People hop on the Dry January bandwagon for different reasons. For some, it is to reset their relationship with alcohol. For others, it simply may be a challenge. For me, it was a month to devote to drinks that are nonalcoholic, yet worthy of the cocktail experience.
I sampled drinks I had tried in the past, such as Seedlip, the world’s first distilled nonalcoholic spirit, and the coffee-like Woodnose Sacre. I drank a few bottles of the zero-proof Mediterranean apéritif Ghia, and I had many bottles of Casamara Club’s amaro-like sodas. The latter two have become permanent residents in my fridge, no matter what month it is.
On evenings when I really wanted a cocktail, I looked for something new and, frankly, easy. The market for nonalcoholic spirits is growing swiftly, and there are lots of choices in pretty packaging. Here are three that I will continue to sip on through February and beyond:
As a young office worker, Aura Bora co-founder Paul Voge would go through seven to eight cans of sparkling water a day.
He and his wife, Maddie, set out to make, test and refine their own flavors that people “would have some context with, beyond sparkling water,” he said. They used herbal extracts, fruits and flowers for a flavorful and playful approach, creating a lineup of five varieties that sip like a complex drink.
The drinks have no calories, sugar or artificial sweeteners, and come in cans with cover art “as whimsical as the ingredients inside them,” Voge said. The 12-ounce cans sell for around $2 each and are available in basil berry, cactus rose, lavender cucumber, lemongrass coconut and peppermint watermelon. I made a curry dish for dinner one evening, and poured lemongrass coconut over a large ice cube in a fancy glass. It paired beautifully with the dish and tasted like a bartender had made it for me. Voge also suggested mixing lavender cucumber with gin, for an easy and interesting cocktail. More flavors are coming.
Available at Aurabora.com, and, locally, at Westview Corner Grocery, 1562 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., Atlanta. 404-748-7037, westviewgrocery.com
Bottles of Mocktail Club zero-proof drinks appear clean, natural and timeless, which is exactly what founder Pauline Idogho intended. She wanted something reminiscent of a classic cocktail, only booze-free, with bold and daring flavors, and with ingredients beneficial to digestive health. The company relies on organic suppliers, and uses sustainable packaging for its elixirs, which are caffeine-free and loaded with antioxidants and prebiotics.
The spritzy Capri Sour is a mix of sweet and sour, from pomegranate and cranberry. Manhattan Berry combines blackberries, a pear shrub and a big kick of fresh ginger. Havana Twist is a take on a mojito — refreshing and tangy, with spices and lime. My favorite, Bombay Fire, uses infused tea leaves and agave, and has smoky, almost warming notes from chili.
Four-packs are $16.95; available at mocktailclub.com and Amazon.
Netherlands-made Fluére is trying to be an alcohol-free gin, and it succeeds. The stunning blue bottle is a fine addition to a bar cart.
Made with juniper, citrus peels, coriander and lavender, the clear liquid is tart, with piney notes and a hint of citrus. And, it has a bite to it. Like true gin, Fluére goes through a distillation process that extracts the important essential oils for flavor. Dealcoholization happens via hydrosteam distillation, and what remains is reminiscent of gin. Pour it over a nice ice ball, add a splash of good tonic water, throw in a lime peel, and maybe a couple of dried juniper berries, and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine “gin and tonic.”
$26 per 700-milliliter bottle; available at flueredrinks.com and Amazon.