As much as I was looking forward to a new year, I was not ready for Dry January. As a first-time participant, I wasn't sure what to expect, especially since I found myself drinking more often since we started quarantine. Luckily, I'm not alone in my sobriety this January.
A number of reliable non-alcoholic spirit brands have been around, plus a crop of new kids on the block making sober living less of a punishment and more like a reward. Who knows — maybe Dry January will extend into Dry February as long as I don't finish my supply of these non-alcoholic libations.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks of 2022
Acid League Proxies are not wine. Now that we got that out of the way, I can go on and rave about how this is an excellent wine alternative. Proxies bring the experience of opening a bottle of wine — from removing the wax to the actual uncorking — and give a new purpose to your wine glasses. Each bottle of Proxies houses a liquid that sort of looks like wine, but it's actually filled with a mix of juices, botanicals and other flavorings. Every time you take a sip of Proxies, you'll find yourself admiring the complexities of flavors just as you would real wine.
Amass is known for its botanical-infused spirits, particularly its takes on gin and vodka. The latest addition to its lineup is Riverine, a non-alcoholic spirit made from 14 botanicals, such as juniper, coriander and apple. I've been drinking this on the rocks with a splash of sparkling water, which helps to spread out the flavor so I can get a little hint of each botanical. I'm especially a fan of the use of sumac, which provides a tangy, savory and fruity flavor that makes me wonder why more spirits don't use the spice.
A sip of Aplós is like taking an actual chill pill. The hemp-infused spirit supposedly helps regulate your mood, appetite and sleep. While I do feel a sense of calm after drinking it, I keep coming back to Aplós purely because it tastes really good. It's citrusy on the forefront with a lingering herbal flavor.
When the craving for a beer hits, and I'm not in the mood for a buzz, Athletic Brewing is the way to go. The brewery is amazing at recreating beers that are full flavor with zero alcohol. Whether you want an IPA or a stout, Athletic has you covered. In fact, Athletic is so good at what it does that some breweries turn to it when they want to make a non-alcoholic beer option.
Bonbuz swaps out the booze for some mind-chilling natural stimulants. We can't exactly verify how well it does with those stimulants, but Bonbuz is a worthy addition to the booze-free bar cart. It's a punchy and citrusy spirit that pairs well with a simple combination of tonic water and a wedge of lime. Plus, there's a bit of green tea-derived caffeine for a kick in the productivity.
Some say the sequel never lives up to the original. Brooklyn Brewery's first Special Effects is a non-alcoholic hoppy ale that blew away the competition in the alcohol-free beer game. Its IPA is a much-appreciated addition to the Special Effects lineup. Resembling a West Coast-style IPA, this brew is fresh and bright with the right amount of bitter hoppiness and fruitiness that makes me question if I grabbed the right can out of the fridge every time.
Casamara Club makes something it calls "Leisure Sodas." And that name nails exactly what these are. It's not like Coca Cola, rather it's like an amaro mixed with some bubbly. The low-sugar sodas come in a variety of flavor ranging from one that's supposed to be reminiscent of a Negroni, the Alta, and one that's like a sparkling natural white wine, Onda.
Figlia is a non-alcoholic aperitivo that'll be the base of any non-alcoholic cocktail you make in the near future. It's citrusy and bitter, and when the bottle of Campari doesn't look appetizing anymore, Figlia is the bottle to take its place.
Campari has a new bright-red aperitivo to compete with. Besides being free of alcohol, Ghia also discloses all of its ingredients — which includes things like riesling white grape juice concentrate and yuzu juice — and has zero added sugar. On its own, Ghia tastes fruity and floral on the front with a pleasant bitterness that lingers on the tongue. It's also endlessly mixable. The number of cocktails you can make with Ghia is almost unfathomable and helps to replicate the process of mixing a drink that one may miss when going dry.
Kin wants its beverages to make you feel better. Through its options like Lightwave and High Rhode, the drinks, as the brand claims, can help you do anything from "socialize, sleep, create, [to] chill out." Either go for the spirit, which you can mix yourself, or go for one if its ready-to-drink spritzes.
Sweet, sweet gin and tonics are still allowed during Dry January, only because Monday managed to make an alcohol-free gin that actually tastes like the real deal. I'm not sure how Monday does it, but this rivals a lot of the best-known gins out there.
Optimist's non-alcoholic spirits are distilled, like a full-booze spirit, but without the alcohol. Each of its offerings are inspired by specific types of alcohol but with a twist: its Bright is like a vodka, its Fresh sips like a gin and its Smokey brings the heat of tequila.
Proteau has some serious cred behind it — the non-alcoholic aperitifs were made by John deBary, a former cocktail expert at Momofuku. The drinks are a mix of botanicals that result in a not-too-sweet beverage that's good on its own or in a mocktail. Proteau currently offers two expressions: Rivington Spritz, a sparkling hibiscus-forward option, and Ludlow Red, a tannic blackberry-like concentrate that's juicy and satisfying.
Think of your favorite cocktail. Great, now take out the booze and swap in some Ritual. The brand makes liquor alternatives that you swap out one for one whatever cocktail you can think of (given the only alcohol in that cocktail is tequila, gin, rum or whiskey). These zero-proof libations will get you through Dry January, and if you're always living the sober lifestyle, they'll keep you satisfied.
Seedlip is an OG when it comes to non-alcoholic spirits. It's not pretending to be gin or vodka or any clear liquor, and that's what makes Seedlip taste so good — it's doing its own thing. The Garden 108 variety smells and tastes like grass. That may be diminishing just how good this spirit tastes, but it is made with a variety of green herbs and vegetables that make you feel like you've wandered through a lush garden on a particularly humid morning.
Yes, you can drink wine while living the sober lifestyle. Studio Null makes it possible with its non-alcoholic wines. How does that happen? Grapes, sourced from family-run vineyards, are turned into full-alcohol wine, but it's then distilled further to remove the alcohol. Studio Null then goes back to the wine and alters it to adjust the acidity and balance. Each glass has 20 to 25 calories and between three to four grams of sugar, which helps with the acidity. The brand currently offers three wines — Sparkling Rosé, Blanc Burgunder and Prickly Red — each of which is worth trying and rebuying.
Don't go into a can of Suntory All-Free expecting something to perfectly recreate a beer sans alcohol. While it's made of hops and barley like beer, it tastes more like cereal-flavored seltzer. Odd as that sounds, All-Free does hit the spot when the beer cravings hit. Now when I think about it, it kind of tastes like Bud Light.
When it comes to non-alcoholic spirits, there are those that try to mimic a liquor and those that do their own thing. Tenneyson is the latter. There's no alcohol out there that tastes like it, and that's probably for the best. Its overwhelming flavor profile is a bright and spicy ginger, which sort of helps mimic the heat of booze, as well as lingering notes of citrus and floral. It also happen to be one of the few non-alcoholic spirits I could drink straight up.
Going out "for drinks" could mean something totally different once regular social gatherings return to the fold.