Non-alcoholic beers and alcohol-free wines have been a market mainstay for many years. However, it’s taken some time for non-alcoholic spirits to make an appearance. Nowadays, the appetite for non-alcoholic spirits is bigger than ever. More people than ever are looking to limit their alcohol intake, while many more are becoming increasingly aware of how much regular drinking contributes to weight gain.
If you’re someone who consumes cocktails on a regular basis, there’s a good chance your drinking is adding inches to your waistline without you realising it. Even a small cocktail can equate to three hundred calories. If you drink several cocktails in any given night, you could be consuming upwards of a thousand extra calories on top of your usual diet. Non-alcoholic spirits provide an easy ways to limit your calorific intake, while also protecting your liver and overall health from the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Our buying guide includes some useful resources on zero alcohol spirits, as well as some suggestions on what to buy if you’re interested in sampling the best non-alcoholic drinks and spirits on the market.
Non-Alcoholic Spirits Explained
In reality, there is no such thing as a non-alcoholic spirit. Non-alcoholic beer and wine are usually produced in much the same way as their alcoholic counterparts. Once beer has been brewed and wine has been fermented, the accumulated alcohol is then removed from the liquid prior to bottling.
Non-alcoholic spirits are instead beverages that have been produced to replicate the taste of the alcoholic spirits we know and love. Although zero alcohol rum and vodka are becoming increasingly common, the majority of non-alcoholic spirit drinks on the market are so-called gin alternatives. This is because it’s far easier to replicate the overall flavour and aromas of gin by using botanicals, even if the alcohol content is lacking.
How Are Non-Alcoholic Spirits Produced?
Some spirit substitutes are produced via distillation processes that are almost identical to the ones used to produce alcoholic spirits. This involves distilling botanical ingredients in alcohol, with the immersed ingredients being heated to produce infused vapour. This vapour is then separated out, cooled and collected. Low-alcohol spirits are then heavily diluted down with water to produce a gin or vodka that is fairly similar in flavour to the real thing, but with far less of an alcohol content. Generally speaking, such spirits rarely include an alcohol by volume content of more than 0.5 percent.
Non-alcoholic spirits are made differently. Instead of heating combined liquid and botanicals to produce infused vapour, a non-alcoholic gin instead involves ingredients being left to soak in water. This liquid will eventually absorb the character of the botanicals, giving it a markedly different texture, flavour and aroma. In the case of gin, it’s far easier to achieve a non-alcoholic imitation because botanicals like juniper and citrus impart their character fairly easily into the liquid they are left to soak in.
Flavour & Aroma: What to Expect
The ultimate tasting experience of a non-alcoholic spirit will be determined by the ingredients used and how long they have been left to soak in water. Many non-alcoholic gins tend to achieve fairly decent results, especially if they’ve used botanicals typical of a standard gin recipe. Juniper, spices and citrus fruits are all dynamic enough that they will leave the filtered liquid with flavours that are familiar enough to gin drinkers.
Aromas are far harder to emulate. Although spices are fairly easy to discern on the nose, other aromas will be far more lacklustre than what you might expect from a typical spirit. The lack of alcohol also sets these spirit substitutes apart from the genuine article. There’s a distinct lack of a fiery hit when sipping on a non-alcoholic spirit, although some botanicals like ginger can help compensate for this issue to some extent.
Why Switch to Non-Alcoholic Spirits?
If you’re someone who consumes spirits in the form of cocktails, keeping accurate track of your alcohol consumption can be difficult. Measures may not be uniform across the board, while sweet-tasting mixers and garnishes can often cloud the taste of alcohol, making it difficult to determine just how strong a drink actually is.
Non-alcoholic spirits are the perfect compromise for those who want to enjoy cocktail hour without having to dread a hangover the next day. Those embarking on a teetotal lifestyle will find many premium options on the market, while those looking to lessen their alcohol consumption can partly substitute their usual vodka, rum or gin with a non-alcoholic alternative.
Mixing Non-Alcoholic Spirits
Because non-alcoholic spirits tend to have weaker overall flavours than their alcoholic counterparts, you’ll need to approach cocktail mixes with a slightly adjusted mindset. Generally speaking, avoid going overboard when it comes to loading a cocktail shaker with sodas, sparkling waters and syrups. This is especially important if you’re drinking delicately balanced gin alternatives.
As a rule, check to see what botanicals and ingredients have been used to produce your non-alcoholic spirit of choice. Keep the main body of your drink simple and stripped-back, sticking to something like a light soda or sparkling water. A diet-friendly option is also a good idea if you’re looking to avoid alcohol to reduce calorie intake.
