long finish featuring maple and vanilla.” Mix with ginger beer and lime for a Dark ’n’ Stormy.
The Spiced Cane has “notes of caramel, molasses and toasted nuts” and “generous finish featuring classic, spiced vanilla.” Mix with ginger ale or club soda and plenty of chunky ice cubes for a classic highball-style drink.
And the White Cane has “generous flavors with oak and sugar cane providing the perfect platform for the marzipan, orange and coconut flavors to shine through.” Mix with mint leaves, club soda, sugar syrup and lime juice and ice for a non-alcoholic mojito.
Lyre’s don’t just do rum. In fact they and have a range of more than a dozen alcohol free spirits — even an Absinthe.
And their American Malt non-alcoholic whiskey does a pretty good job of replicating the taste and smell of Bourbon with “generous flavors of vanilla and toasted nuts with herbal notes providing a complexity, offset by a long mellow finish.”
Mix with cola and a squeeze of lime for a zero proof take on a Bourbon and Coke or mix with non-alcoholic bitters and sugars and serve over ice with an orange peel garnish to replace an Old Fashioned.
Ghia is new to the market and receiving plenty of buzz. It’s a non-alcoholic aperitif inspired by founder Melanie Masarin drinking limoncello with her mother and grandmother during summers on the Mediterranean.
It features “notes of nostalgic florals, earthy botanicals and a clean kick of citrus” and can be drunk on the rocks or in cocktails like the Ghia Blackberry — a delicious mix of Ghia, muddled blackberries, orange blossom water and agave syrup. And each bottle comes with a cocktail recipe book for inspiration.
Founder Melanie says: “I launched Ghia earlier this summer to bring more intention to drinking. Ghia is made from all natural and good-for-you ingredients like Gentian Root (the same bitter herb in Aperol and other aperitifs), Lemon Balm, Fig, and Elderflower for an experience that will keep you clear-eyed and connected.
“Especially now, so many people are looking to decrease their alcohol consumption and I wanted to help provide an option that gives you the same experience as an aperitivo hour but with a clear mind.”
With many alcohol free spirits inspired by the aromatic profile and complexity of gin, a non-alcoholic vodka alternative is harder to find.
But Arkay Beverages, first launched in Dubai where alcohol is banned for Muslims and strictly-regulated for non-Muslims and tourists in 2011, is going global.
Richard Simmons, VP of Sales at the company, says: “ArKay is dedicated to developing unique, indulgent flavors that create an element of guilt free pleasure for our adult consumers.”
Mix with soda and lime for the light, summer staple or mix with cold brew concentrate and sugar syrup for a non-alcoholic Espresso Martini.
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