Non-alcoholic spirits are like plant-based meat. You shouldn’t expect either to taste exactly like their counterparts, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable.
And people are enjoying non-alcoholic spirits more than ever. U.S. Google searches for them skyrocketed 1,157% between Jul. 2020 and Nov. 2022, according to Semrush search data. And NielsenIQ data shows that total sales of non-alcoholic spirits increased 88.4% between Aug. 2021 and Aug. 2022. Non-alcoholic spirits — as well as non-alcoholic wine and beer — are only becoming more desirable as the pool of people identifying as “sober curious” grows, meaning they’re examining their relationship with alcohol and experimenting with not drinking, said Casey McGuire Davidson, a life and sobriety coach.
SKIP AHEAD Best non-alcoholic spirits | How to shop for non-alcoholic spirits | What do non-alcoholic spirits taste like? | How to store non-alcoholic spirits
But what are non-alcoholic spirits exactly, and how should you go about choosing from the myriad of options available to shop? Below, we talked to experts about the best non-alcoholic spirits to try this year, as well as learned how to shop for non-boozy beverages that fit your taste palette.
What are non-alcoholic spirits and how are they made?
Non-alcoholic spirits are typically analogs of traditional alcoholic spirits, like whiskey, rum, aperitifs, bitters, tequila and more, said Nick Bodkins, co-founder and CEO of Boisson, a non-alcoholic retailer with locations in New York and California. This means they’re created to imitate the flavor of their alcoholic counterparts as much as possible. Often, these non-alcoholic spirits are distilled using the same process you would use to distill alcoholic spirits, but the alcohol is then removed, said Chris Marshall, owner of Sans Bar, an alcohol-free bar in Austin, Texas. “New technology has made this possible,” he said. “Even 10 years ago, this was not possible.”
Beyond non-alcoholic spirits that are direct alternatives to alcoholic spirits, brands are designing botanical beverages meant to be used similarly cocktails (or mocktails, in this case). These botanicals contain plant-derived ingredients like fruit and vegetable extracts or concentrates, teas and spices. Brands use many different methods to make these botanicals and create their unique flavors. For example, some lean on distillation while others use a process called compounding, which involves mixing the plant-derived ingredients with water. “These botanicals usually have no direct competitor and there’s no alcoholic version of them,” said Marshall. “They’re doing their own unique thing.”
And like with non-alcoholic wine, in order for spirits to be considered non-alcoholic — or called “dealcoholized” or “alcohol-removed” — they must contain 0.5% or less alcohol by volume (ABV), according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Alcohol-free,” however, can only be used to describe beverages with absolutely no detectable alcohol, the FDA says.
The best non-alcoholic spirits of 2023
Below, we rounded up non-alcoholic spirits recommended by experts, that we’ve tried ourselves or from brands we’ve previously covered. We made sure to include some non-alcoholic spirits meant to be direct alternatives for their alcoholic counterparts, in addition to unique botanicals you may want to experiment with.
Ritual Tequila Alternative
Marshall said Ritual’s line of spirits are easily accessible to shoppers since they’re available at many retailers and are sold at what he called a “great price range.” Ritual’s zero-proof tequila alternative is made from cane sugar like its alcoholic counterpart. It has notes of green pepper with a grassy body, the brand says, and while it’s made to add to margaritas, you can use it in any mocktail. The beverage comes in eco-friendly packaging, including a box made from recycled materials and a recyclable wood cork and glass bottle.
Lyre’s Highland Malt Non-Alcoholic Spirit
Lyre’s is a non-alcoholic spirit I commonly see on the “zero proof” section of bar menus, but you can also purchase the brand’s beverages to drink at home. Lyre’s Highland Malt spirit offers depth in flavor with oak tannin and nutty grain characters, the brand says, plus a subtle smokiness and hints of almonds and vanilla. The beverage is designed to drink on ice or neat, as well as in mocktails, Lyre’s says.
Ghia Non-Alcoholic Apéritif
Apéritifs are beverages served before meals to prepare your palate and Ghia — one of our favorite women-owned businesses that also appeared on Shark Tank – offers non-alcoholic options in 500 ml. bottles, plus spritzed versions in single-serve cans. Its apéritif is made with botanical and herbal ingredients, like white grape juice concentrate, lemon balm extract, fig concentrate and more. The brand suggests making mocktails with one part Ghia, one part bubbly mixer.
Seedlip Grove 42
Seedlip offers its non-alcoholic spirit in three flavors: Garden 108, Citrus Grove 42 and Spice 94. The brand says its beverages are not meant to be a gin, vodka, tequila or rum alternative, but rather they offer a unique flavor derived from plant-based ingredients and spices. They’re also not designed to drink straight or neat — you can use them to make mocktails like non-alcoholic margaritas and mojitos, for example. My favorite Seedlip flavor is Grove 42, which offers notes of orange, ginger and lemongrass. I typically mix it into fruity mocktails.