Garnishes can also help put some flavour and fire back into your drinks. Again, try and be sympathetic to the ingredients used to produce the non-alcoholic spirit you are drinking. If there’s a pronounced citrus character to your zero alcohol gin, choose orange peel or lemon slice garnishes. Ginger is another good option for those looking to inject some fiery heat into their non-alcoholic cocktails.
Looking to make your cocktail hour a healthier affair? Below are some of the best non-alcoholic spirit alternatives currently available, with options to suit every palate and budget.
Everleaf has more than a few premium non-alcoholic spirit products on the market, but this take on pink gin is definitely one of the best. This alcohol-free gin is made up of a dozen individual botanical ingredients, resulting in a full-bodied flavour that contains hints of rose hip, strawberry and sweet cherry. Unlike non-alcoholic takes on dry gin, Everleaf Mountain is a fruitier affair. Because of the sharper flavours at work here, you won’t have to go overboard with mixers and garnishes to bring a single measure of this spirit to life.
When it comes to putting together cocktails with this non-alcoholic gin, try and avoid overfilling your glass with too many ingredients and garnishes. Instead, focus on the pre-existing flavours and reach for ingredients that will bring out the best in what’s already there. A light tonic will ensure your cocktails remain low in calories, while simple garnishes of sliced strawberry or cucumber will add some subtle sweetness.
Many non-alcoholic spirits are simply too weak and muted to ever fill in for a measure of genuine gin. However, Caleño Light & Zesty is an altogether livelier offering. This premium gin substitute includes a variety of vibrant botanicals to bring you big flavours and enticing aromas. Juniper forms the backbone of this zero alcohol spirit, giving it plenty of classic gin character. There’s also a good assortment of exotic spices here, along with plenty of citrus to deliver some zesty personality.
As this non-alcoholic gin is fairly lively in its own right, you won’t have to compensate too much with your mixing ingredients. This non-alcoholic gin forms the ideal base for a healthier G&T, although it’ll blend nicely with just about any cocktail recipe requiring a measure of gin. If you’re keen to keep calorie intake low, just be careful not to add anything high in sugar when filling your cocktail shaker.
If you’re looking to sample a variety of non-alcoholic spirit options, this Vibrante and Floreale twin pack from Martini is worth looking into. These spirits have been produced with similar distillery techniques used to manufacture traditional Martini. Therefore, you can expect similar levels of complexity, both on the nose and on the palate. High-quality botanicals and herbaceous ingredients have been cherry-picked to deliver a premium tasting experience, with both recipes delivering something that’s incredibly refreshing.
Martini Floreale is fairly subtle in flavour. Sweet citrus and orange notes form the backbone flavour of this spirit, with more muted elderflower notes running throughout. Martini Vibrante is far sharper and spicier, with zesty limes and red berry fruit making for a more lingering finish. You can use either in lieu of regular Martini in all manner of cocktail recipes, although you’’ll probably want to play around with quantities and garnishes to bring out the best of the base recipe.
This Three Spirit starter pack is another great value option for those looking for an introduction to the non-alcoholic spirit market. Each spirit substitute includes premium ingredients and refreshing botanicals, with wildly different flavour profiles that should cater to every palate. The Social Elixir is a good choice for those who prefer earthy, more mature flavours. You’ll notice hints of mushroom and cacao here, serving as the ideal base for more unusual cocktail combinations.
Three Spirit Livener is far more vibrant, with abounding tropical flavours that will appeal to anyone who prefers a more exotic inspired cocktail. This non-alcoholic drink is made from tropical berries, guayusa and guava leaf, which will all pair nicely with mixers like coconut water, tropical fruit juices and citrus garnishes. Finally, there’s Three Spirit Nightcap. If you’re looking for a refined alternative to dark spirits to sip on at the end of an evening, this non-alcoholic option will impress. Subtle lemon balm, valerian root and hops all combine for something worth savouring.
This non-alcoholic spirit from Tuscan Tree is something to consider if you have a preference for Italian flavours. This mouth-watering aperitif is made from some of Italy’s finest exports, including Tuscan orange and Sicilian lemon. There’s also more subtle hints of lavender at work here, which combines with the citrus character to produce an enchanting aroma.
You’ll need to have a palate for citrus and big fruit flavours to get the most out of this non-alcoholic spirit. If you’re looking for a versatile dry gin replacement for your cocktails, look elsewhere. To enjoy Tuscan Tree at home, think about combining a measure of this spirit with carbonated soda water, before finishing up with an orange peel or lemon slice garnish.
