The wine o’clock happy hours of our pandemic social media has now given way to a crop of sprightly millennials knocking back alcohol-free wines and cocktails in inviting ads. What’s going on? It’s only partly a reaction to negative health reports regarding drinking during the pandemic, since this trend toward no-ABV wine and cocktails has actually been going on for some time—industry analysts estimate the category has increased sales 506 percent since 2015. Now summer’s here, and in the interests of providing a no-alcohol option to our party guests as well as a booze-free (and in many cases, lower-calorie) happy hour when it’s just us at home, we checked out the cream of the new booze-free crop of wine and spirits.
We Try the Alcohol-Free Wine and Spirits That Are Everywhere This Summer
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Inspired by the aperitif culture of sultry European afternoons, the creatives behind this sophisticated non-alcoholic aperitif started with a base of riesling white grape juice concentrate and layered yuzu, fig, elderflower and more, along with a bit of vegetable juice to make a nice color reminiscent of V8. It's fantastic chilled and mixed equally with mineral water, served with the brand's edible flowers for a really festive glass of non-tipsyness.
2. Amass Riverine
Our favorite non-alcoholic distilled spirit, this makes a delicious, minerally cocktail when enjoyed chilled, or mixed into what the company calls a Mint-Tea Fresh. Take 2 ounces of Riverine, mix with an ounce of lime juice and .75 ounce of mint-laced simple syrup, then garnish with a fresh mint sprig and lemon peel twist. And as good as this is for a non-boozy cocktail hour at home, what's equally appealing is the frosted green-glass bottle, which makes a cool bud vase when stripped of its label.
3. Acid League Proxies
Now for something completely different—these are vinegar blends (yes, you heard that right, vinegar—the usual term of insult for wines) that are not only drinkable, they're covetable. Each month the vintner (proxy purveyor?) at Acid League crafts seasonal juices, teas, spices and bitters, along with live cultured vinegar, into three new flavors that are decanted into bottles with colorful artist-designed labels, then shipped to customers. The site gives tasting notes and food pairing suggestions; for example, June's "Sunbeam" mixes mango, pineapple, lime and rakau hops among other ingredients to make a sunny sipping "proxy" that's right to accompany tacos and grilled fish. (Bring the three-bottle set as a host gift, and you'll be the talk of the party.)
Have a taste for a traditional cocktail, but not interested in taking on the calories and potential foggy feeling? Reach right for Ritual, which makes gin, rum, whiskey, even tequila (which our reviewer heartily endorses as "slightly smoky, grassy" with "a peppery burn at the end which will make you feel like you legitimately jsut took a shot." We're keeping these on our bar cart so that our guests know they can totally have a layered and flavorful cocktail and still feel fine driving home.
5. Gruvi Non-alcoholic Prosecco
You want something a little dryer than ginger ale, and more sophisticated as well. Opt for this sparkling beverage, available in a charmingly casual 4-pack of single-serve bottles and coming with about the best no-abv provenance: It was chosen as the non-alcoholic wine for the James Beard Zero Proof Dinner in New York 2020. We like it chilled right from the bottle, with a little striped straw.
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6. Kin Euphorics
A leader in the so-called "functional beverages" category, Kin Euphorics beverages contain uplifting and good-for-you ingredients that won't make you inebriated. These are a great non-alcoholic options to help you relax you at a social event without impairing your judgment (or driving). Ingredients include adaptogenic botanicals like rhiodiola and reishi mushroom, nootropics that improve brain function like GABA and tyrosine and some all-around healthy plants like passionflower and ginger. Choose between lavender-vanilla and citrus-hibiscus flavors; when we had a glass with tonic on the rocks with a squeeze of lime, we felt relaxed enough to flounce right through the most intimidatingly hipster fete.
7. Optimist Botanicals
Launched in January 2021 and made in Southern California, these three spirits skew away from yesterday's tradition of creating non-alcoholic versions of liquors (an ersatz vodka, say, or a virgin tequila). Instead, these blends of aromatic botanicals are mixed to create drinks that are inspired by geographic landscapes: For example, Bright is inspired by Venice Beach and contains Green Mandarin, Jasmine, Lemon and fennel. Fresh is inspired by the woodsy green of Topanga Canyon, and has juniper, bay laurel and red thyme. Smoky is meant to evoke the high desert, and it has sage, turmeric and habanero. These don't have any alcohol, sugar or artifical additives, and can be enjoyed chilled straight up, on the rocks or mixed half-and-half with a favorite mixer. (We're especially loving Fresh, mixed with a little Sprite, served over ice with a sprig of rosemary.
Buy It ($35)