For anyone looking to reduce or alter their alcohol intake, Dry January isn’t just a month-long sobriety marathon; it’s a testing ground for alternatives that could be revisited throughout the year. Many people (ourselves included) find the bulk of alcohol-free distilled spirits and beers to be disappointing. There always seems to be something missing—or sugar has been added to fill in the flavor profile. The six selections below, all of which we’ve tried extensively, exceed expectation. They taste delicious and many of the spirits are dynamic enough that they can fold into virgin cocktails, too.
Salcombe Distilling Co’s New London Light
Salcombe Distilling Co‘s refreshing alcohol-free spirit New London Light ($35), aka NLL, is born from the distillate of three botanicals: Macedonian juniper berries, ginger and habanero capsicum. The South Devon, England-based brand then incorporates 15 additional components—ranging from citrus and cardamom to sage. Every ingredient is all-natural (and there’s no added sugar) and the resulting liquid is aromatic, zesty and smooth from start to finish. It can be served any way—neat, on the rocks or as a replacement for gin in a cocktail.
The hemp-infused non-alcoholic spirit Aplós ($48) aims to uplift with each sip. Every two-ounce pour of the complex beverage delivers 20mg of broad-spectrum hemp extract. The liquid is sugar-free and drawn from non-GMO components only. The luscious flavor profile—citrus first, followed by notes of rosemary—was formulated in collaboration with James Beard honoree Lynnette Marrero. It’s so fresh that each 500ml bottle only has a 60-day shelf life after opening. Aplós can be served on the rocks, where its brightness shines through, but it can also mix well (the brand offers recipes on their site).
We attended the online launch of Suntory All-Free ($20 for a six-pack) last July, as we were eager to see if the Japanese brand could maintain its commitment to quality and replicate the success it has seen with whisky, gin and vodka. To our delight, the sparkling malt-and-hops beverage (as they refer to it) delivers lasting effervescence and crisp, albeit light, flavor.
Optimist Botanicals Smoky Spirit
Beverage brand Optimist Botanicals specializes in distilled, non-alcoholic spirits. Their Smokey ($35) iteration—available now in 500ml bottles—employs clove, ginger, sage, bergamot, cinnamon leaf, habanero and angelica root to replicate the experience of sipping an ultra-smooth, subtle mezcal. A suggested serving entails mixing one part Smokey and two parts sparkling (tonic or club). We found, though, that mixing equal parts proves even more pleasant on the palate.
Rasāsvāda concoctions ($72) are made from hand-gathered whole plants often used in ancient traditions and contemporary customs. These non-alcoholic botanical blends (“spirit restoratives” as the brand calls them) provide benefits that include aiding digestion, reducing stress and more. Available in three complex iterations—Rose Bergamot, Black Ginger and our favorite, the fresh and bitter Ruby Artemisia—these delightful drinks come in 375ml or 750ml bottles, and in cases of three or 12. Multi-packs of all three flavors are also available.
Packed with citrus and floral flavors, Ghia ($33) comprises riesling white grape juice, yuzu and fig, along with extract of orange peel, elderflower, ginger, rosemary and lemon balm. The many fresh ingredients and lack of alcohol or sugar means the bottle should be consumed within three weeks of opening. Tasty and herbaceous, this apéritif packs quite a potent punch. Mix it with seltzer water and serve over ice for a simple sipper, or take a look at their website for more involved mocktails.
Hero image courtesy of Salcombe Distilling Co, all other images courtesy of respective brands