Everleaf deliver another premium non-alcoholic spirit with Everleaf Forest. This complex gin alternative includes 14 individual botanical ingredients, with each one carefully selected to represent the flavours of the forest. There’s some truly premium ingredients included here, with Madagascan vanilla and saffron setting this spirit apart from many run-of-the-mill alternatives on the market. Although these flavours alone are quite muted in their own right, the recipe is given some much-needed zest courtesy of orange blossom.
In addition to containing zero alcohol, Everleaf Forest is suitable for vegans. It’s also free of any gluten, making it ideal for anyone keen to stick to a clean eating routine. When making cocktails with this spirit, you’ll want to keep things fairly simple so not to drown out the flavour of the saffron and vanilla sweetness. In fact, a couple of ice cubes and a light tonic water is all that’s required for a first class cocktail with next to no calories.
If you’re a big fan of Italian aperitifs, Lyre’s Italian Orange is guaranteed to impress. This premium non-alcoholic spirit is fairly similar to Campari in terms of flavour and appearance, with notable ingredients like red citrus fruits and blood orange delivering the zesty flavour and signature hue. The overall flavour is rounded out by maraschino cherry, with the sweeter tasting notes particularly noticeable on the mid-palate. Unlike other non-alcoholic spirits where the flavour tends to dissipate in seconds, Lyre’s Italian Orange will stick around for a while, before building to a dry finish.
If you want a first-rate tasting experience, take some time to consider your mixing options. Because of its similarity to Campari, you can use Lyre’s Italian Orange in lieu of it in many recipes. It also works well with more simple cocktail recipes, so you can expect a fabulous drink, even if you only have a can of tonic water to hand.
Salcombe New London Light is an elegant alternative to traditional gin. This premium non-alcoholic spirit has been made with premium botanicals, with gin staples including cardamom, orange and lemongrass noticeable on the nose and on the palate. There’s also some unmistakable notes of sage and cascarilla bark to savour here.
Although this spirit is lacking the fiery hit of an alcoholic gin, other ingredients are on hand to provide the warmth. In particular, there’s some throat-tickling ginger included in the recipe, which lingers on the tongue and is still very discernible, even when blended with cocktail mixes. For maximum enjoyment, keep your mixes simple when using New London Light. Aim to use nothing stronger than tonic water for your main mixing ingredient, before capping things off with a subtle garnish.
If you’re someone who is pretty steadfast when it comes to flavour preferences, you’ll probably want to choose a non-alcoholic version of your favourite spirit. Gordon’s Alcohol Free is nigh on indistinguishable from the genuine article, with many of the same botanical ingredients used to produce it. This non-alcoholic spirit is also distilled in much the same way, resulting in almost identical flavours, textures and aromas.
The main drawback of Gordo’s Alcohol Free is that it lacks a little when it comes to the finish. Without the inclusion of biting alcohol, your cocktails may feel a little muted. To overcome this, think about adding some of that fire back in with your garnishes. Zesty citrus peels, lemon juice and grated ginger will all go some way in putting the heat back into your G&T or preferred gin cocktails.
Seedlip is becoming a big name in the non-alcoholic spirit market. Grove 42 is one of the their most popular products and it’s not hard to see why. This award-winning spirit more than delivers when it comes to citrus character, with very pronounced orange flavours. No less than three different varieties of orange have been used to produce this non-alcoholic spirit, meaning you can enjoy a more nuanced flavour that doesn’t simply taste like diluted fruit juice.
Seedlip Grove 42 also carries a spicy undertone, which doesn’t conflict with the upfront orange character and only adds to the overall complexity. As this spirit is rich in orange and citrus notes, you’ll want to factor this into account when adding mixers and introducing garnishes. Plain tonic water will ensure the core botanicals are not drowned out prior to serving, while slices of orange peel or citrus garnishes will bring out that innate fruity backbone.
The Cornish coast may be known for many things, but non-alcoholic gin is not one of them. However, that looks likely to change thanks to Pentire Adrift. This non-alcoholic spirit is made from some truly unique botanicals, with many ingredients sourced from Cornwall itself. Pentire plant, sage and samphire all combine along with traditional gin botanicals like citrus fruit and juniper to produce a non-alcoholic gin that’s distinct from just about anything else on the market. There’s also a generous inclusion of Cornish sea salt, which provides this gin alternative with a welcome minerality.
