Non Alcoholic Distilled Spirits: A Guide

by | Jan 16, 2024 | Culture, Home Bar, Mixology, Spirits

Drinking alcohol is a time-honored tradition going back thousands of years. For celebrations, family gatherings, or a night on the town, a refreshing cocktail goes hand-in-hand with a good time.

What if you don’t want to drink alcoholic spirits, or are concerned about developing an addiction to alcohol? What if you are “sober curious” and enjoy the flavor profile of spirits but don’t want to drink alcoholic spirits for health reasons?

Non alcoholic spirits are probably the answer. While alcohol free spirits have been around for many years, it is only recently that they’ve achieved market acceptance.

In this guide, we’ll explore nonalcoholic spirits, including how they’re made, how they compare to their alcoholic counterparts, and some of the best brands and classic cocktails to try using non alcoholic spirits.


What are Non Alcoholic Spirits?

Non-alcoholic spirits, also known as alcohol-free spirits, are beverages that mimic the taste, smell, and complexity of traditional alcoholic spirits, but without the ethanol content, or with an extremely reduced ethanol content (usually less than 0.5% ABV).

These products are designed to provide a similar sensory experience to their alcoholic counterparts and can be used as replacements in classic cocktail recipes, allowing those who do not consume alcohol to enjoy the ritual and flavors of a well-crafted cocktail.

Some of the popular types of non-alcoholic spirits include those that mimic gin, whiskey, rum, vodka, and liqueurs. Each type aims to replicate the unique flavors and characteristics of the alcoholic version.


How is a Non Alcoholic Spirit Made?

Non-alcoholic spirits are typically made using methods similar to those used in the production of traditional spirits, with adjustments made to ensure that no (booze free) or only trace amounts of alcohol are present in the final product. Here’s a simplified overview of the process:

Selection of Ingredients: Much like traditional spirits, non-alcoholic spirits often start with a selection of botanicals, such as herbs, spices, fruits, and roots or other parts of a flowering plant like petals, leaves, and stems. These ingredients are chosen to provide flavor profiles similar to those found in alcoholic spirits.

Extraction of Flavors: There are several methods to extract flavors from the selected ingredients. These can include infusion (soaking the botanicals in water or a non-alcoholic liquid), maceration (a similar process to infusion but often using a gentle heat source to aid extraction), or distillation.

Distillation: Distillation is often used, but with a twist. Rather than fermenting a mash to produce alcohol (as is done in the production of traditional spirits), some producers of non-alcoholic spirits use a process known as vacuum distillation. In this method, the pressure is reduced to allow boiling and distillation to occur at a lower temperature, which helps to preserve the delicate flavors of the botanicals.

Blending: Once the flavors have been extracted from the botanicals, these extracts are then blended together according to a specific recipe to create the final product. This process requires a skilled blender to balance the different flavors and achieve a spirit that is complex and enjoyable.

Bottling: The final non-alcoholic spirit is then filtered, if necessary, and bottled.

It’s worth noting that the specifics of the process can vary widely between different producers and products. Some may use proprietary methods or secret recipes, and the exact techniques used can have a significant impact on the flavor of the final product.


Why Would Someone Want to Drink Zero Proof Spirits?

These non-alcoholic spirits have gained popularity as part of the “sober curious” movement and the broader trend towards healthier lifestyles, which includes mindful drinking. They cater to those who, for a variety of reasons, prefer not to consume alcohol but still want to enjoy the social and culinary aspects of a cocktail experience. Here are some other valid reasons why non alcoholic cocktails and alcohol free cocktail parties have become popular:

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Non-alcoholic spirits can be a good choice for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding, who may wish to avoid alcohol but still participate in social drinking occasions.

Medication Interactions: Some medications can interact negatively with alcohol. Non-alcoholic spirits provide a safe alternative for individuals who are taking these medications.

Designated Drivers: For individuals who are designated drivers and cannot consume alcohol, non-alcoholic spirits provide a more interesting alternative to soft drinks.

Culinary Interest: For people interested in gastronomy, trying non-alcoholic spirits can be a way to explore new flavors and textures in food and drink.

Dry Days or Sober Months: Some people like to have occasional periods of abstinence from alcohol, often referred to as ‘dry days’ or ‘sober months’. During these periods, non-alcoholic spirits can be a great substitute.

Reduced Hangover: Since non-alcoholic spirits do not contain alcohol, they don’t come with the risk of a hangover, making them a popular choice for people who have work the next day or simply don’t want to deal with the after-effects of alcohol.

Moderation: Some people just want to reduce their alcohol consumption, not necessarily cut it out completely. In such cases, non-alcoholic spirits can be a part of their drink rotation.

Inclusivity: Having non-alcoholic spirits available at an event or gathering can make those who don’t drink alcohol feel included. It’s a thoughtful gesture that demonstrates consideration for all guests’ preferences.

No matter which reason has driven you to explore nonalcoholic drinks (or if you simply don’t have a reason beyond curiosity) many of the most popular brands offer similar flavor profiles and experiences like their alcoholic counterpart.


Best Non Alcoholic Spirits to Try

Examples of brands in the category of non alcoholic spirits include Seedlip Garden, High Rhode, Ritual Zero Proof, and Lyre’s, among others. They use a variety of techniques, such as distillation, infusion, and maceration of botanicals to achieve the desired flavors and aromas. Most brands use unique botanicals and natural ingredients to achieve a taste like that of their boozy counterparts.

It’s important to note that these best nonalcoholic spirits can vary in taste from their alcoholic counterparts, and personal preference plays a significant role in their enjoyment.


Cocktail Recipes for Non Alcoholic Spirits

In most cases, a non alcoholic spirit can be substituted into your favorite cocktail recipe. There may be slight changes in flavor or aroma, depending on the brand you select and the recipe you’re following. Some of the most popular cocktails using non alcoholic spirits include:

Non Alcoholic Gin – Gin and Tonic, Gimlet, Gin Fizz, Gin Rickey, Tom Collins, Martini

Non Alcoholic Whiskey – Manhattan, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, Irish Coffee

Non Alcoholic Vodka – Moscow Mule, Vodka Gimlet, Vodka Martini, Vodka Tonic, Cosmopolitan

Non Alcoholic Tequila – Tequila Sunrise, Margarita, Screwdriver, Paloma, Tequini Martini, Tequila Collins

Non Alcoholic Rum – Rum Punch, Rum Rangoon, Pina Colada, Daquiri, Dark n’ Stormy


Notes on Cocktail Preparation

Many brands of non alcoholic spirit try to mimic the unique flavor profile of their alcoholic counterpart, but this isn’t always possible, depending on the process used to create the spirit. If those flavors don’t match up to your expectations, there are simple ingredients you can use to mask or improve the flavor. These ingredients include:

  • Ginger
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Spices
  • Italian Orange Extract
  • Cane Sugar (for added sweetness)
  • Club Soda (or Seltzer)
  • Lemon Peel

These ingredients can be added to the recipe or used as garnishes to enhance or alter the flavors of your favorite beverage. For additional tips, ask our event planners (or the head bartender or beverage director at your event) to guide you in creating a cocktail that satisfies your taste buds but keeps alcohol out of the equation.