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Whether you’re looking for a night or two off negronis, a month to flush your system after heavy holiday celebrating (or pandemic year coping), or plan to swear off the sauce forever, it’s never been easier—or more trendy—to give dry a try thanks to a quickly growing and improving selection of non-alcoholic spirits, beer, wine, and pre-made mocktails.
“Like clockwork, after indulging between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, people look for ways to be healthier when the new year rolls around,” says author Hilary Sheinbaum whose The Dry Challenge: How To Lose The Booze For Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month was published by HarperCollins last December. According to Sheinbaum, cutting out alcohol “can be easier to commit to and more appealing than a generic [resolution] to lose weight or be healthier for a year.”
According to YouGov, one in five Americans took part in “Dry January” in 2019, and the trend is growing globally, with more than four million UK residents going dry in 2020, according to Sheinbaum. And while 2021 is already in full swing, you don’t need a dedicated month to experience life without booze — and the benefits of doing so.
Even if you enjoy the socializing that often comes with imbibing, and have your consumption under control, abstaining from alcohol can often have positive effects on your body, mind, and even your mood, experts say. Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, a New Jersey family medicine physician who is known as “Doctor Mike” by his six and a half million YouTube followers, says the degree as to whether a month of abstaining is beneficial, is generally proportionate to how much you drink. Still, Varshavski says most people would likely see some positive changes if they forego getting faded.
“Although a month is not a long period, it’s possible to see improvements in several aspects of your general health, including decreased acid reflux, lower caloric intake and weight loss, increased concentration, an immunity boost, and more restful slumber,” he says, adding that quit-quick challenges can be unsafe for heavy drinkers/alcoholics and are not substitutes for recovery programs or rehab. “The main reason it can be worth it is that it gives you the chance to learn about your actual relationship with alcohol and [can] lead you to make long-term changes after you identify problem areas in your drinking habits. It’s very easy to lose track of how often or how much you’re drinking.”
The uptick in temporary hooch hiatuses and other smarter sipping trends hasn’t gone unnoticed by Big Bev. In an attempt to quench their thirst along with that of designated drivers, pregnant women, people in recovery, the sober curious, and dieters, most established companies and several promising upstarts are racing to get zero-proof products to market, and the field is becoming increasingly crowded.
To help, we poured over the available non-alcoholic options on the market, and are happy to report that sobriety has never tasted so good — or so much like the real thing. Check out our list of the best non-alcoholic beer, wines and spirits, as well as ready-to-chug concoctions, mixers, and other mocktail-building ingredients. Here’s how to shake up your routine and get you over the dryathalon finish line.
It’s easy to go against the grain — alcohol that is — with these substitute spirits.
No discussion of non-alcoholic spirits can be had without first mentioning Seedlip, a true pioneer in the field created by Ben Branson, whose family has 300-year-old roots in English farming. After tinkering with natural botanicals from around said farm, and a copper pot still, he launched the first distilled non-alcoholic spirit in 2015.
Seedlip and its sophisticated but down-to-earth vibe immediately earned raves from the world’s best bartenders (many of whom contributed recipes to the first official Seedlip Cocktails cookbook), imbibers, and teetotalers alike, and has grown to include three refreshing expressions: the savory Garden 108 with peas and hops, Grove 42 with its auroral blend of citrus varieties and ginger, and aromatic Spice 94, which relies on allspice berries and cardamom—none of which have calories, sugar, or sweeteners.
Ritual Zero Proof’s whiskey, gin, and tequila alternatives promise the flavor, aroma, and bite of the hard alcohols they are meant to impersonate with none of the impairment or next-day damage. Make all the classic preparations by simply subbing out the spirit with equal parts RZP. When you’re ready to return to the bar, they suggest lightening calories and effects by replacing some of the alcoholic version with the RZP for a half-caff cocktail of sorts. We’re particularly partial to the “tequila” with its blue agave, charred oak, prickly ash, green bell pepper, and mesquite smoke notes.
