Our guide to non-alcoholic beverages for the holidays
With the holidays around the corner, party invitations and family gatherings are starting to fill up everyone’s calendar. This time of year can be particularly frustrating for those who don’t drink or who are looking to cut back.
With trends like Dry January and Sober October capturing national attention, the beverage industry has started to take note and there are some delicious new options available for non-drinkers.
Gone are the days of sugary sodas or boring water at parties; now, those who don’t imbibe can enjoy a glass of non-alcoholic wine, a non-alcoholic brew, or a sophisticated cocktail made with a non-alcoholic spirit. Here are some of our favorite options.
What are non-alcoholic spirits?
Non-alcoholic spirits undergo many of the same processes as your everyday gins or whiskeys but also remove or reduce the alcohol content. We like to think of it as preserving the body or complexity of a spirit’s flavor while removing the alcohol itself. It’s helpful to note that most non-alcoholic spirits fall into two camps: those that mimic the taste of other alcohols and those that don’t. These are a few of our favorites of both types.
Seedlip is a pioneer in the non-alcoholic beverage space. Currently, they offer three unique varieties designed to bring complexity and sophistication to otherwise overly-sweet mocktails. Spice 94 is aromatic, earthy, and woody; a nice substitute to gin in most cocktail recipes. Garden 108 is delicate with fresh and floral flavors. Grove 42 is Seedlip’s newest variety, best described as zesty and warm with notes of orange. We recommend starting with the sampler so you can find the spirit that’s right for your tastebuds. It also makes a great host gift or stocking stuffer for your favorite teetotaler.
Ritual Whiskey is the brand’s whiskey substitute. Here, Ritual focused on capturing the oak, caramel, and vanilla flavors of classic whiskey. While some critics dislike the spirit’s flavor profile, most agree it’s a decent substitute in drinks.
Ritual Gin is designed to echo the taste and smell of gin. While some critics dislike the artificial bite that Ritual adds to mimic the kick of alcohol, most found it to be a workable gin or vodka substitute in otherwise boozy cocktails.
What is a mocktail?
A mocktail is pretty much what it sounds like: a mock cocktail. These drinks have come a long way from soda water with a splash of orange juice. As mixologists have started to experiment with non-alcoholic ingredients, we’re seeing more complex non-alcoholic drinks.
The best thing about mocktails is that you can serve them to everyone — kids included — and they make a great secondary drink at big gatherings. Mocktails can also be as fun to make as your traditional cocktails. You can learn how to make non-alcoholic twists on your drinks and find some new treats in the pages of dedicated non-alcoholic recipe books.
“Mocktails: Nonalcoholic Cocktails with Taste and Style” by Caroline Hwang offers beautifully photographed recipes for 80 different drinks, making this a near-exhaustive guide to mocktails. While readers will find drinks suitable for most occasions, some reviewers have found that the recipes rely too heavily on fruit juices.
“Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions” by Clare Liardet is another visually stunning choice that offers 48 drink recipes, including a Beet Virgin Mary and a Blueberry Julep. Critics have found the inclusion of an equipment guide and information on ingredients and simple syrups extra helpful for the home mixologist. Some recipes do require a decent amount of prep work, so if you’re looking for simple recipes this book may not be for you.
What about wine?
Non-alcoholic wine takes traditional wine brewed through typical processes, then the alcohol is removed through vacuum distillation or reverse osmosis. That means a bottle with no alcohol content but with the same taste. Whether you’re missing your evening glass of wine or you’re looking for something bubbly to celebrate with, we suggest these wine substitutes.
Critics say this Ariel Chardonnay Non-alcoholic White Wine is surprisingly close to the real thing. If you’re looking for the buttery and oaky flavor of chardonnay without the buzz, this is a great alternative.
Made from California grapes, this Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon Non-alcoholic Red Wine contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume and tastes like a full-bodied red wine, though it has received some criticism for not living up to expectations.
Sutter Home Fre Brut Non-alcoholic Champagne Wine is a non-alcoholic sparkling wine that’s perfect for celebrations. While this variety is designed to be a brut, some critics say it’s not as dry as your typical alcoholic brut champagnes but still a good substitute.
Don’t forget the beer
Yes, there is more out there than O’Doul’s. Craft brewers and big beer companies have been paying attention to the trend toward more inclusive drink options. Non-alcoholic beer goes through many of the same stages as your everyday brew — the main difference for most non-alcoholic beer is that after the fermentation stage is complete, the beer is heated to remove the alcohol. Beer is considered non-alcoholic when the alcohol level is below 0.5%.
Though excessively expensive, drinkers consider Coors’ non-alcoholic option to be a good alternative to the brand’s traditional drink. The bottle looks very similar to a classic Coors, but it contains none of the alcohol.
Heineken: Zero Non-Alcohol Premium Lager Beer offers another non-alcoholic alternative to a crowd favorite. Most drinkers find this zero alcohol Heineken comparable in taste to the alcoholic version.
For those who prefer a craft brew, Hellraiser Dark Amber Non-Alcoholic Craft Beer from Wellbeing is actually more affordable than non-alcoholic counterparts by big beer companies, and it’s a low-calorie option with a fresh taste
What are my options if I’m not looking for an imitation drink?
For those who want something good to drink but don’t want to imitate a boozy experience, we suggest soda. And before you cringe or roll your eyes, take note: Sodas have come a long way from the classic sugary sweet Coca-Cola we grew up with. Many new options boast no added sugar and interesting — even savory — flavors.
DRY Sparkling is soda for grown-ups. Available in Rainier Cherry, Cucumber, Vanilla, and Ginger, these sodas were designed to be less sweet and to pair nicely with food. Each has fewer grams of sugar and fewer calories than typical sodas.
If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing flavored seltzer, we recommend Spindrift Sparkling Water. Made with real fruit and no added sugar, Spindrift has a fruitier flavor than some other sparkling water brands. The variety pack includes lemon, raspberry lime, orange mango, and grapefruit.
Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Meredith Gallo writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.