By Joy Johnston
It's a stressful time around the world now, as everyone has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in one form or another. If you are trying to relieve anxiety but in a healthier way, consider one of the many non-alcoholic or low alcohol options that are now available. I've spent the past several months trying a variety of these beverages. Here's what I discovered.
Lower alcohol beverages:
Haus: This stylish brand makes a line of wine-based apéritifs, complex in flavor but lower in alcohol than traditional cocktails. I tried the Bitter Clove flavor, which had characteristics of a whiskey-based cocktail. I also enjoyed the Spiced Cherry variety. Haus, at 18 percent ABV, can be consumed with or without mixers. I enjoyed it both on the rocks and with tonic water. You can try it with sparkling water as well. This flavor is a great sipper for fall and winter, but Haus has several other flavors to choose from. Haus is an online retailer and can be sold wherever wine can be shipped. Get a discount using my code.
Wilderness Road: Produced by Scout & Cellar, it is referred to as the "world's first mixable." Made from wine grapes, it is a lower-alcohol alternative to liquor. At 19.5 percent ABV, it's about half the alcohol content of traditional liquor brands. The clean, light tasting beverage is meant to be mixed, and can be enjoyed with seltzer, soda, fruit juices or tonic water. I especially enjoyed it with lemon and tonic water. Wilderness Road comes in two flavors and can be purchased on the Scout & Cellar website.
Pip's Piquette: Also from Scout & Cellar, this is a wine-based beverage with a very low ABV of 2.5 percent. It is produced using the byproducts of the wine-making process, with this variety made from viognier grapes. It is surprisingly dry (a bonus to my taste) and and has a bit of a fizz to it. These are ideal choices for an afternoon gathering. I can imagine it would be a go-to drink for outdoor activities in the summer as well.
There has been a growing interest in mocktails over the last few years. Younger generations are incorporating cannabis more into their lifestyle and seek no-alcohol or lower alcohol beverages. I've tried a few of the more popular brands.
Note the term "mocktails" is not favored by some in the industry, who prefer alcohol-free, non-alcoholic or similar terminology. You may see a variety of terms used on a bar menu.
Epic Pursuit: This is Scout & Cellar's non-alcoholic offering, and I am a big fan. In fact, I liked this product more than it's low-alcoholic counterpart! It has a hint of honey (but is definitely not sweet) and floral notes, making for a tasty, fizzy drink.
Spiritless: One of the most difficult non-alcoholic feats to pull off is a beverage that can be a substitute for bourbon. Since that happens to be my favorite liquor, it's been my personal goal to explore the alcohol-free bourbon options. I have been disappointed in the offerings, as earnest as they may be, until I tried Spiritless. There is a lot of hype surrounding this product created by three women from bourbon-loving Louisville, Kentucky. I found Spiritless to be the closest to the essence of bourbon, compared to the other products on the market that I've tried. It's still best when used in a mixed cocktail (ginger beer is a good choice) but I did enjoy it on the rocks as well. Spiritless is also recommended to blend "halfsies" by taking your favorite bourbon and cutting it in half with Spiritless. This is a great way to ease yourself into lower alcohol consumption.
This is my favorite of the mocktail offerings that I've tried. To me, the key to a good non-alcoholic beverage is delivering a complex flavor profile, not just an artificially flavored knockoff of a classic cocktail. Curious Elixirs delivers. They offer four different flavors that include botanicals designed to help one relax. There is no added sugar in their products, only the naturally occurring sugar from the fruit juice that serves as the base of their products.
Monday Gin: If you've been craving a gin and tonic but are trying to avoid or limit your alcohol intake, Monday Gin offers a solid, zero-alcohol product. I am a G&T fan and found Monday Gin offered the closest flavor profile to the real thing, compared to other NA liquor products I've tried. Use a good tonic water (I used Fever Tree) to boost the complexity of the cocktail. Available on Amazon or direct from the company.
I was skeptical about trying this Australian line of non-alcoholic spirits but was pleasantly surprised. I tried the American Malt and the Apertif Rosso (sweet vermouth.) I found the taste profile to be close to the real thing. The mouthfeel isn't quite there, but that isn't a dealbreaker for me. Lyre's has a complete line of offerings, pretty much everything a liquor drinker would keep in their home bar. The products are vegan and use natural ingredients. I was able to purchase Lyre's on Amazon.
Hella Cocktail Co.