Like RZP, the Lyre’s line is made up of high-quality, one-to-one spirit replacements that prove imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Unlike them, the Australian company launched in 2019 and named after a local bird that has been known to mimic everything from car engines to humans, didn’t stop at three expressions. No, the Down Under drinkers have a U.S. portfolio 12-types strong. It includes low-calorie absinthe, coffee liqueur, orange sec, amaretti, and numerous rum-like options.
The brand sells each fake a la carte and has also assembled some convenient sets that contain every spirit you need to make specific classics like boulevardiers, Manhattans, or espresso martinis. No artificial sweeteners either.
Optimist Botanicals are liquid love letters to the varied Los Angeles landscape. “Bright” is Venice Beach in a bottle as key ingredients like fennel, lemon, and jasmine evoke a sunny day walk in the salty air past citrus trees and night-blooming flowers. “Fresh” evokes the lush woody canyons after the elusive rain finally came to visit, while “Smokey” transports you with sage and other spicy notes to Joshua Tree and other High Desert hot spots.
All are free of sugar, carbs, animal products, calories, additives, and alcohol. Their inclusive conscious consumption message is backed by a portion of sales being donated to provide underserved youth access to mental health services.
With New London Light, the UK-based Salcombe Distilling Co. gives new meaning to virgin cocktails as the zesty botanical elixir starts with a still full of Macedonian juniper berries, ginger and warming habanero capsicum. NLL is then blended with 15 other natural ingredients including orange, sage, and cascarilla bark, many of which bequeath added minerals and vitamins.
Kin bills itself as a euphoric, categorized as mood-enhancing non-alcoholic beverages that “lift the mind, relax the body,” and encourage sleep and blissed-out states. Kin was the first packaged example on the market in 2018, the brainchild of Jen Batchelor, who went to school for both advertising and ayurvedic herbology. She mixed adaptogens, botanicals, and nootropics (compounds that support cognition) at her woo-woo watering hole. Like Seedlip, Kin’s three flavors—High Rhode, Spritz, and Dream Light—defy easy categorization but can be used to make tasty-not-toxic takes on classics like pina coladas and juleps or to experiment with unique recipes, including the stellar Mylky Way.
Spiritless’ Kentucky 74 offers bourbon lovers who want to cut back or cut out alcohol a viable, delicious solution. Offering a mix of caramel, vanilla, and oak notes, Kentucky 74 can be used in any bourbon-based cocktail. It won Best Non-Alcoholic Spirit and an additional gold metal at the L.A. Spirits awards in 2021.
Instant gratification is the name of the game with bevvies that come ready to party.
With Spirity Cocktails, the first non-alcoholic cocktail to get be awarded by the San Francisco World Spirits Competition when up against the real deal, you are only five steps away from refreshment. Start by picking your poison. Their Mindful Mules, Mindful Margaritas, and Mindful Negronis are made using spirits distilled from Pu’er tea, developed in creator Eric Knight’s backyard after he got sober. Next, grab a glass, some crushed ice and pour. Your last step is to garnish, and enjoy.
All flavors are under 35 calories, made with all-natural ingredients, and replicate that slightly bitter bite that builds with every swig of a spiked drink.
When pregnancy prevented Pauline Idogho from indulging, she took matters into her own hands and founded Mocktail Club. Inspired by her love of travel and global cuisine, drinks like Bombay Fire, Capri Sour, Manhattan Berry, and Havana Twist pack a sweet and sour punch with spices like ginger, cardamom, lemongrass, mint, and chilis, with fruits like pear and pomegranate. Thanks to antioxidants, juices sourced from organic suppliers, and prebiotics, they also have a wellness component. Motivated by her desire to do good, the club uses sustainable packaging and donate 1% of sales to global clean water access initiatives.
Feeling stressed, fatigued, or mentally downtrodden? Reach for the signature flask-shaped glass bottles from Proposition Cocktail Co. that are brimming with non-alcoholic adaptogenic CBD concoctions like a Bitter Apéritif, Smokey Margarita, or Turmeric Ginger Mule. Each version is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and GMO-free. Save money with a monthly subscription.
