3 low-alcohol drinks to sip this summer

C Cassis, Meyer Lemonpop and Rockey’s Botanical Liqueur have a lot of flavor, but not the punch of a higher proof product. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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C Cassis, Meyer Lemonpop and Rockey’s Botanical Liqueur have a lot of flavor, but not the punch of a higher proof product. Krista Slater for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

There has been an increasing interest in nonalcoholic beer, beverages approximating wine (minus the alcohol) and spirit-free cocktails. There are many reasons why folks are exploring the sober-curious movement, including a healthier lifestyle and a shift in attitude surrounding alcohol.

For those who partake of adult beverages, but want to cut back or extend their evening without feeling foggy the next morning, we suggest a middle path: lower-alcohol spirits and wines that have a lot of flavor, but not the punch of a higher proof product.

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One of our new favorites is Rockey’s Botanical Liqueur, a blend of green apple, pineapple, black and green teas, and citrus, with a small amount of neutral grain spirit. It was created by Eamon Rockey, a veteran bartender of Michelin-starred New York restaurants, such as Eleven Madison Park.

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Rockey’s is only 12% alcohol (24 proof), which is less than most chardonnays. It is light and clear, with hints of the teas, especially the green tea. A pronounced, refreshing apple acidity on the finish sets it apart from more traditional sweet liqueurs. You can add Rockey’s to a gin and tonic or other classic cocktails, but we really are enjoying it on the rocks, and topped with sparkling wine or soda water.

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Another liqueur that we are savoring for light refreshment is C Cassis. It is made from lightly fermented black currants, whole green cardamom, bay leaf, citrus rind, lemon verbena, wild honey and a little bit of distilled spirits. Because black currants were thought to endanger white pine, they were illegal to grow in the U.S. until 2003. Now, C Cassis producer Rachel Petach is using black currants grown just a few miles from her home in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Unlike traditional cassis, which can be viscous and overly sweet, C Cassis is light and herbaceous. The dark berry flavor gets a bit of lift from the fermentation. It comes in at 16% alcohol, and can be enjoyed on the rocks, but we prefer it in a classic kir. Just add an ounce of the liqueur to a wine glass and top with 4 ounces of chilled white wine.

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Last on our list of lower alcoholic delights is Meyer Lemonpop, from the wife and husband team behind Mommenpop (say it out loud) in Napa, California. It’s labeled as an aperitif wine, and clocks in with the highest alcohol content (still only 20%).

The Mommenpop label started with a spritz obsession one hot California summer. Samantha Sheehan already was the winemaker for Poe and Ultraviolet wines. With her chardonnay as a base, she adds organic citrus and herbs, to make a less sweet aperitif with no artificial or extra ingredients. Her husband, Michael McDermott, is a designer, and created the labels for the project.

They also make other Mommenpop citrus aperitifs, using Seville orange, blood orange, ruby grapefruit and makrut lime, but the Meyer Lemonpop is the one we are keeping around, topping it with sparkling mineral water for spritzes all summer long.

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