I'm a huge fan of this company's bitters and soda product. I've tried the dry aromatic version and love the complex flavor. This is a great after-work sipper and is nice to enjoy outdoors. Drop a slice of orange or lime in it. The dry aromatic product contains no sugar. I ordered this from Amazon.
If you are looking for a delicately flavored base to create a non-alcoholic cocktail, consider Seedlip. While they refer to their products as spirits, Seedlip is water flavored with a variety of botanicals and extracts. They offer three different flavor profiles. While you can drink Seedlip by itself, it's ideal when mixing with soda or juice. Seedlip products contain no sugar or artificial sweeteners, a bonus in my book.
A product designed to target women and the wellness sphere, Rock Grace is a delicately flavored product that is a healthy alternative to wine. Aiming to attract rosé wine drinkers, the pink beverage includes botanicals, adaptogens and crystals which are designed to support physical and mental wellness.
Ritual makes non-alcoholic liquor alternatives. As a bourbon drinker, I really wanted to like their take on whiskey alternative, but sadly, I was not a fan. It tasted a bit like watered down apple cider vinegar with some pepper to capture the burn of real liquor. I get what they are going for, but I hope they take some of the critical reviews to heart and work on perfecting the flavor profile. With some flavor tweaks, this could be a game-changer. I would love to have a non-alcoholic bourbon option, as that is my favorite liquor. They also offer a gin alternative which I have not tried.
CBD soda: I eliminated soda from my diet years ago, but I did sample CBD Hemp Soda from Cannabinoid Creations. The grape limeade flavor was tasty. I didn't drink the bottle in one sitting, so I can't comment on the CBD effect. Since I avoid as much sugar as possible, this won't be a regular go-to drink for me but it is enjoyable as a special treat.
CBD tea: I enjoy CBD-infused tea from The Brothers Apothecary. The generous tea bags are stuffed with tea leaves, spices, botanicals and CBD hemp flower. You can definitely taste the hemp. I like to add a bit of non-dairy creamer and CBD-infused honey that the company also makes.
CBD sparkling water
Recess: Sparkling water infused with hemp extract and adaptogens, I found Recess to be a tasty beverage. There are three flavors to choose from. Sugar content is between 4-6 grams.
Unfortunately, due to having celiac disease, I can't enjoy most of the new wave of NA beers that are on the market. Make no mistake, these are not like O'Douls. These beverages are carefully crafted to taste like a beer, but without the alcohol. Look for brands like Athletic Brewing and Wellbeing Brewing Company.
A couple of gluten-free options:
Glutenberg makes a NA beer, in addition to their gluten-free beer line. I'm a fan of their gluten-free beer, but have not been able to find their NA offering in Atlanta.
Hop water: I really enjoy Lagunitas Brewing Company's Hoppy Refresher. If you like hoppy beer, give hop water a chance. I love the fact that it is unsweetened. It's hard to describe other than it tastes like a hop-flavored soda. The flavor is not overpowering, but satisfying.
H2OPS also makes a sparkling hop water.
Natural wines: While I have not found a satisfying non-alcoholic wine, there are thankfully healthier wines on the market that are lower in alcohol. Natural wines are just like they sound, wines created without adding sugar and without using pesticides. These wines limit the use of sullfites that many commercial wines contain, which tend to magnify hangovers. My experience with natural wines has been very positive. I no longer experience rosacea when drinking natural red wines. I love the fact that natural wines are lower in alcohol, with red wines to be found in the 12 percent range and whites in the 9-11 percent range. It's nice to be able to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with a meal, and enjoy the relaxing qualities without the traditional side effects. (That being said, natural wines do contain alcohol and moderation is key.)
Here are the natural wine vendors I have ordered from so far. I would recommend any of these companies. (Note that during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, expect delays in shipment. Refer to each company's website for details on availability and shipping times.)
Offers carefully curated natural wine bundles. The company's website includes detailed information about the vineyards they work with. The wines are pricey (average around $30 per bottle) but are high quality and shipping is free. All of the wines contain 12.5 percent alcohol or less.
Offers an extensive selection of natural wines. Prices range on average between $25 and $30 per bottle, with some special selections closer to $40 per bottle.
This company offers an entire online natural food grocery story, in addition to a selection of natural wines. The company refers to their wine selection as clean wines, which includes a variety of organic, no added sugar, biodynamic and pesticide-free offerings.