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When it comes to nonalcoholic spirits, the drinks industry has come a long way in the last ten years. Back then, non-imbibers were relegated to sodas, juices, and sparkling waters. In 2014 Seedlip began offering up a spirit-adjacent alternative, and now we have a full rainbow of booze-free options, from rums and whiskeys to tequilas and aperitivos.
But not all are created equally. “The best nonalcoholic spirits have good balance, that can stand up to being mixed, and that deliver more than just a flavored water experience,” describes Lynnette Marrero, the co-founder of Speed Rack and bar director of Llama Inn and Llama San. “I think of it like food. You have to hit more receptors when alcohol is not included.”
Here are the best nonalcoholic spirits that hit those notes.
Best Overall: Seedlip
There’s a reason Seedlip is a household name when it comes to nonalcoholic spirits. Its neutral profile and excellent mixability make it an easy reach for making nonalcoholic cocktails.
Founded in 2013 by Ben Branson, Seedlip bills itself as a booze-free line of botanical spirit alternatives. While the original option is an excellent alternative to gin or vodka, “My favorite expression is the Garden 108,” says Alejandro Ibanez of Dilworth Tasting Room. “It has flavors of fresh peas and garden herbs that give the spirit very herbaceous notes. That makes it taste similar to the French liquors—Benedictine, Chartreuse, genepy. I find its silky texture is perfect to create Martini-esque and spirit-forward cocktails.”
Good to Know:
How do you drink a nonalcoholic spirit? “Many people enjoy them neat or on the rocks but more commonly in simple cocktails like highballs or easy classic cocktails,“ says Marrero.
Best Whiskey-inspired: Spiritless Kentucky 74
Expect a Kentucky company to produce a worthy alternative to Kentucky bourbon. This nonalcoholic distilled spirit starts as a high-proof aged spirit that is then distilled through a proprietary method to remove almost all of the alcohol. The resulting spirit sits at around 0.5 percent (the same ABV as regular kombucha) and is full of caramel, vanilla, and oak flavors.
One of the big draws of Spiritless is you can use it to cut the proof in your regular bourbon. Split the base of a bourbon cocktail with Kentucky 74 for a lower-alc option.
Bonus: the company was founded by three Kentucky-bred women who wanted a low-ABV alternative to the standard bourbon fare.
Best Rum-inspired: ArKay Rum
ArKay was born in Dubai, where abstaining is a common occurrence due to religious reasons. They concoct a wide range of spirits, including tequila, brandy, and Scottish-, Canadian- and Tennessee-style whisk(e)ys. Try it in a Cuba Libre or pour it into a Pina Colada to cut the sweetness of the pineapple and coconut.
They also have a white rum if you’re eying a Daiquiri, but the spiced rum is unique. Use it in a Mai Tai or Painkiller if you’d like to cut the strength of typical tropical cocktails.
Best Budget: Curious Elixirs
Based out of the Hudson Valley, Curious Elixirs crafts nonalcoholic cocktails packaged in double-serving bottles. Curious No. 1 riffs off the Negroni by using pomegranate and rhodiola extracts, while No. 2 tastes like a Dark & Stormy. Curious No. 3, packed with lemon, cucumber, and genepy-leaning herbs, tastes like a Collins.
The company reproduces the flavors of classic cocktails using only juices, spices, herbs, roots, and barks. The resulting drinks are complex, smooth, and well-balanced—nonalcoholic cocktails sans the effort.
If you’re swinging by a party, pack a few of these in your bag for a low-effort drink option. All options are gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free, plus fair-trade and GMO-free.
Related : The Best Nonalcoholic Beers
Best Campari Sub: Lyre’s Italian Orange
This Australian company makes an impressive (they cleaned up at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, raking in 10 medals) range of zero-proof spirits, including gins, liqueurs, aperitivos, absinthes, and dry vermouths for those abstaining Martini enthusiasts. Their dry London spirits and rums are particularly appealing—they smell and taste just like their alcoholic counterparts, making them excellent for cocktail enthusiasts.
Lyre’s Italian Orange expression is created to replicate a bitter orange aperitif, such as Campari. This particular flavor stands up well poured into a Negroni, an Americano, or in a Spritz.
Lyre’s offers almost a dozen different mixers, so you can replicate a full range of classic cocktails (think Espresso Martinis or Manhattans) with their portfolio alone.
"Lyre's has really nailed the bitter orange complexity of some of my favorite aperitivi in their Italian Orange spirit. I love it in a Spritz but is also delightful just on the rocks with an orange twist." — Prairie Rose, Editor
Best Gin-inspired: Monday Gin
"So as far a NA spirit goes, I really like what Monday Gin is doing,” describes Robert Kidd, the head bartender at the award-winning Le Cavalier in Wilmington, DE. “The flavors are pretty spot-on, and it isn’t hard to get a hold of. There are some other great NA spirits out there, but as far as accessibility, Monday can be found everywhere.”
“The second thing I like about Monday is they focus on gin and whiskey. They do not spread themselves too thin trying to make too much. As far as how to use NA spirits, you can go in two directions—you can make a completely NA cocktail, or you can make a very low-ABV alternative to a cocktail such as a Negroni.”
“Personally, I love making different syrups and shrubs that complement the spirit—lavender and fennel shrub with oranges or a chamomile syrup both mix wonderfully with the juniper in Monday."
Related: The Best Cocktail Glasses
Runner Up, Best Gin-inspired: Salcombe Distilling's New London Light
Salcombe Distilling's New London Light is inspired by gin-making processes, so even though it’s nonalcoholic, it boasts delicious, full-bodied flavors full of zest and unique botanicals.
While the botanical mix does include juniper, it leans farther in the citrus realm with a mix of cardamom, ginger, habanero capsicum, orange, sage, cascarilla bark, and lemongrass—it’s excellent in a spritz.
“Even though it just hit the market, my go-to for no-ABV is now New London Light from Salcombe Distilling Co. It’s super aromatic and definitely achieves a spirited status even with zero alcohol. I like to enhance its body with some simple syrup and verjus, which lets the fresh, citrusy notes of New London Light speak.” — Will Wyatt, owner and beverage director of Mister Paradise and Electric Burrito
Related: The Best Soda Makers
Best Aperitif: Proteau
Marrero also vouches for Proteau. “This was made by bartender John Debary so it is bright, spritzy, and fresh. He uses bitterness and balance to make a nuanced product.”
DeBary brought the product to life after years of digging through books and playing with vinegars and botanicals to make a nonalcoholic spirit that people actually want to sip.
The first release, Ludlow, boasts complex layers of fig vinegar, blackberries, rose flowers, roasted dandelion root, chrysanthemum, and blackberry juice. Sip it over ice. If you’re looking for something more vibrant, the recently-released Rivington Spritz is a refreshing, tart take on with hibiscus, chamomile, strawberry, and Champagne vinegar.
Best CBD: Aplos
While many of these lean on building big flavors to replicate alcohol notes, Aplos leans on CBD. Instead of getting you dizzy and tipsy, this hemp-infused, nonalcoholic beverage aims to get you blissed out and uplifted.
Blending the non-alc industry with the CBD-forward world, Aplos uses active compounds called cannabinoids as the main blend of their spirit. Expect subtle notes of rosemary, cardamom, and citrus, with flavors best mixed with tonic, soda, or citrus.
Lynnette Marrero, who helped develop the flavor profile, notes “I also love the effects of the CBD.”
Best for N/A Negroni: Amass Riverine
Amass dubs their nonalcoholic spirit as a ‘social ritual product,’ making it ideal for shaking and stirring in standard cocktails.
This non-alc option is complex and heavy on the herbaceous, eucalyptus notes (including mint, white thyme, and parsley), making it unique to use in cocktails—try it as an earthy alternative to a vermouth or amaro.
It’s best served with tonic or soda and a swipe of citrus to balance out the sumac, sorrel, and lemon peel in the botanical mix. The lovely woodsy quality from the sumac and thyme also lends itself well to Negronis, along with Mules and Spritzes, and balances out the sweetness of more saccharine cocktails.
Related: The Best Nonalcoholic Drinks
Best for Spritz: Ghia
Inspired by Mediterranean aperitivo hour, Ghia drinks like an elevated amaro. Founder Melanie Masarin blended Riesling grape juice with a range of herbs and extracts to replicate the complexity of apres-dinner drinks. It’s also available in single-serving spritz form.
“It’s fun to experiment with,” says Derek Brown, a spirits expert and the owner of D.C.’s The Columbia Room. “The key to making a delicious drink with this was balancing the bitterness but not losing its flavors by adding a bunch of sugar or citrus.”
Try it in cocktails, or sip it over ice with a splash of soda to let the layers of gentian root, yuzu juice, fig concentrate, elderflower, orange peel, ginger, and rosemary shine.
Seedlip (view at Drizly) has been a frontrunner in the category for years, and for good reason—it makes a perfectly serviceable alternative to normal-proof spirits. If you’re looking for something zero-proof to sip on at the end of a meal, pick up a bottle of Proteau (view at Food52).
What to Look for in a Nonalcoholic Spirit
Consider what your preferred spirit is. Do you want a gin alternative? A hangover-free whiskey for all your Old Fashioned needs? Do you want to sip it neat? Choose accordingly. There are different bottles for each of these options.
Unlike higher-proof spirits, many nonalcoholic drinks have a short shelf life. Lyre’s will expire after 12 weeks, while Ghia must be consumed 4 weeks after opening. If you’re not one to sip these quickly, consider purchasing a bottle with a longer shelf life.
How do you drink NA Spirits (rocks, solo, mixed?)
It depends on the spirits. Some are meant to be mixed into cocktails to add that bite, while others are elegant enough to be sipped neat on the rocks.
How are NA spirits made?
Many spirits are made in the same process as alcoholic spirits before undergoing a secondary process to remove the alcohol. Some nonalcoholic spirits are also fermented a la kombucha.
Are NA spirits the same price as regular spirits with alcohol? Why are they so expensive?
Even though nonalcoholic spirits do not contain alcohol, they still undergo a similar process. Not to mention the cost of production, staffing, shipping, raw materials, and other business expenses.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Kate Dingwall is a wine and spirits writer and a WSET-trained sommelier at one of Canada’s top restaurants. She has spent six years writing about the field and 10 years working as a bartender slash sommelier. Her partner doesn’t drink, so she’s become quite savvy at conjuring up zero-proof happy hours.
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