If you’ve been wanting to take a break from your chardonnay habit (or give up the hard stuff altogether), the traditional alternatives haven’t been very inspiring.
Non-alcoholic wine and beer aren’t terribly tasty, and nobody over the age of 10 wants to order a Shirley Temple. But all that’s all changing with the emergence of natural cocktail mixers with sophisticated flavors, and the slick new breed of zero-proof distilled drinks that offer the concentrated flavors and texture of a spirit without any alcohol. Some of them can even alter your mood, with uplifting or calming herbs and adaptogens.
Dry January has made it fashionable to give up booze for at least a month. But these non-alcoholic drink options may tempt you to extend your booze-free habit into the rest of the year. Dry December, anyone?
Three Spirit is a trio of functional botanical elixirs that can alter your mood sans alcohol, Alice in Wonderland style. Tatiana Mercer, who founded the brand with her husband, Dash Lilley, and friend, Meeta Gournay, wanted to create a social drink that supported wellness. “They want to enhance socialization and people connecting without intoxicating themselves,” says Geyan Surendran, the brand’s botanical alchemist.
Green tea and ginseng make the Livener invigorating, while Schisandra berry invites euphoria. Social Elixir makes mingling easier, thanks to damiana, a reputed aphrodisiac (though science doesn’t support that yet) and lion’s mane, a medicinal mushroom that studies say eases depression. Meanwhile, Nightcap’s dark flavors include soothing valerian, lemon balm, and hops to get you ready for slumber. Surendran says Nightcap is a perfect stand-in for whiskey or rum in a hot toddy, hot buttered rum, or wassail. Both Gournay and Mercer like to chill out with the Nightcap Old Fashioned.
Nightcap Old Fashioned
2 ounces Nightcap
5 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange slice, for garnish
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Combine Nightcap and bitters in a rocks glass and top with ice. Stir until ice-cold, then garnish with the orange slice and cherry.
Simple Goodness Sisters
Venise Cunningham and her husband run America’s only self-proclaimed cocktail farm up in Buckley, Washington, just outside Seattle. The farm is the source for the Simple Goodness Sisters line of natural syrups which she makes with her sister Belinda Kelly, a bartender. Their mixers—in flavors ranging from Lemon Herb to Blueberry Lavender and Rhubarb Vanilla—are delicious with club soda. The Berry Sage, which also includes ginger root, is a great digestive tonic after a meal. “It’s a great hosting drink because it has all those warm fall flavors,” says Kelly.
Cranberry Sage Spritzer
1 ounce Simple Goodness Sisters Berry Sage Syrup
½ ounce Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple-Cranberry Juice
½ ounce lime juice
3 ounces club soda
Cranberries for garnish (optional)
Fresh sage for garnish (optional)
In a rocks glass, add Berry Sage syrup, apple-cranberry juice, and lime juice. Stir to combine then add ice. Top with up to 3 ounces of club soda. Garnish with cranberries on a cocktail skewer, or a sprig of sage.
In the club of chic non-alcoholic spirits coming from the UK, Seedlip is ahead of the curve. Ben Branson, a mixologist with a family in the agriculture business, distills spices and citrus peels in a copper pot and then removes the alcohol to create a flavorful non-alcoholic spirit. When he released the first 1,000 handmade bottles of Seedlip spice in 2015, they sold out in a few weeks. Since then, he’s added a Seedlip Garden 108, made with hay, peas, and herbs; and Seedlip Grove 42 with orange, ginger, and Japanese sansho peppercorns.
2 ounces Seedlip Garden 108
1 ounce unfiltered apple juice
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce maple syrup
3 ounces soda water
Apple fan, for garnish
Add all ingredients except soda water to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold and strain into a chilled highball glass. Top with soda water and add fresh ice.
Garnish with an apple fan.
John Wiseman was looking for a way to drink less when he discovered adaptogens, natural herbal compounds that help manage stress, and feel more energetic (or chilled out). His Curious Elixir range includes four ready-to-drink blends. The herbs and pomegranate in No. 1 evoke a Negroni with a dash of Rhodiola Rosea, an herb used in Europe to treat depression and fatigue. No. 2 is reminiscent of a spicy pineapple margarita made with a splash of rum and damiana. No. 3 is all cucumbers citrus and flowers like a refreshing Collins.
Its active ingredient, ashwagandha, can blast anxiety, support brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels. Larissa Greer, the brand’s creative director, says while Curious Elixirs can be enjoyed straight, it’s fun to get creative. “I like twisting it up because it gives the cocktail ritual its magic back,” she says. “Getting creative with glassware and garnishes makes it just as fun to stay sober.” For an easy cocktail, just pour No. 1 over a rocks glass full of ice, squeeze in a half blood orange, and garnish with a twist.
Founder Jen Batchelor is the daughter of a bootlegger who grew up in Saudi Arabia, where parties without alcohol were the norm. Her Kin blends, launched in 2018, employ Ayurvedic and Western botanicals including Rhodiola Rosea, an adaptogen that can balance cortisol. High Rhode tastes tart and floral, while the Kin Spritz is citrusy and sparkling. Both include mood enhancers GABA (which calms the nervous system) and 5-HTP (to support serotonin production), plus caffeine to give you a lift. The smoky, spicy Dream Light has reishi mushroom, passionflower, and melatonin, which can bring on a mellow mood.
Dream Light Delight
2 ounces Dream Light
1 ounce warm or cold milk of your choice (we love oat milk)
Ground cinnamon, for garnish
Mix Dream Light with your favorite milk and garnish with the ground cinnamon. For a warm drink, heat milk in a mug and then combine it with Dream Light. For a cold libation, serve in a rocks glass and top with ice.