You can absolutely fix a fancy nonalcoholic cocktail for yourself (or a loved one) without any of the nonalcoholic gin alternatives, booze-free rums, alcohol-free wines, or other bottles listed in this guide, especially if you pay attention to the fundamentals of nonalcoholic cocktails we’ve shared here. But a bottle or two from this list can make it easier to make great tasting zero-proof drinks (or mocktails, or whatever you care to call them). You can think of each option below as a shortcut to flavors that might take an array of ingredients to put together yourself.
In recent years, more and more nonalcoholic spirits and other zero-proof cocktail ingredients have become available—and more are on their way. So instead of simply listing our favorites, we built this guide (and its partner, focusing on alcohol-free aperitivi and amari) as a repository for our advice on all the bottles we’ve tried. Yea or nay, we’ve included it here, along with notes on why it did—or didn’t—appeal to us. That way, you can check in on whatever bottle you’re considering as you stock up your nonalcoholic bar for Dry January—or anytime you’re taking a break from drinking alcohol. We’ll update as we try more new options down the line.
A note on alcohol: In the U.S., products labeled “nonalcoholic” can contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume, so some beers, wines, and kombuchas marketed as booze-free contain this much.
First, there was Seedlip
Seedlip was the first of its kind when it came along in 2015: a distilled nonalcoholic spirit meant to be mixed into alcohol-free cocktails. None of its expressions fit neatly into preexisting categories of spirits—there’s no Seedlip Gin or Seedlip Tequila or Seedlip Whiskey. But despite this genre-breaking move, its relative longevity (and ample financial backing) means it’s probably the easiest to find of the bottles on this list—and it stars in more recipes (both online and in books) than its competitors. Make sure it’s properly diluted in your drinks—a bit of a stir or shake with ice can help balance its flavor.
Seedlip Spice 94
This was the first of the Seedlip expressions. It tastes primarily of allspice and cardamom, and it’s clean and bright in flavor. If you have similar-spiced bitters on hand, you might not need this.
It might substitute most easily for mezcal or whiskey in a recipe, but it lacks the savory, earthy richness of both.
Seedlip Garden 108
Garden is tart and delicately savory—part of its flavor comes from peas. It’s springlike and softly herbal, laced with thyme and spearmint. Again, it’s not meant to match any specific category of spirits—it’s not a gin, and you won’t taste juniper—though you can play around with substituting it for gin or tequila in cocktail recipes, keeping in mind that it’s slightly sour.
Seedlip Grove 42
This bottling layers aromatic citrus with lemongrass and ginger. It’s cooling and just slightly tart, but pretty mild overall.
Since the launch of Seedlip, many more products have launched that are meant to more closely align with traditional spirits categories. And now, there’s a substitute in basically every profile that exists for boozy gin: Citrusy, floral, juniper-forward, cucumber-y, you name it. As booze-free alternative spirits go, the gins tend to be the most successful overall.
Free Spirits ‘The Spirit of Gin’
Of all the gin alternatives available now, this version from Free Spirits in California may be my personal favorite. There’s crisp juniper here and a touch of citrus-pith bitterness, plus a masterful bit of spice that warms your tongue as you sip. It doesn’t disappear into tonic: You can still taste the botanical notes.
$37.00, Free Spirits
Monday Gin packs a full punch of juniper and other botanicals—on its own, there’s a slight bitterness, with a piney-lemon-pith bite, which is nice when the spirit is mixed with sweeter ingredients. For some, Monday may seem too intense—but it makes a pretty legit-tasting “G” and T. (Try adding a drop of Giffard’s bitter aperitif syrup, too, if you like your predinner drinks on the bitter side.)
Lyre’s Dry London Spirit
This very fragrant, floral, and slightly peppery nonalcoholic take on gin mixes quite nicely with Lyre’s Apéritif Dry. If you like your “G” and T with hints of orange blossoms and jasmine, this bottling is what you’re looking for. (A splash of Lyre’s Apéritif Rosso is nice in the mix too.)
