Excerpted from Liquor.com.
Making a sophisticated alcohol-free cocktail has never been easier, thanks to a growing number of complex non-alcoholic bottlings made with interesting botanicals and flavorings. With global sales currently at just under $10 billion, IWSR projects that the low- and no-alcohol space will have a compound annual growth rate of 8% from 2021 to 2025.
As the category expands, alcohol-free spirits are becoming increasingly diverse and experimental. While several brands tout themselves as direct replacements for the likes of gin, whiskey, rum, or tequila, others avoid such specific comparisons, letting their unique profiles speak for themselves. The best of these present complex, sometimes unfamiliar flavors with balance and harmony, just as a traditional spirit would.
We tried more than 75 zero-proof spirits, testing them in a number of ways—neat, with simple mixers, and in complex shaken and stirred cocktails—then rounded up our favorites for each application.
Although the bottles we tasted varied widely in flavor and ideal usage, we noted some best practices across the board for working with non-alcoholic spirits. Because N/A spirits contain a higher proportion of water than their alcoholic counterparts, they require less dilution when mixed. As such, we generally found that cocktails made with zero-proof spirits benefited from shortened shaking and mixing times.
Unlike traditional spirits, which are usually shelf-stable for extended periods of time, the products below all have expiration dates, making it important to check the labels. Once opened, most are recommended to be consumed within 3–6 months, and some require refrigeration. In addition, many are not as filtered as full-proof spirits, lending them a cloudy or even turbid appearance; gently shake these before using.
Finally, most non-alcoholic spirits are intended for mixing and generally shouldn’t be served on their own. However, we do recommend neat pours of some of the bottles we tasted, including Dromme Calm, the Everleaf portfolio, Figlia 001. Fiore, For Bitter For Worse’s The Saskatoon and Smoky No. 56, Ghia, Pentire Adrift and Seaward, The Pathfinder Hemp & Root, and Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo.
The products selected below all showcased unique flavors and mixability. Many are as versatile as traditional spirits like gin or rum, shining in a variety of applications and deftly adapting to traditional cocktail recipes, albeit with a tweak or two. Treat this list as an introductory guide, and enjoy experimenting.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits to Sip with Soda Water
Products with stronger flavor profiles and a touch of sweetness, such as non-alcoholic amari and aperitifs, make an ideal match for soda water’s blank canvas. However, be aware that your usual proportions may need adjusting—for most of these spirits, a 1:1 ratio of spirit to soda works best to balance flavor with refreshing fizz. Feel free to experiment to find the proportion that best suits your tastes.
Amethyst Lemon Cucumber Serrano ($30; 750ml)
A touch of lemon oleo saccharum sets off the fresh cucumber and chile pepper notes.
Dromme Calm ($37; 750ml)
Maple syrup gives body to this botanical blend, while warm baking spices, dried orange peel, and toasted nuts add further dimension.
Everleaf Forest ($34; 500 ml)
Woodsy flavors, vanilla, molasses, and dried herbs are balanced by a pleasant bitterness in this non-alcoholic aperitif.
Ghia Apéritif ($38; 500 ml)
A bite of spice and lively botanicals meet dark fruit in this bittersweet aperitif. Try it with a grapefruit peel garnish.
The Pathfinder Hemp & Root ($40; 700ml)
A standout among the zero-proof field, this amaro-like beverage also works well with ginger ale and in cocktails that would benefit from bittersweet notes.
Pentire Seaward ($40; 700ml)
Using soda water as a blank canvas allows this bottle’s delicate notes of oyster shell, grapefruit, and kelp to shine; it also shows strongly in more complex cocktails.
Spiritless Kentucky 74 ($36; 750ml)
This versatile whiskey analog has prominent oak, vanilla, and raisin notes that also work well with ginger ale, or in cocktails like a Whiskey Sour.
Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo ($37; 750ml)
Pair with soda water to make a simple spritz that would fit right in at an Italian café. This red bitter-style aperitivo shines in more complex cocktails as well.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits for an Old Fashioned
Although their lack of body and alcohol make most zero-proof spirits a poor match for the Old Fashioned, a few work surprisingly well. When you’re making a non-alcoholic Old Fashioned, try experimenting with a few different sweeteners, like maple, agave, and simple syrup. Mixing-and-matching traditional Angostura with other bitters, like plum, mole, or chocolate, can also yield added depth and flavor. (Keep in mind that most bitters contribute a scant amount of alcohol to a cocktail, although alcohol-free brands exist.)
Ceder’s Wild ($23; 500ml)
Its cloves, juniper, and woodsy incense flavors pop when paired with maple syrup and Angostura bitters.
Spiritless Kentucky 74 Spiced ($36; 700ml)
Meant to stand in for cinnamon-flavored whiskey, it’s shockingly good as an Old Fashioned base, but pull back on the sweetener.
Monday Zero Alcohol Whiskey ($52; 750ml)
A quirky profile of mocha latte limits the spirit’s other possible uses, but it shines with chocolate bitters and simple syrup.
Rasāsvāda Black Ginger ($75; 750ml)
Cacao nibs, molasses, and an earthy mushroom flavor make for an unorthodox but compelling Old Fashioned.
Read the full article HERE on liquor.com.