As the New Year begins, one in five adults will pledge to cut out alcohol during Dry January, an annual ritual that started eight years ago. After nearly a year of pandemic-induced drinking for many, this could be the time when the sober-curious movement moves ahead full steam.
Before you reach for the club soda or grenadine-spiked ginger ale, consider the carefully crafted nonalcoholic drinks now on the market ― we’ve come a long way from O’Doul’s. Below, we’re recommending 12 zero-proof pre-made cocktails, spirits and aperitifs that provide the complex flavor we expect from our favorite bar drinks, but without the booze. Sold in handsome bottles with fashionable labels, the drinks will fit in perfectly with your home bar.
Some brands, like Arkay and Ritual, produce alcohol-free whiskey that delivers the slow, warming burn, while Monday Gin plays with the delicate balance of botanicals and citrus expected from the spirit. Others, like Proposition Cocktail Co. and Curious Elixirs, offer pre-made cocktails that blend fruit, herbs and spices and are enhanced with ashwagandha and other adaptogens to help you relax. Proteau and Ghia bring intensely flavored and colorful zero-proof aperitifs to the mix.
“The craft movement in cocktails brought a more sophisticated drinker to the table,” Jules Aron, a wellness mixologist in Palm Beach, Florida, and author of “The Low Proof Happy Hour,” told HuffPost. Consumers are seeking out healthier drinks with quality ingredients, regardless of whether they have alcohol.
Millennials and Gen Zers are especially gravitating toward zero-proof drinks, as they are more attuned to the effects that alcohol can have on mental health, said Julia Bainbridge, author of zero-proof cocktail recipe book “Good Drinks.” “They’re seeking out ways to manage anxiety and mental health issues.”
But as you open a bottle of booze-free bottled old fashioned, keep an open mind, said Aaron Joseph, a 10-year sober bartender who co-founded Baltimore’s Cane Mixers. While the ingredients aim to imitate your favorite tipple, the non-alcoholic drinks contain their own unique flavors. “It’s a loose translation when people come up with exact replicas of cocktails.”
Take a look at our picks below, and keep in mind that some of the labels advise drinkers to check with their doctors before consuming.
The six-year-old Seedlip brand sells three varieties of alcohol-free beverages: the Garden 108 Herbal, the citrus-flavored Grove 42 and Spice 94, with allspice and cardamom. Drink the zero-calorie and sugar spirits with tonic water, ginger ale or use in these non-alcoholic drinks. Global drinks giant Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff and Guinness, purchased a majority stake in the company in 2019.
Produced in the U.K. with a team of plant scientists, bartenders and herbalists, the trio of botanical drinks — Livener, Social Elixir and Nightcap — will roll out nationally later this year. (It’s currently available in New York state, North Carolina, Michigan and Iowa). Each drink serves a different function. The Social Elixir, for instance, is best drank with ginger ale and an orange slice, purports to aid relaxation and mood with passionflower and lion’s mane mushroom.
Powered by fruit and botanicals with a touch of vinegar to balance out the sweetness, Proteau’s aperitifs contain no added sugar and preservatives. Hibiscus, chamomile and Chinese rhubarb flavor the Rivington Spritz, while the Ludlow Red Zero incorporates chrysanthemum, black pepper, licorice and dandelion root.
Mingle’s five mocktail flavors, which include the Cucumber Melon Mojito, Moscow Mule and Cranberry Cosmo, offer low-sugar, alcohol-free alternatives to your favorite booze-filled drinks. The bubblies blend blood orange, cranberry and other fruit juices with botanicals like hibiscus or spearmint. Serve them chilled with lime, raspberries and other garnishes.
The whiskey, gin and tequilas mirror their counterparts with added flavors, such as black peppercorn and green pepper infused in the tequila. Aron enjoys topping alcohol-free spirits with sparkling water and a citrus twist.
The yellow-orange color, overflowing bubbles and name make it an ideal stand-in for champagne and sparkling wine, flavored with white tea and ginger, which balance out the sweetness from the cranberry and agave. The company recommends serving it chilled in a champagne flute or wine glass.
Made with yuzu, lemon balm, orange peel and elderflower, Ghia’s intensely bitter taste makes it ideal for fans of the negroni. Bainbridge enjoys it with club soda and a lemon or orange twist.
Arkay offers 31 spirits, aperitifs and cocktails, including 14 types of whiskey, limoncello, mojito and other spirits. The Tennessee Whiskey tastes as close to the liquor as you can expect from a beverage with no sugar, calories or alcohol. Drink it straight up on ice or visit its mocktail website for zero-proof drink suggestions.
Packaged in flasks, Proposition Cocktail’s three drinks can be consumed straight up or on the rocks. The turmeric ginger mule, smokey margarita and bitter blood orange aperitif can be enjoyed on the rocks or straight up. Smoked chili adds heat and a mezcal-like flavor to the smokey margarita, which pairs well with Ritual’s tequila alternative, lime and a salt rim.
Try this experiment at home: Add some QMixers tonic water and lemon and see if your housemate can tell that this drink contains no alcohol. For added flavor, muddle some berries and add a sprig of mint, basil or rosemary, Aron suggests.
Juices, herbs, spices and botanicals give these pre-made cocktails a depth of flavor that mimic your favorite drinks. Designed to resemble the Aperol spritz, Elixir No. 4 contains blood orange, ginseng and turmeric.
This Black-owned small business blends fruit, herbs and spices to produce eight mixers that make good brunch drinks. Blend them with sparkling water, bitters or soda.