Exchange well drinks for wellness with the high-end adaptogen-boasting Curious Elixirs, another “just chill, garnish, enjoy” line of pre-mixed potions that promise to leave you shaken, not slurred. There are five distinct, complex flavor profiles known only by a number. They lean into herby and spicy although No. 1 is fruity and the newest addition, No. 5, is akin to a smoked cherry chocolate old-fashioned. None are overly syrupy or sweet. Bonus: The first four are Whole30 compliant.
While not alcohol-free and therefore not an option for full-time sobriety seekers, we’re including the hard pressed juice Pulp Culture here because it’s booze on its best behavior and something to consider when you return to retoxing.
A double wild fermentation process of 100% raw non-GMO juice allows nature to create a zero-sugar, 99-calorie, 4.9% ABV giggle juice that is brimming with probiotics. (In fact, every can has 6 billion CFUs of gut health helpers). The fitness-minded vegans behind the brand mixed and matched medicinal herbs and superfoods to create four formulas aimed at helping you THINK, HUSTLE, RESTORE, and RELAX. For example, THINK uses Lion’s Mane for increased energy and focus, ginseng to enhance memory, matcha for clarity, and guava to stimulate cognitive function.
Available in in both bottles and cans, Mingle Mocktails are a premade cocktail that saves you time without compromising on flavor. The non-alcoholic mojito above is made out of cucumber, melon, mint, and other natural ingredients. While great on its own, Mingle suggests pairing it with rum, vodka, or gin if you want to spike it yourself. Mingle’s other flavor options are Blackberry Hibiscus Bellini, Blood Orange Elderflower Mimosa, Cranberry Cosmo, and Moscow Mule. The company also offers a variety pack that allows you to sample several of them to find your favorite.
Stock your booze-free bar cart with premium mixers, shrubs, and other high-quality ingredients.
Time to organize a mocktail starter kit? Hella Cocktail Co. is here to help casual drinkers turn out pro-level preparations with its line of premium products. First, there are the mixers for margaritas, bloody Marys, and Moscow mules (Its real lime juice, ginger puree, and cane make it the real standout). There’s also an eight-pack of bitters, which has basics like orange and aromatic, plus more unusual ones like eucalyptus and Mexican chocolate. Both can be added to further spruce up Hella’s Gentian Tincture-powered Bitters & Soda products, especially the Dry Aromatic and Spritz Aromatic versions, which are also great mixed with alt-spirits. But Ginger Turmeric, Lemon Lime, and Grapefruit are yummy aperitifs straight from the can.
You don’t have to settle for sickeningly sweet, basic, or unhealthy mocktails thanks to San Diego-based Crafted Cocktails. Using what her grandmother taught her about preserving fruits as drinking vinegars — and because what’s old is newly popular again — founder Felicia Vieira released an all-natural line of shrubs (strawberry, blackberry, Asian pear, ginger, and pineapple). A little goes a long way, ensuring bottles will last long past dry January, and that consumers get a lot of bang for their calorie buck (only 25 per serving). Crafted also prides itself on its nine, all-natural agave nectar mixers in fun flavors like mai tai, jalapeño pineapple, gimlet, and spicy watermelon, its ready-to-sip sparkling vinegars, and its clean club soda made with Hawaiian sea salt.
He may have stopped counting dollars to count stars but that didn’t keep OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder from starting a side hustle. Enter Mad Tasty, a functional sparkling water infused with 20 milligrams of broad-spectrum hemp extract and zero sugar that comes in grapefruit, watermelon kiwi, and a sweet and crisp “Unicorn Tears.” The brand claims to maximize performance, vitality bandwidth, energy, and hydration so that the consumer can make all the right moves in all the right places. They can also feel superior doing it as Tedder has committed to donating 12 ounces of clean water for every 12 ounces sold through drop4drop.
Betty Buzz is making better mixers for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails. The company, founded by Blake Lively, offers Tonic Water, Lemon Lime, Meyer Lemon Club Soda, Sparkling Grapefruit, and Ginger Beer flavors. Each mixer is made from natural ingredients, which makes them taste surprisingly refreshing. All of Betty Buzz’s mixers are Gluten-free, kosher, vegan-friendly, and Non-GMO.
