Gone are the days of a club soda with lime being the only good booze-free option at the bar. A new league of sophisticated zero-proof beverages are emerging to substitute your favorite libations or stand all on its own. Whether you’re sober, cutting down or simply looking to expand your palate, we’ve got you covered with the best non-alcoholic drinks to try out. After all, just one night off of drinking can lead to more energy, better sleep and improved mental health.
So raise a glass, and still make that workout class tomorrow morning. Here are our favorite alcohol-free options on the market right now.
for a booze-free take on a Negroni Sbagliato
Game of Thrones and Campari fans alike might be familiar with the Negroni Sbagliato—a champagne-infused version of the classic Italian cocktail that went viral on TikTok last year. It turns out that with the right blend of herbs and other natural ingredients, this Sicilian getaway in a glass can be replicated without the alcohol.
Enter Curious Elixirs’ cult-favorite No 1., a ready-to-serve, alcohol-free cocktail made from pomegranate, orange, spices and adaptogens (a fancy word for plants that may help the body relax). The balance of tangy citrus and bitters results in a beverage that demands to be sipped slowly, preferably outdoors on a warm summer evening.
Rhodiola, a plant root with a long history in Eastern medicine that is purported to combat stress, and gentian root, a natural component in alcoholic aperitifs to stimulate appetite, make it the perfect post-work wind-down and pre-dinner cocktail. Just shake, pour over ice and enjoy.
for mezcal-esque margaritas—without the hangover
Mezcal has grown hugely popular in recent years, thanks to its bold, smoky flavor (passionfruit paloma, anyone?). Optimist Botanicals, a Los Angeles-based group that specializes in distilled alcohol-free spirits, attributes the inspiration for its Smokey blend to trips to the California desert.
The company uses natural distillates and CO2 extracts to create the complex flavor profiles found in real tequila and mezcal, in order to formulate a beverage that’s bittersweet and spicy, with notes of clove, ginger, habanero, bergamot geranium and Valencia orange.
Optimist is among the first brands in the burgeoning alcohol-free scene to incorporate a real distillation process, which can be hard to replicate without using alcohol. Its alchemical method involves a traditional steam distillation or CO2 extraction, commonly used in cannabis production, which distills each flavor separately for a result that tastes nearly identical to the real thing. Observer has tried a handful of alcohol-free tequila and mezcal alternatives, and this is by far the best we’ve experienced so far. Our recommendation: pour over ice with some fresh lime juice and top with sparkling water. Don’t forget the jalapeño garnish and tajin rim.
for a zero proof wine that doesn’t taste like grape juice
Though it may seem counterintuitive, most alcohol-free wines aren’t made in regular vineyards. Dealcoholized wine can be tricky and cumbersome, as much of the flavors come from the chemical reactions that occur during the fermentation process. But who better to understand how to get around these challenges than the wine producers themselves?
Rheingau producer Johannes Leitz is one of the biggest innovators in the field—his Eins Zwei Zero line of alcohol-free wines, which includes a variety of white, red, sparkling and rosé vinos, involves a highly technical process. It’s first produced as real wine, before a vacuum distillation process separates and eliminates the alcohol at a lower temperature than other methods to protect the integrity of the wine.
The Rheingau region of Germany is known for its cool climate, which helps foster high-acidity wine with notes like peach, apricot and green apple. Its alcohol-free white is no exception. Our favorite, the Riesling, has a clean, dry finish with elements of orange citrus, rhubarb and tarragon, and pairs excellently with seafood or a cheese plate.
for that 5 pm feeling at any hour
Unlike zero-proof wines, it’s harder to go wrong with alcohol-free beers. The dealcoholization process is a bit less invasive, since much of the flavor comes from the brew’s core ingredients, rather than fermentation. Some great options are Heineken Zero, Guinness 0.0 and Athletic Brewing Company.
One of the best out there is Bière Sans Alcool, a craft brewery specializing in brews with less than 0.5 percent ABV. Its signature IPA, brewed from malted barley, oats, hops and yeast, has a moderately bitter flavor with aromas of citrus and passionfruit for that classic IPA taste. For sour beer fans, they’ve got great tropical, raspberry and lemon-lime options, too. Pack it in a cooler for a BYOB happy hour anywhere.
for that Amalfi Coast feeling
Aperol spritz season is well underway, and non-alcoholic spirit maker Lyre’s has come up with a zero-proof twist on the classic Italian aperitif.
The Lyre’s Italian Spritz spirit has successfully captured the vibrant orange and bitter flavors found in the classic summery cocktail, with a dry and citrusy finish reminiscent of days spent on the beach in Positano or a sidewalk cafe in Paris. Keep it simple and mix it with soda water, or go all out and add a splash of non-alcoholic Prosecco (Mionetto makes a great, affordable option).
The spirit also makes a great replacement for Campari for a sober Negroni. Or, pour it over tonic for an Italian highball. Salute!