Ritual Zero Proof Gin Alternative
Ritual’s gin sub has lemongrass, peppermint, and some serious spice, but what hits you first is cucumber—full spa water, plus a tingle of heat. The inclusion of capsicum, green peppercorn, and prickly ash is pretty clever here: After all, liquor has some burn. But Ritual’s bottle is only for you if you like that cucumber flavor. I really enjoy this with tonic—perhaps the best of the bunch—but I’d call it a Spicy Cucumber tonic, not a G&T.
Fluère Floral Blend
A soft, very floral take on nonalcoholic gin with lots of lavender flavor. There’s juniper and coriander, too, but this is a decidedly mellow option that really leans into those fragrant flower notes.
If you want a spirit that’s robust and juniper-laced, this ain’t it. But if your favorite take on the “G” and T is mostly bright and refreshing, the Damrak nonalcoholic bottling will probably suffice. It’s citrusy—almost like a lemon tea with just a little sharpness—but barely any of the herbal, piney flavors that you’d get from an old-school London Dry. Still, with good tonic, like Fever-Tree or Q, the highball works just fine. It lacks the complexity I’m looking for, though, when I shell out $27 for a bottle.
I have some bad news: While drink makers have made headway on getting gin’s botanical flavors into a nonalcoholic drink, the making of rum, tequila, mezcal, or whiskey is a complex art, and none of the N/A alternatives I’ve tried has really gotten close yet. The best of the bunch is a dark rum alternative from Lyre’s; the others are a mixed bag.
Lyre’s Dark Cane Spirit
Lyre’s take on dark rum has a rich, sweet scent, packed with warm sugar notes and vanilla, but once you’re drinking, it’s actually quite dry, softly earthy, and slightly spicy. It’s quite tasty mixed with fresh lime, plus cola or ginger beer.
Fluère Spiced Cane Dark Roast
Fluère’s take on spiced rum is quite sweet and halfway to coffee liqueur. It tastes like toffee stirred into your iced Americano; it’s rich enough to shake with cream for a nice after-dinner drink. On its own, it definitely needs lime to cut the sugar.
Tequila and mezcal alternatives
Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative
There’s guava in this stuff, and you can taste it. There’s a green bell pepper note, which approximates agave’s vegetal flavors, and the burn feels right on target—Ritual doesn’t shy away from heat. But in a mixed drink, the tropical fruit flavors come out front and center. If you aren’t craving guava margaritas, skip it.
Free Spirits ‘The Spirit of Tequila’
The Free Spirits’ take on tequila isn’t as convincing as its gin; it smells (and tastes) mostly of vanilla with a little warmth on the finish. If you’re shaking this one into a margarita, up the lime juice a bit to offset the sweetness and don’t skip the salt. Add a touch of Lyre’s Italian Orange.
$37.00, Free Spirits
Fluère Smoked Agave
While I wouldn’t sip it on its own, this stuff can add a touch of savory, smoky flavor to your N/A Paloma. (Feel free to use Squirt as a mixer, but be sure to punch it up with fresh lime—and a pinch of salt.)
Spiritless Kentucky 74
This distilled nonalcoholic spirit has the vanilla flavors of bourbon and a hint of barrel char, but you wouldn’t mistake it for whiskey. In an old-fashioned, a muddled orange peel and a pinch of cayenne helps.
Seir Hill Mashville
There’s charred oak flavor, corn, and clove, but a bubblegum note keeps me from loving this bourbon-inspired bottling from Seir Hill.
$32.00, Spirited Away
Nonalcoholic wines and wine substitutes
Nonalcoholic wine—that is, wine with the alcohol removed—is a quickly growing area of the wine industry with constant technological advance. Still, some producers have opted to go another way, putting together a product that’s not wine at all, and instead a beverage concocted to evoke wine’s flavors, acidity, and tannin. Both sorts of N/A wines can be sipped on their own, of course, but they also work as nonalcoholic cocktail ingredients for Dry January (or anytime), adding body, brightness, and sometimes fizz to a drink.
