Expect nonalcoholic bottles to start taking up even more real estate on bar shelves.
Ever since Seedlip hit the market in 2015 with the world’s first distilled nonalcoholic spirit, the producer’s success has proven that many want to drink, but not everyone wants to get tipsy. Now an influx of beverage brands are jostling for space in restaurants and on store shelves.
Nonalcoholic beverage sales are jumping in the U.S. as more people prioritize healthier lifestyles and millennials feel less social pressure to drink. In the year ending in August 2022, nonalcoholic drinks sales hit $395 million, a year-over-year growth of 20.6 percent, according to NielsenIQ. The wine category was up 23.2 percent in that time period, to be worth more than $52 million; booze-free spirit sales grew 88.4 percent from the previous year.
Exhibit A is the rapid success of the nonalcoholic drinks shop Boisson. It opened during the pandemic as a storefront in Brooklyn, N.Y., and in less than two years, co-founder Nick Bodkins has expanded his booze-free brand to eight brick-and-mortar shops spread between there and Los Angeles. In addition to selling more than 100 unique premium nonalcoholic drinks, Boisson also sells its own namesake wine label.
Boisson Blanc tastes just like a floral, high-acid white wine; you’d be hard-pressed to guess that it’s alcohol-free. Bodkins teamed with German-based winemaker Johannes Leitz. He says Leitz “goes through the traditional winemaking process” and then de-alcoholizes it at a low temperature, in a vacuum, to make it zero-proof. The result tastes remarkably like wine, as opposed to most overly sweet alcohol-free wines.
That’s just one of the innovative techniques that nonalcoholic producers employ. Another trend is to spike drinks with adaptogenic herbs — supporting the immune system by helping the body adapt to stress — to produce new beverages with healthful benefits.
Just in time for Dry January, here are the best new faux wines, cocktails and liquors to seek out.
Boisson Blanc from Boisson: For an alcohol-free wine, Boisson tastes an awful lot like a classic riesling. Bodkins, co-founder of the bicoastal nonalcoholic boutique brand Boisson, tapped the winemaker behind Weingut Leitz, to create this floral, high-acid white, made from a blend of grapes grown in Germany’s lauded Rheingau wine region. $16 for 750ml
7 from Non: Consider this a booze-free lambrusco. Tart and spicy, with a leathery backdrop, the sophisticated, crimson-hued sparkler blends ingredients such as sour cherry, cold-brewed coffee and garam masala to mimic the acid, tannins and spice found in some red wines. Founder Aaron Trotman created his Non alcohol-free drinks line three years ago in Australia. Each “varietal” is designated by a number. Earlier in December, they became available in the U.S. $29 for 750ml
Pink Salt from Proxies: Like any good rosé, this bottle is extremely easy to sip. The pretty pink drink has notes of grapefruit and juicy strawberry, and white tea adds body. It embodies summer, although, like all rosés, it’s good year-round. If you’re going for a pairing, try this refreshing drink alongside fish or vegetable-focused dishes. $150 for six 750ml bottles
Lacewing from Tilden Cocktails: This handsome bottle contains a multidimensional, well-balanced mocktail that tastes like a margarita crossed with a Moscow mule. The exotic, flowery notes come from the addition of Sichuan peppercorn and lychee. Founders Mariah Wood and Vanessa Royle set out to create a spirit-less drink that lives up to special occasions. $29 for 750ml
Lolo Hops Cascadia Field Blend from Aurora: These cute canned drinks rely on three Pacific Northwest-grown hops varieties — the plant that brewers add to beer to impart a bitter taste — for their flavor. But this booze-free spritz omits bitterness and instead offers flowery notes of grapefruit. $21 for six 12-oz cans
Liquors and liqueurs
Bittersweet Aperitivo from Wilderton: Aperol and Campari spritz fans, rejoice. The unofficial drink of summer is now available, alcohol-free. Wilderton founding distiller Seth O’Malley’s obsession with Italian botanical spirits led him to create this drink that tastes like beloved aperitifs as well as sweet vermouth. $37 for 750ml
Highland Malt from Lyre’s: You could build an entire booze-free bar with the Australia-based Lyre’s, a brand that produces myriad mock spirits including absinthe and dark rum. The company has already won several beverage awards for those products; now founders Mark Livings and Carl Hartmann have introduced the first drink meant to be sipped neat: a woodsy, cereal- and toffee-flavored Highland-inspired malt whiskey. $36 for 700ml
Hemp & Root from the Pathfinder: Hendrick’s Gin brand creator Steven Grasse, Diageo alum Guy Escolme and cannabis vet Chris Abbott have teamed up to produce this amaro-inspired cannabis-based spirit. They add a blend of angelica root, wormwood, saffron and more into a distilled hemp base to yield an herbaceous (although not psychoactive) bittersweet elixir. $40 for 750ml