Even though it’s THE season for imbibing, more and more friends have been taking some time off drinking in favor of non-alcoholic beer, spirits, and adaptogenic drinks. Are we getting old? Maybe—but since many of us took a break from drinking way back in the Original Quarantine™, we realized that hey—this whole kinda or fully sober thing isn’t so bad at all. No pounding headaches, regrettable Instagram stories, or late-night texts that you’ll cringe over for the rest of your life? Hmm…
But even if you’re dodging hangovers and enjoying la vida booze-free, you still want to “entertain,” as they say, and pour your guests (and yourself) a fully decked-out mocktail to join in the spirit.
Blessedly, we are in a full-blown renaissance of non-alcoholic bevs, from an alcohol-free facsimile for tequila to non-alcoholic wine, to adaptogenic seltzers that will make you just the right level of laid-back. Naturally, a cocktail always tastes best consumed out of a jazzy glass while you stand around an impressive collection of aesthetically pleasing bottles and mid-century furniture—and these are all things you can still enjoy as a teetotaler. Here’s everything you need to stock an impressive, morning-after-guilt-free home bar and throw a festive shindig with and/or without booze.
A botanical apéritif for fans of amaro
The bitter, complex flavor of amaros, fernets, and other apéritifs is an acquired taste, but one that certainly leaves a lasting impression—and you may wanna revisit it even if you no longer drink. “Inspired by Mediterranean aperitivo culture,” because there really is nothing quite like lounging with a spritz (which Ghia now makes in a can) on a summer’s day, Ghia is made with riesling grapes, yuzu juice, gentian root, elderflower, fig, lemon balm, and other botanical ingredients that combine to create a nuanced, highly drinkable tonic. Plus, the bottle’s a beaut, worthy of display—and speaking from experience, everyone who spots it will want to try it.
For the big ball drop
TÖST is a shockingly delicious champagne alternative made from white tea, white cranberry, and ginger. This sparkling n-a champers is also an editor’s pick—staff writer Becca Blasdel likes how “it’s crisp, dry like real bubbly, and in a coupe, it looks nearly identical.”
A sexy swap for mezcal or vodka
Optimist makes distilled non-alcoholic spirits that are perfect for enjoying on the rocks or mixed with tonic or seltzer, with three distinct flavors ranging from Smokey (a perfect sub for tequila or mezcal) to Fresh (an herbaceous choice that’s similar to gin) to Bright (a citrusy spirit that would make a killer virgin Cosmo). All contain complex combinations of herbs, florals, and fruit extracts, and none are even close to being “sweet.” We love that.
If you just want something that’s… well, exactly like tequila
Ritual Zero Proof has one goal: to mimic the flavor of traditional liquor. We’re talking water and impressively on-point flavoring. Want a booze-free, calorie-free margarita? This is probably what you’re looking for. And the reviews are surprisingly good, with an average rating of 4.7/5 stars, and plenty of happy customers saying Ritual is great in margaritas, Bloody Marias, and Palomas.
The OG of gin subs
MUNCHIES first covered Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit, back in 2016 when it first launched. While it was lauded as an amazing “non-alcoholic gin,” Seedlip’s founder Ben Branson says it’s best not to compare—just think of it as a whole new world of sophisticated drinking. Made in copper stills with many of the same ingredients as gin, and meant to be served with tonic, surely he can understand the comparison. But now, five years in, it’s still a smash—and has expanded to a whole line of flavors.
A booze-free Old Fashioned? Yeah, man, it’s 2023
Non-alcoholic whiskey is kind of a mindfuck, but we’re livin’ in the future, baby. Spiritless uses oak extract to mimic the flavor of bourbon sans alcohol. Enjoy its notes of oak, smoke, and vanilla as a 1:1 substitute for your favorite whiskey.
As easy to drink as White Claw, but for people with good taste
Curious Elixirs thinks of its herbaceous, effervescent drinks as “booze-free cocktails,” ready to pour on the rocks (or even drink out of the bottle). They’re mercifully un-sugary, on par with a signature drink at a high-end cocktail bar. Miss negronis? Try Elixir No. 1, with gentian root for bitterness, lemon peel and bitter orange for acidity, and pomegranate juice for a fruit finish. Garnish with an orange slice, and you’re good to go.
We’ve also been obsessed with Aura Bora’s gourmet flavors lately, especially their seasonal “Secret Menu” flavors like green bean casserole and cranberry chai. Their surprising herbal notes set them apart from your basic-ass La Croix. They taste great on the rocks, with our without liquor added.
Scots do it better
Scots know their spirits, and that seems to include the non-alcoholic kinds. A unique, sugar-free spirit, Feragaia is “made with land and sea botanicals,” starting with a base of Scottish water (duh) and integrating seaweed, herbs, green tea, black currant, makrut lime, and even ancho chile. BBC describes the result as having “a winey, vermouth-type quality with refreshing citrus notes and a fiery finish,” and the MUNCHIES team loves this stuff for its earthy flavor. As an added bonus, the company is environmentally friendly, practicing local sourcing and composting, and all of its packaging is recyclable—even the bottle cap.