Eins Zwei Zero Alcohol-Free Sparkling Riesling and Sparkling Rosé
The alcohol-free sparkling Riesling from winemaker Johannes Leitz is, without question, the best nonalcoholic wine I’ve tried, and I’m planning to keep a stash of it around way beyond Dry January. It’s fruity, bright, thirst-quenching, and softly floral, hitting all the notes you’d look for in a glass of Riesling. It’s also available in a can, which is handy for picnics (and for small households). While you can mix nonalcoholic cocktails with this, it’s easy to take down an entire can on its own.
More into rosé? Don't miss Leitz’s tangy, juicy Pinot-Noir based nonalcoholic sparkling rosé, which hints at citrus and strawberries.
$6.00, Artisan Wine Shop
$6.00, Artisan Wine Shop
Thomson & Scott Noughty Sparkling Alcohol-Free Chardonnay
This toasty, tart sparkling wine gets its alcohol removed at lower temperatures than many, so you don’t get a boiled grape juice flavor. It’s lemony and yeasty with fine-textured bubbles. This is pretty good spritz material—mix with Giffard’s Aperitif Syrup, Aecorn, or your bitter addition of choice.
$22.00, Spirited Away
Acid League Wine Proxies
Acid League’s nonalcoholic Wine Proxies aren’t wine with the alcohol removed. Instead, they’re essentially mixed drinks that approximate the flavor, body, and acidity of today’s trendiest wines by combining juices, vinegars, teas, herbs, spices, vegetables, dried fruit, and more. The brand has set it up as a ‘wine club’ with a monthly shipment of three different bottles to explore, though you can purchase a single three-bottle set without a recurring subscription. In the current lineup, Cuvée Zero is meant to evoke a light and rustic red: It’s tangy, acidic, earthy, and round in the mouth. The flavor of strawberries, blueberries, sandalwood, mint, and oolong tea somehow meet together in a drink that’s refreshing, tart, and bright. (It makes a nice spritz too.) Zest Contact is angular and aromatic, like an orange wine made with extended skin contact. You can’t miss the turmeric and vinegar, but there’s blood orange, bay leaf, ginger, and myrrh in there too. Blanc Slate hints at Sauvignon Blanc—tangy and a little tropical, its grapefruit, kiwi, and passionfruit juices balanced with hops, bell pepper, and makrut lime leaf. One note: Though these seem designed to appeal to the natural wine crowd, these nonalcoholic bottlings do contain sulfites for preservation.
$70.00, Acid League
Lyre’s Apéritif Dry
This bottling isn’t quite dry vermouth or Lillet Blanc, but it’s useful nonetheless: dry, tart, and subtly herbal with a nice, slightly bitter finish. I like to combine it with Lyre’s Rosso, which is a touch sweet.
Lyre’s Apéritif Rosso
Looking for something alcohol-free to use instead of Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth? This bottling isn’t quite as rich, but it layers lots of vanilla and citrus over a sweet berry-like base.
Versin Rojo Non-Alcoholic Vermouth Alternative
This isn’t as complex as high-end vermouths, but it adds a sweet, rich flavor to anything you’re mixing. The flavor is reminiscent of a mix of grape juice, apple cider, and bitters. I just wish it was a tad less sweet, maybe with more of a botanical side.
In her recent guide to nonalcoholic drinks for pairing with a festive meal, Epi contributor Julia Bainbridge explained how verjus, the juice of grapes that aren’t ripe enough to be made into wine, can add brightness and sometimes richness to a nonalcoholic cocktail, like in the Padova Spritz from her book, Good Drinks. Widely available Fusion is a go-to for cocktails, though there are a few other brands out there as well. Sauk Farms makes an apple verjus from tangy unripe organic apples, which adds a bright, concentrated, delightfully sour punch of apple flavor to any drink. (It’s especially good with a caramelly chinotto soda.)
