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. They're so good, in fact, I haven't felt an urge to drink despite the stress of watching the government nearly collapse, or the inauguration of a new president. Who knows — maybe Dry January will extend into Dry February as long as I don't finish my supply of these non-alcoholic libations.
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, released this year, 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.
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.
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. This is a drink I can see myself turning to even after Dry January.
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.
Non-alcoholic beers have come a long way since the days of Prohibition.
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.
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.
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.
I never wanted a sparkling water machine, namely because none ever looked that good. Aarke made design a priority, and its Carbonator III sits proudly on my counter. Looks aside, the sleek device turns tap water into seltzer, and when I want a beer, I drink sparking water instead.