Over the last few years, the non-alcoholic scene has burst open. Pre-pandemic, non drinkers were largely relegated to sodas, sparkling waters, or Seedlip at select bars.
In the last few years, the category has grown past its infancy and consists of a spectrum of sans-booze bars, from canned cocktails to zero-proof wines to no-proof spirits.
That said, it’s a tough category. Sure, you can launch a no-alcohol product, but capturing the piquancy, intensity, length, complexity and texture of a regular-proof drink isn’t easy.
These three beverages — all new releases — do just that. They bottle the energy and the excitement of the best boozy beverages while bringing bold, balanced flavors with no-ABV. In short form, they’re delicious and well worth stocking up on.
Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo
While there are no-alc beers and spirits aplenty, brands have been slow to capture the culture of aperitivo in a bottle. The newest launch from Wilderton — a Portland-based non-alc spirits company — channels just that. Basically, it’s a golden hour in a bottle, a sip-it-in-the-sun spirit.
Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo blends grapefruit, Italian lemon, orange blossom, and aromatic herbs for a bittersweet but bright flavor – think Aperol meets red vermouth.
The flavors lend well to Negronis and the brand also offers a range of cocktail recipes by Jim Meehan. I’m keen on swapping it for Aperol in an easy Spritz. (I lean on Gruvi’s dry bubbles or Leitz Eins Zwei’s sparkling riesling for no-proof sparkling wine.)
Figlia Fiore Frizzante
As someone non-alcohol adjacent (I’m a spirits writer, but my partner doesn’t drink. We tend to keep it low- or no-proof at home), I find the biggest hurdle with non-alcoholic products is approachability. I love the appeal of a non-alcoholic tequila or whiskey, but if someone lacks cocktail making experience, what do you do with it?
As the category expands, I’m particularly excited about the new entrants from the ready-to-drink space. Like Figlia’s Fiore Frizzante — a hyper-refreshing, wildly delicious canned spritz. It balances carbonated water with a Fiore’s blend of white grape, ginger, lemon, rose, rosemary, elderflower, black currant, chamomile and lemon balm.
The full-size bottle of Fiore is a lovely way to build out Italian-ish cocktails without the buzz, but the canned cocktail is a new favorite of mine. Simply open the fridge and pop the top for a fully-considered cocktail. Bring it to a party, throw it in a cooler — it’s highly versatile.
Acid League’s Sommelier Series
Acid League has become the gold standard of non-alcoholic wines, crafting full range of sans-alc bottles for every occasion, from poolside rose to complex whites to rich, flavorful reds.
The goal of the acids brand is not to create alcoholized versions of standard varietal wines; it’s to build up flavors for unique cuvees that pair well with food, leaning on ingredients like spices, flowers, tea, bitters and juices to round out the profile.
A new series finds the Canadian-based brand teaming up with major names in the wine world for limited-edition collaborations. There’s been two so far: Southern chef Sean Brock leaned on Appalachian ingredients like elderberries, pawpaws, pine, and “an old-fashioned bean preservation technique called leather britches.” Sommelier/winemaker Andre Hueston Mack — formerly of The French Laundry and Per Se — was inspired by Willamette Valley, producing a medium-bodied red blend of marionberries, cherries, and pinot noir grapes spiced with Willamette hops, Enigma hops, kola nut, and cinnamon. Down the road (read: shortly!) expect more experimental wines from equally as exciting names.