Mixers and sodas
To be honest, I haven’t found a nonalcoholic spirit that I’d love to drink on its own. So high-quality mixers are absolutely essential to the Dry January bar. I’d recommend acquiring at least one bitter syrup or aperitif, plus plenty of sparkling water, good tonic, and ginger beer. Q has remarkably lively and long-lasting bubbles, but I’m loyal to Fever-Tree for its flavor. Sanpellegrino’s new Tonica Oakwood—yes, it’s made with oak extract—is especially crisp, earthy, and bitter. Please also check out our guide to bitter nonalcoholic drinks for more bitter sodas for mixing.
If you’re looking for juniper flavor but don’t want to shell out for a nonalcoholic gin, cans of Dona’s Juniper Lime Soda are another good option. It’s herbal and floral but lacks the bitterness of tonic. (I like to add a squeeze of fresh lime juice to cut the sweetness a bit; you could also split it with a housemate and lighten with sparkling water or mix with tonic for a more G&T-like experience.)
Premixed mocktails can be mixers too
Opening a premixed nonalcoholic drink is the easiest way to get something in your glass, but you shouldn’t feel bound to sipping it as is. Add your favorite nonalcoholic spirit or sparkling nonalcoholic wine—or bitters, sparkling water, citrus, bitter syrups, or tonic to adjust the flavor to your liking.
No. 2, made with pineapple, lime, orange, ginger, jalapeño, and ancho chile, is meant to be a cocktail on its own, but I find it most useful as a mixer, adding spice and juicy flavor to a drink all-in-one. I particularly like it combined with tonic, which gives it a bit more bitterness and lightness. No. 4 is crisp, bright, and bitter, thanks to blood orange, grapefruit, gentian, and rhubarb root.
$35.00, Curious Elixirs
$90.00, Curious Elixirs
Bitters are a handy tool for layering flavor in any drink, but most on the market are made with an alcoholic base or alcoholic flavor extracts, because alcohol is a highly efficient way to get at the flavor in other ingredients. (Unlike N/A wine, beer, kombucha, and spirits, bitters are regulated as a food product, so the labeling laws are different, even though their ABV can clock in over 35%.) In Good Drinks, Epi contributor Julia Bainbridge walks through the math to show how adding a few drops of alcohol-based bitters to your N/A drink will likely not be enough to raise the proof significantly over 0.5%, but you may prefer not to keep alcoholic products around your house when you’re not drinking. Bainbridge recommends two alcohol-free options for adding complexity to your N/A drinks: El Guapo and Dram. My notes on a few flavors are below.
Dram Black Bitters
These glycerin-based bitters will give a pop of cardamom to anything you’re sipping—they’re nice to add to any citrusy drinks or anything made with apple cider, cranberry, pomegranate, or anywhere you’d use Angostura or Boker’s.
Dram Hair of the Dog Aromatic Bitters
These cinnamony, fennel-laced bitters add layers of complex spice to any drink—use them wherever you’d use Peychaud’s. These are really nice in any mixture involving celery juice or added to a tall glass of seltzer with a splash of apple cider or apple verjus.
Dram Palo Santo Bitters
Intriguing, spicy bitters made with Palo Santo bark stripped from fallen branches and sticks. The flavor is rich and woody with a hint of smoke wrapped in vanilla and anise. These are a very cool addition to any bar cart.
Dram Wild Mountain Sage Bitters
These bitters may not be as potent in flavor as alcohol-based ones, but once you get enough in your glass, they’re wonderfully herbal and lightly citrusy. The salty sage notes are a nice addition to cranberry- or hibiscus-based drinks, though they also work well in a glass of seltzer with a squeeze of lemon.
Dram Lavender Lemon Balm Bitters
These are a great way to add well-rounded floral notes to a drink. A fresh blast of lavender (the plant, not a perfume) is well supported with herbs, including lemon balm and a touch of lemon peel. Try with lemonade or any drink made with fresh citrus.
Dram Citrus Bitters
Mellow, sunny citrus bitters, made with a bit of orange blossom water and hibiscus.
A note about ingredients: CBD and hemp-infused drinks are not included in this list. In addition, please note that many nonalcoholic drinks contain potent herbs and other ingredients touted as healthful; check with your doctor about specific ingredients before drinking, as some may not be safe in combination with medicine or for people with certain health conditions, including pregnancy.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious