Mocktails are still hip as ever and show no signs of fading. (Sorry, trendy pickle martini.) What were once basic juice spritzes are now made with all kinds of fancy ingredients, the most divisive of all being non-alcoholic liquors. Before you knock them, hear us out: These zero-proof libations will revolutionize the way you make boozeless cocktails at home. We spoke to Derek Brown, founder of Positive Damage, Inc. and author of Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails, to find out the best non-alcoholic spirits on the market for every cocktail craving.
The 12 Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits, According to a Low-Alcohol Cocktail Expert
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The Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits at a Glance
- Best Non-Alcoholic Vodka: CleanCo Clean V Apple Vodka Alternative
- Best Non-Alcoholic Gin: Monday Zero Alcohol Gin
- Best Non-Alcoholic White Rum: Lyre’s White Cane Spirit
- Best Non-Alcoholic Dark Rum: Caleño Dark & Spicy
- Best Non-Alcoholic Tequila: Mockingbird Spirit Agave
- Best Non-Alcoholic Whiskey: Spiritless Kentucky 74
- Best Non-Alcoholic Scotch: Lyre’s Highland Malt
- Best Non-Alcoholic Triple Sec: DHŌS Orange: A Non-Alcoholic Liqueur
- Best Non-Alcoholic Bitters: All the Bitter New Orleans Bitters
- Best Non-Alcoholic Sweet Vermouth: Roots Divino Aperitif Rosso
- Best Non-Alcoholic Bittersweet Orange Liqueur: Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo
- Best Non-Alcoholic Coffee Liqueur: Lyre’s Coffee Originale
Meet the Expert
Derek Brown is an NASM-certified wellness coach and founder of Positive Damage, Inc., a company that aims to create a culture of mindful drinking with no- and low-alcohol drinks. He is the author of Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails and Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World. He is also the former director of education for Spiritless, a brand that creates distilled, non-alcoholic American spirits.
What Are Non-Alcoholic Spirits?
Well, they’re exactly what they sound like: spirits (or substitutes for popular spirits, rather) that contain no alcohol. If you’re thinking that sounds impossible, that’s because it sort of is. “Alcohol isn’t easy to replicate, so consumers have to understand that these are creative and thoughtful attempts to create analogs, but they’re not likely to taste exactly like their alcoholic counterparts,” explains Brown. “They are generally meant to replace spirits in cocktails, not [be] sipped on their own. Before you write them off after tasting, try them in your favorite cocktails. That’s where they shine.”
What Are Non-Alcoholic Spirits Made Of?
It depends on the brand and bottle, but many non-alcoholic spirits are crafted from botanicals, like leaves, herbs, roots, flowers, spices and barks. As for how they’re made, some non-alcoholic spirits are distilled like the real thing, but many aren’t. And even if they are, the lack of alcohol greatly impacts the results. “Without alcohol, it’s hard to extract as much flavor,” says Brown. “Alcohol is a far better solvent than water. [Non-alcoholic spirits] also often need preservatives and still are only shelf stable for three to six months. Those are real challenges, but some distillers have taken those challenges head on and created amazing non-alcoholic spirits for cocktails.”
If you’re excited about this new category, try finding a non-alcoholic bottle shop near you. “They usually have bottles open and can taste you on them, or steer you toward something really unique,” urges Brown. Of course, you can also order the following non-alcoholic spirits online.
Best Non-Alcoholic Vodka
“Creating non-alcoholic vodka is a thankless task; you’re basically creating thick, slightly piquant water,” says Brown. “Therefore, I turn to flavored vodka for a slightly better result. CleanCo delivers with this perfect base for a non-alcoholic appletini.” Thanks to its slightly spiced notes of cinnamon and black pepper, the smooth-drinking spirit would also pair wonderfully with apple cider or ginger beer. The vodka substitute is free of sugar, sweeteners and gluten to boot.
Best Non-Alcoholic Gin
Monday’s flagship spirit has won multiple awards—with good reason. “I continue to praise Monday for having a really good base for non-alcoholic ‘gin’ drinks. It has a strong juniper core and a nice bitter finish that helps add texture and oomph to a G&T or non-alcoholic martini,” explains Brown. Modeled after London dry gin, the spirit has notes of bitter citrus, grapefruit and coriander and a complex finish.
Best Non-Alcoholic White Rum
According to Brown, it’s just as difficult to make a non-alcoholic light rum as it is vodka. “For most white rums, it is the alcohol that plays the defining role, and you can’t simply recreate that in a non-alcoholic form. Lyre’s does an admirable job that will work in mojitos and rum punches.” A base of oak and sugar cane encourages notes of marzipan, orange and coconut to shine through.
Best Non-Alcoholic Dark Rum
This tropical non-alcoholic spirit boasts notes of pineapple, coconut and vanilla on the nose and flavors of pineapple, coconut, kola nut, lime and black cardamom in every sip. “[It’s] not exactly a dark rum but has some of the same notes you might expect from a rich, Caribbean rum, such as vanilla, coconut and ginger,” explains Brown. “Blend it into a piña colada this summer.” If blended drinks aren’t your thing, try a Dark ’n Stormy instead.
Best Non-Alcoholic Tequila
Take it from Brown: “This doesn’t taste like tequila. Most non-alcoholic tequila alternatives miss the mark, so it’s better to go for something that tastes delicious and can work in cocktails.” Basically, look for something that can play the role of tequila without tasting exactly like it. This bev is made from blue weber agave and ashwagandha, resulting in an earthy, floral flavor profile with a touch of heat. Margaritas, anyone? We’ll take ours with Tajín, please.
Best Non-Alcoholic Whiskey
“Full disclosure: I used to work with them, but they’re still the best non-alcoholic bourbon alternative,” claims Brown. Made using a proprietary reverse distillation process, this whiskey substitute is smooth and chock-full of familiar flavors, like oak, vanilla and caramel. But remember, non-alcoholic spirits are not designed for drinking solo. “[It] makes a killer old fashioned and whiskey sour, but don’t sip it neat. It’s meant for cocktails,” he adds.
Best Non-Alcoholic Scotch
Modeled after blended malt whisky, this take on Scotch has deep flavors of toffee, spiced oak and nutty grains, along with hints of honey and vanilla. Despite its firm, dry finish, you’ll want to mix the non-alcoholic spirit with something. “Don’t expect to pour this in a snifter and enjoy it the same way as a single malt Scotch,” repeats Brown. “Think blended Scotch here, like Dewars, and make a non-alcoholic highball, or even better, a Scotch and ginger.”
Best Non-Alcoholic Triple Sec
You’re going to need a zero-proof triple sec for those boozeless margaritas we discussed, and Brown recommends this one, which is made with navel oranges, Curaçao oranges and tangerines, as well as cucumber and watermelon rind. Spices and pith give the non-alcoholic spirit its signature bitterness, while hints of vanilla, citrus blossoms and orange sherbet round out its flavor.
Best Non-Alcoholic Bitters
“All the Bitters is handmade by a husband and wife, Ian and Carly Blessing, and their family in California,” explains Brown. “They make classic bitters but also some fun experimental ones, too, such as chocolate mole.” Brown calls the NOLA-inspired variety, which is loaded with functional botanicals, a must-have for a non-alcoholic bar. Its flavors of anise, tart cherry, hibiscus and rosehips will infuse life into seltzer, tonic, boozeless red wine or a zero-proof Sazerac.
Best Non-Alcoholic Sweet Vermouth
Inspired by the absinthe wines of ancient Greece, this product is made by infusing and macerating wormwood, rosemary, gentian and other Mediterranean herbs into sweetened wine. Then, the vermouth is dealcoholized through reverse osmosis. The rosso variety has a spiced, herbaceous profile with bold notes of bitter orange. “This Greek apéritif is bitter, herbal and refreshing over ice with a little soda and a slice of orange,” suggests Brown.
Best Non-Alcoholic Bittersweet Orange Liqueur
“Wilderton is opening the first entirely non-alcoholic distillery in the U.S. And I can’t wait, especially since distiller Seth O’Malley has already created some amazing distilled non-alcoholic spirits,” raves Brown. “My favorite thus far is their bittersweet aperitivo, which makes a delicious spritz.” It’s also been described as a more herbaceous Campari (think notes of grapefruit, orange blossom and aromatic herbs), so we’re betting it’d taste delicious in a negroni.
Best Non-Alcoholic Coffee Liqueur
Need a substitute for Kahlúa? Perfecting a boozeless espresso martini? Brown says this alternative is a solid choice. It’s crafted to have a rich, wine-like flavor, equipped with high notes of espresso, spices, caramel and toasted nuts and a vanilla-forward finish. On the nose, you’ll get notes of fresh roasted coffee, burnt caramel, vanilla, fig and dark chocolate. Use it in white Russians, Irish coffee or a frosty mudslide.
Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.
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