Meet the Pathfinder, a nonalcoholic drink that’s like an amaro

The refined and bracing flavors in the Pathfinder are a perfect stand-in for an amaro. Courtesy of Nicole Kandi



The refined and bracing flavors in the Pathfinder are a perfect stand-in for an amaro. Courtesy of Nicole Kandi

I tried Dry January, the yearly ritual of abstaining from alcohol. Over the past few years, the retail alcohol-free alternatives have improved significantly and the selections in restaurants and bars get better each year.

What I truly haven’t been able to replace, though, is an after-dinner amaro, that bracing bartender handshake after an evening well spent. Nothing has come close … until now.

The Pathfinder ($39.99 per 700-milliliter bottle) is a revolutionary spirit of both character and complexity, just as the label says.

The bottle looks like something straight out of a Old West film, where a snake-oil salesman scoots into town, peddling bottles of a cure-all. But this label — old-timey, sepia-toned and with promises of its beneficial qualities — does not lie.

Made from a base of fermented hemp seeds, the nonalcoholic liquid undergoes distillation with ingredients common to gin and amaro. Distillation allows the purification and concentration of the flavor created in the fermentation process. Angelica root, ginger, sage, juniper, saffron, orange peel and Douglas fir are part of the botanical makeup in the copper pot stills.

At Planta, a nonalcoholic Old-Fashioned is made with the Pathfinder hemp and root spirit. Angela Hansberger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Angela Hansberger

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Credit: Angela Hansberger

The Pathfinder is similar to a spirit but is very true to itself. Cola-colored and slightly viscous, it has aromas similar to a root cellar in a pine forest. It’s bitter, woodsy and intense, with warming spice, bittersweet citrus, dried herbs and a bracing finish. It’s as refined and special as an alpine amaro, such as Braulio.

Produced by the Stoli Group and made in the Pacific Northwest, the Pathfinder is a result of the combined talents of three trailblazers in their respected fields — Gary Escolme, a brand builder from Diageo; Chris Abbott, a cannabis industry pioneer; and Steven Grasse, creator of such brands as Hendrick’s gin and Sailor Jerry rum, among others. They set out to answer the question: What will the back bar of the future look like?

The Pathfinder is now on the back bar of such hot spots as Death & Co., PDT, Amor y Amargo and Eleven Madison Park, which boasts three Michelin stars. In Atlanta, it graces the shelves of Southern Belle/Georgia Boy and Planta, where it is mixed into a sublime impersonation of a full-proof Old-Fashioned. You also can find it at Atlanta-based the Zero Proof’s online store at

The Pathfinder is great on the rocks and as a spritz, with lemon juice and a topping of seltzer. It also is a terrific modifier of classic cocktails; substitute it for vodka in a Moscow mule. Two ounces with half an ounce of demerara sugar and a few dashes of bitters make a satisfying Old-Fashioned. As for me, I like to sip it neat in the evening, in place of my usual alpine amaro.

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