Round-Up Rating: Eight Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits
You can’t go anywhere without noticing the shift to non-alcoholic or zero-proof spirits options for imbibing. On restaurant menus, in Instagram ads or on the shelves of your local gourmet shop, the world of “mocktails” is opening up like never before. Whether you’re pregnant, in recovery, want to live a healthier lifestyle, or maybe just want to wake up early without feeling terrible - there are many ways to experience the ritual of a great cocktail without the alcohol. We tried eight different non-alcoholic wine and spirits options to see which are worth the hype, and which are just glorified juice.
#1 Ritual Tequila Alternative ($27): The number one spot goes to Ritual Tequila. It was, in a word, amazing. We couldn’t believe we weren’t drinking a cocktail. Nuanced. Smoky. A little spicy. When mixed with rosemary and citrus simple syrup, lots of fresh lime juice and a salted rim it was everything we wanted in a margarita. The inclusion of green peppers as an ingredient is surprising and definitely adds to the complex flavor profile. It almost sipped more like mezcal, with a subtle smokiness. We would drink it in place of regular tequila any time – plus it has zero calories! Even Martha Stewart loves it (they have a testimonial from her on the website!). Ritual also makes a whiskey and gin alternative, and we will definitely be trying both.
#2 Tarta Sweet Balsamic Soda ($8.99 for a 4-pack): This one was a really pleasant surprise. This tart, sour “soda” ended up being the most fulfilling replacement for wine when chilled and poured into a wine glass. They offer three flavors: Honey Wildflower, Champagne Lemon Citrus and Orange Blossom Ginger, and all three were delicious. Don’t be fooled though - they definitely taste a bit like vinegar. If you’re a fan of sour beers or Pet Nats, it will be right up your alley. Plus, on their website, they tout all of the health benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar, of which there is 1 tablespoon in each can!
#3 Seedlip Grove 42 ($32): Seedlip is another example of gorgeous packaging from a non-alcoholic spirits brand that looks right at home on your bar cart. We went with the Citrus Seedlip (Grove 42) and were pleasantly surprised with its lack of sweetness and its versatility. It smells strongly of oranges, and works well with any citrus juice, ginger, chili flavors, cranberry - this list goes on. Our favorite preparation was an orange ginger “martini” with a salted chili powder rim (made with our favorite ginger shrub from Tait Farms). It truly felt like a cocktail experience. This Seedlip blend would work well as a replacement for just about any spirit (tequila, gin or vodka).
#4 Monday Gin ($39.99): This fake gin grew on us. It smells grassy and the juniper scent is detectible right away, making it feel like a real gin cocktail. However, it falls a bit flat and doesn’t have any sort of “kick” like alcohol would lend to a drink. Once mixed over large format ice with Q Tonic, a generous squeeze of lime and a few dashes of Jack’s Citrus Bitters, it turned into a fairly satisfying replacement for a G&T. The packaging is gorgeous and comes with very nice recipe cards, plus it has zero carbs, no sugar, no calories and is vegan.
#5 Spirit of Tequila ($37): It was interesting to contrast two different mock tequilas and see how different they were. While the Ritual Tequila was full of flavor and spice, Spirit of Tequila was far less flavorful. It did offer a tiny “kick” - almost like real alcohol, and was completely serviceable for a mock margarita. One note - shipping was $10 compared to many of these brands offering $5 shipping.
#6 Ghia ($33): Ghia hooked us with their great Instagram ads and their beautiful bottle, and while it was good, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as some of the other options. It was a bit syrupy, but when mixed with club soda was definitely reminiscent of a cocktail. The herbal notes are strong, and it’s not too sweet. We could see it mixing well with lots of different mixers - citrus, syrups, etc.
(Editor's note: careful if you are pregnant, the strong herbs in Ghia might not be compatible with pregnancy. Check with your doc.)
#7 Curious Elixirs ($35 for a 4-pack, 2 drinks in each bottle): We tried the #1 which was their “Negroni”. The first flavor you get is a hint of licorice, then the pomegranate. It’s quite sweet but the licorice does give it an interesting flavor that doesn’t make it feel like your drink is just a glass of pomegranate and orange juice. Adding a fresh orange garnish helped to add a bit more freshness and reduce the heaviness. We would definitely try their other flavors, especially when looking for a quick mocktail. We appreciate the fact that you just pour and drink - although we would probably add a dash of bitters.
#8 Acid Leauge “Proxy” Wines ($70 for a 3-pack of bottles): The biggest disappointment of the bunch. We had such high hopes based on the complex flavor profiles presented in the tasting notes (beautiful printed cards included in the shipment) and the branding and design of the bottles is gorgeous. We also appreciated the pairing recommendations, and created a cheese plate of goat cheese and honey for the Bee Complex varietal. Unfortunately, the first taste was a bit of a let down - it lacked nuance and complexity. It also took forever to ship and was pretty pricey for glorified juice.
Whatever your reasons, we left this taste-test excited for anyone who’s looking to brand out from alcohol without sacrificing the joy of a homemade cocktail. Here are a few more helpful tips:
• Invest in fancy seltzers, shrubs, syrups and bitters. They add so much flavor and nuance to make a drink feel special.
• Pre-batch jars of strained citrus juice and keep in the fridge. This helps make mixing up a mocktail so fast!
• Play around with making your own simple syrups (1 part sugar + 1 part water). Steep herbs like basil, cilantro, mint or even dried hibiscus flowers for an extra special mixer.
• Use large-format ice in your shaker and in your cocktails - in the shaker it really helps get the texture you want in a cocktail, and we found that the colder the better for a mocktail. Large square silicone ice trays are great!
• Use savory flavors like salt and olive oil in your mocktails to balance the sweet flavors you will find in a lot of non-alcoholic spirits.