If suds are your swill of choice, hop to trying these copycat cold ones.
When Heineken realized how quickly the mindful drinking market was growing and that they had yet to tap into it, the Dutch master brewer said, “Hold my beer.” The company emerged from R&D in 2019 with 0.0, a 69-calorie liquor-free lager made using the brand’s signature A-yeast. Comes in bottles and cans.
Lagunitas, the Northern California brewery behind one of the best-selling IPAs in the world, used everything in their book of zymurgy secrets to whip up a hop-heavy (Mosaic and Citra) non-alcoholic take on their marquee malt beverage. IPNA won’t go straight to your beer gut—it’s only 80 calories—or induce hangovers, but it will satisfy the tastebuds of craft beer snobs.
As variety is the spice of life, consider Amazon’s near-beer collection which gathers a 12-bottle hit parade of big brand offerings like Coors Edge, Erdinger, Clausthaler Dry-Hopped Amber, O’Douls, Beck’s, Bitburger Zero, and St. Pauli Girl N.A.
Wine proxies and non-alcoholic vintages promise all the complexity and body but none of the buzz.
The most basic way to get a wine fix is with de-alcoholized varietals, which are made the same way as all vino and then the boozy bits are extracted. Amazon sells a five-bottle sampler pack with red offerings from California, Spain, and Italy.
Another option is to go reverse biblical and turn wine into water. H2O Sonoma Soft Seltzer is infused with real California wine grapes by legit vintners. Currently available in three flavors (Rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir) with more planned to drop in 2021, the sparkling water has no sulfates, artificial sweeteners, added sugar, or gluten. On the other hand, each can contains good amounts of vitamins C and B12, antioxidants, and electrolytes.
Founded by food scientists, Acid League first took on reinventing vinegar in 2019 and now its raw, unfiltered, and fermented living condiments are GOOP–approved. In late 2020, AL debuted Wine Proxies, which are described as “layered blends of fruit and veggie juices, teas, spices, and bitters designed to pair with food and be enjoyed in stemware.”
Although they aren’t strictly speaking wine, as in the fermented drink that comes from grapes, they do approximate its mouth feel, look, flavor, body, acidity, and tannins. The wine club launched with Cuvée Zero, Blanc Slate, and Zest Contact (imitates trendy orange vino). Each month will bring new flavors to explore via one-time shipments or a recurring subscription.
As G.I. Joes were fond of saying, “Knowing is half the battle.” These books are packed with recipes and helpful hints to survive tipple timeouts.
The Dry Challenge: How To Lose The Booze For Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month is an easy-to-follow blueprint for how to run a dryathlon without ever feeling the urge to strangle someone. (Or at least how to keep from acting on those murderous urges). Author Hilary Sheinbaum has assembled statistics about the benefits of doing a challenge, checklists, spreadsheets, recipes, motivational words, and actionable ideas and advice on topics like throwing a sober shindig, dating without liquid courage, and creative ways to pass the tipple-free time.
Fact: Bubbles level up drinking, celebrations, brunch, nights at the club, and toasts. Luckily, effervesce is not limited to boozy beverages. Olly Smith’s Fizz: 80 Joyful Cocktails and Mocktails for Every Occasion has recipes for plenty of non-alcoholic carbonated cocktails and even a few semi-mocktails, including the brilliantly named Sham-pagne, Ginger Kombucha, Bees Crumble, and Fruit Bonanza alongside stiffer mates. Recipes are categorized by the types of events they are best served.
Former Bon Appétit editor and James Beard Award nominee Julia Bainbridge drove across the U.S. in search of the best mocktails, and the results of her fact-finding mission are on display in Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason. Alongside tips for sourcing ingredients and filling your pantry, readers will discover worldly concoctions curated by some of the state’s best bartenders including an herbal take on a Pimm’s Cup, salted rosemary palomas, and pea flower lemonade.
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