Kin Euphorics Dream Light
Kin Euphorics — one of our favorite Latino-owned businesses — makes botanical non-alcoholic spirits made with adaptogens, which are plants and mushrooms that help the body manage stress, the brand says. It offers canned beverages as well as two mixers: Dream Light and High Rhode. The brand’s Dream Light beverage is designed to drink at night and is formulated with reishi mushroom, melatonin and L-Tryptophan, natural ingredients that support a calm, restful state, according to Kin Euphorics. The beverage is blended with herbs like clove and cinnamon to give it a smooth, earthy oaky flavor. Select editorial operations associate Rebecca Rodriguez tried the brand’s Kin Spritz and said it’s emblematic of a refreshing cocktail with an energy kick.
Marshall recommended Drømme’s botanical non-alcoholic spirits, which are similar to Kin Euphorics since they’re also made with adaptogens. The brand offers two beverages: Calm and Awake. Awake is made with guava leaf, Schisandra Chinensis (a type of berry) and Szechuan Pepper. The brand says it’s designed to have a stimulating and energizing effect, the direct opposite of its Dream beverage, which is meant to have a soothing effect.
Tenneyson Black Ginger
Marshall said one of his favorite non-alcoholic spirits is Tenneyson’s Black Ginger botanical. It’s made with plant-based ingredients like dandelion, lemon balm, bergamot, yerba mate, grape seed and gentian (a flowering plant), giving it a concentrated, robust taste that’s spicy and zesty. The brand says you can drink it neat or on the rocks, as well as in mixed drinks.
Figlia Fiore Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo
From another one of our favorite women-owned businesses, Figlia’s Fiore aperitivo has a floral, bitter, aromatic taste profile and is made with plant-based ingredients like bitter orange rind, rose extract, ginger juice and spices. You can drink the aperitivo — which comes in a 750 ml. bottle — over ice. Figlia also sells Fiore Frizzante, a canned, sparkling version of its non-alcoholic beverage.
How to shop for non-alcoholic spirits
Like with wines, finding non-alcoholic spirits you enjoy involves a lot of experimentation. “Go with what you normally like to drink or, on the contrary, try a spirit that’s entirely a new experience and isn’t a direct imitation of an alcoholic spirit,” Bodkins said. “We have some customers who are die-hard bourbon fans and can’t get over the non-alcoholic taste difference. Instead, they may love [non-alcoholic] apéritifs that are sophisticatedly bitter or complex, giving them an option that’s interesting to their palate.”
What do non-alcoholic spirits taste like?
Marshall compared non-alcoholic spirits to plant-based meat — like how you wouldn’t expect a plant-based alternative to taste like a great steak, you shouldn’t expect non-alcoholic spirits to taste exactly like their alcoholic counterparts. If you do, you’re likely to be disappointed, Marshall said.
“You’re never going to get the full flavor profile because by removing the alcohol, you’re removing something that is characteristically what you enjoy about spirits, their flavor profile and your understanding of how that tastes,” he said.
However, if you’re open to experimenting with new flavors, you can find non-alcoholic spirits you enjoy. “Approach non-alcoholic spirits with curiosity,” Marshall said. He noted that it’s fun to buy a few different types and do a taste test with family or friends, which allows you to try several options at once and brainstorm about how you may want to drink them.
How to drink non-alcohol spirits
“You’re not going to find many non-alcoholic spirits you can just drink straight,” Marshall said, noting that the industry is moving towards creating these beverages, but it’s not there yet. Instead, non-alcoholic spirits are usually designed to be added to mocktails or mixed with tonic, for example. “For the most part it’s a one-to-one replacement for an alcoholic cocktail,” Bodkins said.
Where to buy non-alcoholic spirits
As the non-alcoholic wine, beer and spirits industry grows, shoppers’ pool of beverage options is only expanding and getting your hands on them is becoming much more accessible. In addition to local stores in your neighborhood and selling products through their websites, some brands are also available at large retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart and more, in addition to alcohol-specific online delivery services like Drizly. Non-alcoholic retailers like Boisson, The New Bar (one of our favorite Latino-owned businesses) and The Zero Proof ship beverages across the country, and you can also use grocery delivery services like Whole Foods Market on Amazon, Instacart and Gopuff.
How to store non-alcoholic spirits and how long they last
Each non-alcoholic spirit has different storage requirements to make it last as long as possible. Generally speaking, however, most non-alcoholic spirits are shelf-stable, similar to alcoholic spirits, Marshall said. “You get the experience of being able to leave non-alcoholic spirits out on a shelf or bar cart like alcoholic spirits,” he noted. Once opened, Marshall suggested enjoying them for up to six months, but be sure to visit the brand’s website or read the packaging to see if there’s a specific “best by” date you should keep in mind.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Casey McGuire Davidson is a life and sobriety coach, and host of The Hello Someday Podcast.
- Nick Bodkins is the CEO and cofounder of Boisson, a non-alcoholic drinks retailer with locations in New York and California.
- Chris Marshall is the owner and founder of Sans Bar, an alcohol-free bar in Austin, Texas.
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