This summer, when you’re stocking the bar for your summer parties, you may want to consider something new: nonalcoholic drinks, because theis in full swing. Whether or not you’ve explored it for yourself, you likely know someone who has. More and more people are pivoting to nonalcoholic or low-alcoholic beverages.
Why are more adults going sober orintake? According to Hilary Sheinbaum, journalist and author of The Dry Challenge, there are various reasons why people are saying no to alcohol. “There are health benefits like better sleep, better digestion, more energy and weight loss… and some people are sick and tired of being hungover,” she says. Sheinbaum points out that there is plenty of research to support the hazards of drinking, and millennials and Gen Z have adopted lifestyles that are more health-conscious (and less boozy).
If you or a loved one are one of the many people who gave alcohol the boot this year — or even if you’re just going to be the designated driver for the next party — you’ll be pleased to know that there are a variety of nonalcoholic beers, wines and spirits that have the flavor profiles of your favorite alcohol-based drinks, without the buzz. I researched and personally taste-tested over 10 of these nonalcoholic brands and dove deep into customer reviews to decide which taste best, and closest to the real thing.
Athletic Brewing Company, a Connecticut-based brewing company that specializes in nonalcoholic craft beer, sent me three selections to try: Run Wild IPA, Free Wave Hazy IPA and Upside Dawn Golden Ale. The brewing company also has their own stout beer and other limited edition beers. To develop their nonalcoholic beer, Athletic Brewing uses only four ingredients: water, hops, yeast and barley. They also keep the alcohol by volume, or ABV, under 0.5% to meet the qualifications of a nonalcoholic beer.
Much to my surprise, the Run Wild IPA and Free Wave Hazy IPA taste exactly like a traditional alcoholic IPA, and have enough carbonation to pass for one, too. The Upside Down Golden Ale is the only version of the three that is gluten-free, but tastes the least carbonated and slightly darker than I prefer. I had friends who brew their own beer weigh in on this and they found Athletic to be a solid choice for a nonalcoholic IPA. I would recommend Athletic Brewing Company as a solid substitution for those who enjoy IPAs, but are trying to cut back on their alcohol intake.
If you’re a sparkling wine drinker and looking for a nonalcoholic wine substitute, Semblance is about to become your go-to. Semblance is made from chardonnay grapes from California and has a crisp, dry flavor profile that resembles the bubbly wine almost to a T. It comes packaged in a sleek green bottle complete with a cork sealed in gold foil. I was so impressed by the presentation and the taste that I wouldn’t have known the difference between Semblance’s version and a real glass of chardonnay. This sparkling beverage is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
I was impressed by the packaging of Free Spirits, because these deceptively look like real bottles of bourbon, tequila or gin. What’s even more surprising is how realistic the gin and bourbon smelled upon opening the bottles. The bourbon, my favorite selection of the three, had the flavors and elements of the actual liquor (such as a smooth wood oak-like aroma, combined with vanilla and other spices).
Free Spirits follows a process called Distillate Reconstruction, which involves identifying each spirit’s unique flavors and raw materials and then distilling those materials into natural extracts and botanicals. The brand also infuses its nonalcoholic spirits with B vitamins and amino acids to help enhance your mood and make the drinks more nutritious. Free Spirits can be served on its own or mixed into your favorite cocktail.
DRY Botanical Bubbly Reserve markets itself as a soda company that also makes nonalcoholic drinks. The sodas come in cans, while the nonalcoholic wines are packaged in standard bottles and are available in pineapple and cranberry flavor. The brand also has nonalcoholic Botanical Bitters (Aromatic, Bright/Herbal, Sweet and Spicy) which can be used in your mocktails.
I was able to try the DRY nonalcoholic Botanical Bitters and they were a pleasant surprise. My favorite was the Bright/Herbal flavor, which was refreshing and tasted good on its own. Reviewers are also big fans of the bitters and the Vanilla Bubbly Reserve. Some compare the vanilla nonalcoholic drink to a less sugary version of Coca-Cola. The DRY drinks are decent alternatives to have around that can be mixed with cocktails or enjoyed on their own.