Adaptogenic mixers that won’t give you a sugar rush
Of course, just like with any spirits, you may not wanna drink booze-free gin straight out of a shot glass. You’re a sophisticate! For a mixer, try Aurora, a “sparkling whole plant infused beverage” that’s available with full-spectrum hemp (25 milligrams per bottle) or with hops extract, which purportedly also has stress-reducing and relaxing effects. Best of all, Aurora has mixology-ready flavors, from its yuzu orange blossom hops drink to its rosemary grapefruit hemp tonic.
Bella Hadid’s favorite nootropic bevs
You’ve most likely heard of Kin Euphorics because of the brand’s co-founder, Bella Hadid, but if you’ve yet to try these functional beverages infused with adaptogens, nootropics, and Botanics—each iteration has a different intention or vibe. There are two aperitif-like, made-to-mix beverages: High Rhode (for when you want to be social) and Dream Light (for when you want to go to bed) that can be drank solo or with any mixer, plus four canned lightly-sparkling mocktails—Spritz, Bloom, Lightwave and Actual Sunshine.
A social tonic that tastes better than La Croix
While Hiyo claims to “provide a stress-relieving, mood-boosting lift [they] like to call “the float,” even if you don’t feel a ton of calming effects from these fancy seltzers, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the brand’s unique flavor combinations like blackberry-lemon, peach-mango, and watermelon-lime.
The büch is loose
One of the easiest and best swaps for booze—both in terms of its complex, tangy flavor and its instant mood lift—is kombucha, which now comes in a zillion varieties and flavors. The fizzy fermented tea is as refreshing as a spritz and typically contains a small kick of caffeine, perfect for treating yourself to a beverage at the kickback without getting tipsy. A few of our favorite brands include San Diego-based Babe Kombucha, which makes amazing tropical flavors like Sandia and Maui Wowie; Better Booch, which makes organic teas in flavor combos like Morning Glory and Golden Bear; and Health-Ade, a fan fave that one stoked reviewer describes thusly: “If I could swim in a vat of this sweet nectar, and float like hobbitses down a river so fair, I should count myself far more favored from on high than those who dined upon honeydew and drank the milk of paradise in Kublai Khagan’s pleasure dome.” Pure poetry.
CBD seltzer that looks and feels as good as it tastes
If you haven’t spotted Recess on your local corner-store shelves yet—well, we’d be willing to bet it’s coming soon. The hemp- and adaptogen-infused seltzer is a hit, infusing peach ginger, blood orange, and coconut lime flavors with feel-good compounds including broad-spectrum hemp, ginseng, L-theanine, and lemon balm. The result is a drink that’s as good at soothing midday work jitters as it is at winding you down after a day of stressing out in the DMV line.
Recess has now released a special zero-proof line of “mocktails” including flavors like Margarita, Paloma, Mojito, and Mule—for those of us who are taking a breather from our favorite agave cooler.
We like beer…
Even when there’s no buzz. We’re pretty sure Tom T. would give Athletic Brewing his seal of approval—it’s that tasty. In fact, we included it on our list of best non-alcoholic beers (that actually taste good). Staff food-writer Adam Rothbarth also give Athletic Brewing his stamp of approval—he particularly loves Free Wave, the hazy that “slaps so hard” (in his words).
Cocktail glasses that even make tap water feel luxurious
As 311 once iconically said, amber is the color of your energy. But for real, that warm, 70s glassware look is perfect for serving anything from water to Ghia to a CBD seltz hit with lime.
Negroni glasses are apparently a thing?
That rules. Even if you no longer drink gin, vermouth, or Campari, the notion of a negroni glass is très difficile to resist. Fill it with pomegranate juice on the rocks, one of those Curious Elixirs, or just a CBD seltz.
Whether for Martinelli’s, seltz, or a full-blown—shaken or stirred—non-alcoholic cocktail, chic martini glasses always seem to add a touch of class. You can also serve rice pudding in them (or drink your lover’s spit out of them—we’re vaxxed now, baby).
If you don’t own a bar cart, are you even a millennial?
OK, so you’re too old (and frankly, better off that way) to display empty bottles of Hpnotiq on top of your fridge for, IDK, the clout that you’ve thrown up on the pedals of the Mario Kart machine of a Dave & Buster’s. Even still, you still want a sort of gender-neut Breakfast at Tiffany’s energy in your apartment, because, duh, we all do. Even if you don’t drink, the relaxing, aesthetic ritual of grabbing a fancy glass and pouring a (alcohol-free) drink from a bar cart is simply *chef’s kiss*. Your cart may be stocked with non-alcoholic spirits, but it will still make guests raise their eyebrows and say, “Damn, nice place, dude.”
Or maybe you’re more of the ‘bar cabinet’ type
Many of us embrace maximalism, but not everyone likes visual clutter. If you’re more of the tucked-away type, a bar cabinet is probably the move, with the option of stashing away your spirits and glassware or opening up those doors and showing them off. Go for one with cool mid-century legs, or try a wall-mounted option if you’re low on floor space.
Don’t forget to stock up on sturdy stemware, too. Cheers!
Read the full story on Vice.com HERE.