Non-Alcoholic Spirits: Cheers Without The Bubbly
Author: Carmen McCrackin | Published:
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Can I Get A Whiskey Sour Without The Whiskey?
As we are chugging along into the new year, many of us are chipping away at our New Year’s resolutions. Every year comes with a new fad resolution, a new diet, or a new “life-changing” exercise. Still, there is one resolution that will last the test of time: sobriety. However, the explosion of non-alcoholic spirits in recent years has redefined what attaining sobriety or moderation can look like. Or taste like. While I still enjoy the taste of a classic Shirley Temple, some may be looking for a more complex flavor profile while still avoiding the alcohol.
What Are Non-Alcoholic Spirits?
Non-alcoholic spirits contain, as the name suggests, no or low alcohol content. However, they still mimic the taste and feel of specific liquors. By definition, non-alcoholic refers to any drink with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (or ABV). Which, fun-fact, a very ripe banana has the same alcohol content as a pint of beer with 0.5% ABV. (Which is either very cool or very gross, depending on how you feel about bananas.)
There are various ways to make these faux spirits. Some are made through a distillation process where botanicals are filtered twice to remove the alcohol through evaporation. Others use a method of macerating and extracting botanicals without introducing alcohol.
Many brands have developed non-alcoholic spirits specifically to replace liquor like gin, vodka, or whiskey. In contrast, others produce faux mixed drinks that act more as a cocktail replacement. With drinking habits adapting so much in 2020, and the closing of bars and restaurants, many found themselves reaching for non-alcoholic options. So much in fact that the no or low-ABV market has grown 506% since 2015, according to Nielsen data.
How Can You Mimic The Taste Of Alcohol?
How does one mimic the taste and feel of alcohol? The best way to simulate the experience of alcohol is to pinpoint certain qualities. Many components make up the body of flavor that most alcoholic drinks possess. These elements include acidity, sweetness, bitterness, salinity, and water. The way these elements combine and play off each other is what makes up the experience of your favorite beverages. This is what non-alcoholic spirits are trying to recreate.
Recreating the flavor profiles of alcohols like gin, known for its juniper berry essence, can be achieved in several ways. Manufacturers of non-alcoholic spirits use botanicals, berries, seeds, nuts, and even bark to create complex and nuanced flavors.
For myself, I don’t personally enjoy the “burn” of alcohol as you drink it, but that is part of the experience. To replicate that burning sensation, non-alcoholic spirits manufacturers use bitterness or spice. Bitter flavors signal to the brain that a substance may be poisonous. These elements urge the consumer to slowly sip away at a drink or pause, much like you would with a traditional cocktail or liquor.
Who Is Partaking?
While non-alcoholic spirits are an excellent option for those who want to abstain from alcohol, it’s not only for abstainers. These alcohol-free spirits are helpful in a multitude of situations. For instance, if you’re trying to moderate your alcohol consumption, you can sub out your usual choice for an alcohol-free cocktail. Not only can you still socialize with your friends in a bar setting, but you also have an option that goes beyond sparkling water or soda.
Other situations for you to use non-alcoholic spirits include:
- If you are pregnant
- If you’re using a specific medication that can’t mix with alcohol
- If you don’t like the taste or feel of alcohol
- If you’re going to be driving
So much of socializing revolves around eating and drinking, so it makes sense that those who do not want to drink may not feel comfortable going out with their friends or family. Having these non-alcoholic options allow individuals to connect with others without feeling excluded or judged.
If you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), abstaining from alcohol without monitored help or treatment is not advised. Using alcohol-free spirits and partaking in social challenges like “Dry January” help individuals re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. However, these tools work best as benchmarks and not as a form of treatment.
Know Your Limits
Partaking in non-alcoholic spirits can be a refreshing switch-up in your routine. With the alcohol-free market growing every day, multiple options at varying price points are available. However, it’s important to reiterate that if you have an AUD, choosing to stop drinking alcohol suddenly can have dangerous and painful consequences like withdrawal.
If you have any questions about your relationship with alcohol or your consumption levels, reach out. Contact a treatment provider now with any concerns you may have.
Experimenting with alcohol alternatives should be fun and safe, so take the time to reflect on your relationship with alcohol. In the meantime, enjoy some fun, innovative mocktails.
Author: Carmen McCrackin | Last Edited: February 10, 2022