If you like dark and stormies, you’ll enjoy Lyre’s Dark ‘N Spicy Premix Drinks. This beverage comes in a red 8-ounce can and maintains its carbonation as you drink it. The well-balanced flavors are a mix of ginger, lime juice, sugar cane and spices. This drink was refreshing and not too sweet and definitely tasted like a real cocktail.
I’m not a big beer drinker, but I’ve found I enjoy a classic Samuel Adams seasonal beer. That being said, I was impressed by Samuel Adams Just the Haze nonalcoholic IPA beer, which was released last year. It took two years in the making to perfect the Sam Adams nonalcoholic IPA recipe.
The flavors that make up Just the Haze include a full-bodied brew of citrus such as grapefruit, tangerine and lime, and fruity notes from pineapple, guava, melon and peach.
This was one of the best nonalcoholic brews I tried. The Sam Adams Just the Haze is a drink that IPA lovers and those who normally aren’t beer drinkers can enjoy alike. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about a buzz after a couple of these.
Upon looking at the Three Spirit bottles, I was captivated by the design and sleek, bewitching style. These nonalcoholic spirits were developed by plant scientists, bartenders, herbalists and artists, and you can definitely see each influence. The three different spirits available are called Livener, Social Elixir and Nightcap. When I tried them, I couldn’t pinpoint what they reminded me of, because I’ve never tried anything like it. Each is unique in its own way and has different flavor profiles.
The Livener is caffeinated and is the most invigorating of the three, made up of green tea, guayusa, watermelon and berries. The Social Elixir is a darker, bittersweet blend that consists of passionflower, yerba mate, cacao, molasses and other spices. The Nightcap is intended to mellow you out and has valerian root, Canadian maple syrup, and lemon balm, among other herbs.
These are best used as mixers to complement other cocktails or can be consumed on their own, over ice. Reviewers appear to favor the Nightcap overall because of its mellow flavor and because it relaxes them — ideal for winding down at the end of a long day.
Sovi is a Sommelier-owned nonalcoholic wine company that created its own sparkling rosé and red blend. The red blend is made up of several Spanish and French grape varieties in California. The rosé is dry yet bubbly and maintains the carbonation which is key with nonalcoholic drinks. The red blend is a dry full-bodied red wine and has hints of cherry, grapefruit and watermelon. These drinks did not arrive in time for me to sample, but reviewers love this wine alternative for both the flavor and realism. One sommelier even relied on these nonalcoholic wines (among other drinks) during her pregnancy.
Partake Brewing’s nonalcoholic beers are available in IPA, Dark Ale, Blonde Ale, Pale Ale and Red Ale. The beers are made up of 0.3% ABV and depending on the brew, can be as low as 10 calories. I tasted the IPA, Red Ale and Blonde Ale and the three did resemble the alcoholic versions that inspired them, but with less body and carbonation. My favorite was the Blonde ale — it’s ideal for the person who enjoys a light beer, but wants a nonalcoholic option without going overboard.
Lagunitas, best known for its IPAs, has its own line of nonalcoholic beers that are sure to appeal to sober-curious beer lovers, including the Hoppy Refresher and IPNA.
The Hoppy Refresher is clear and sparkling and is brewed using citra, equinox and centennial hops, and it tastes fruity. It reminded me of a sweeter yet refreshing flavored seltzer that could be enjoyed on its own or mixed in nonalcoholic cocktails.
The IPNA is made up of the same ingredients featured in Lagunitas original IPA. Its ingredients include dry hops, mosaic and citra, and its flavor profile has hints of citrus and pine. It has less than 0.5% ABV and tastes exactly like a traditional IPA — which means Lagunitas stayed true to its original product, but left out most of the alcohol. If you’re already a Lagunitas fan, you’ll appreciate this nonalcoholic substitution.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.