Although fairly light on the palate and pared-back in terms of aromas, this non-alcoholic gin has a lot going on under the surface. This spirit is beautifully balanced, with all the key botanicals easy to discern. It’s also incredibly fresh on the nose, with the sharp kick of citrus fruit and grassy notes inviting you in. If you prefer your gin-infused cocktails with more of a punch, you can be fairly liberal when it comes to pouring out your initial measures, especially if you don’t want to drown out the complexity on offer here.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to a traditional aperitif, Æcorn Bitter Citrus is a great choice. There’s bags of botanical character to enjoy here, with punchy citrus notes and more bitter flavours, alongside more subtle notes courtesy of bay leaves. Underneath it all, there’s also some lingering notes of oak and sweet honeycomb to savour.
If you’re looking to enjoy this aperitif neat, make sure you serve well-chilled. If you’re more interested in making cocktails, you are also in luck. This non-alcoholic bitter spirit can be used in place of things like Aperol fairly easily, with none of the lingering sweetness usually encountered with similar spirits. It goes particularly well with carbonated soda mixers, while citrus peel and other fruity garnishes will go some way in bringing out the innate character of this premium non-alcoholic spirit.
If you’ve searched far and wide for a non-alcoholic gin for a healthy alternative to a traditional G&T with little luck, The Duchess is the answer to your prayers. This pre-made G&T alternative takes all the hard work out of mixing, providing you with a ready-to-drink cocktail that can be served chilled or poured over ice. The non-alcoholic gin at the root of this cocktail is particularly impressive, with all the best botanical ingredients represented. There’s essential juniper, alongside subtle cucumber, zesty lime and aromatic rosemary.
Just the right amount of tonic water has been added to round off the botanical flavour, without taking away any of the sweetness and aroma of the zero alcohol gin. If you want to liven things up with garnishes, think about adding a little cucumber or fresh rosemary into your glass, along with a generous base of crushed ice.
Martini is the go-to cocktail of choice for many people. However, the usual offerings fairly high in alcohol content and loaded with excess sugar and calories. Belvoir Alcohol-Free Passion Fruit Martini provides you with a leaner alternative that’s not lacking in flavour. Although this non-alcoholic spirit is fairly low in sugar and contains no added ingredients, it’s definitely one for those with a sweet tooth. The inclusion of passion fruit provides this spirit substitute with plenty of innate sweetness, as well as a creamier overall texture.
Other ingredients include vanilla extract for sweetness, along with lime juice for added zest. Because this Martini comes pre-mixed, you can enjoy it straight out of the bottle. However, you an also add a generous measure of this to your cocktail shaker if you’re looking to make your bottle go further.
FLUÈRE is leading the way when it comes to non-alcoholic spirits. This particular take on zero alcohol spirit has been produced via hydro steam distillation. This innovative production technique means that the spirit can be created without ever coming into contact with alcohol, rather than having the alcohol content removed later on. First-rate botanicals also result in a delicious spirit that tastes relatively similar to an alcoholic option. You have botanical mainstays like juniper berries and lime, alongside more subtle flavours like lavender. There’s added fieriness courtesy of coriander seed, undercutting everything with a lingering spicy heat.
However, it’s raspberry that stands out against all the other botanical ingredients here. This not only delivers a subtly sweet fruity character, but also helps drive the flavour towards a refreshingly dry finish. Although you’re lacking the bite of an alcohol content, all of the other ingredients go a long way in replicating the warmth and texture that similar spirits lack.
Sea Arch aims to capture the spirit of the Devonshire coast and it definitely delivers. This non-alcoholic gin alternative is rich in marine botanicals, which combine to ensure a full flavour that’s incredibly refreshing. Sea Arch includes botanicals you’ll struggle to find anywhere else. Sea kelp is arguably the most unusual of the bunch, providing this zero alcohol gin with a tangy quality. More conventional botanicals include cardamom and juniper, while other staples like cucumber add essential freshness and a clean finish to the overall profile.
All botanicals used to produce Sea Arch are individually distilled before the alcohol being removed. The result is a gin alternative that’s very close to real gin. You may lack the punch of alcohol with this gin substitute, but there’s some wholly unique character that can be enjoyed in its own right.
Ceder’s Pink Rose is one of the more elegant and refined non-alcoholic spirits out there. In fact, Ceder’s is best judged on its own merits, rather than compared to conventional gin and spirits. Exotic botanicals make this non-alcoholic gin something truly special. Many of the herbs and botanical ingredients that make up the recipe have been sourced from South Africa. In particular, they have been plucked from the Cederberg Mountains, where this non-alcoholic spirit gets its name.
Plenty of juniper provides this non-alcoholic spirit with telltale gin character, while additional hibiscus provides some essential heat. There’s also a generous addition of rose petal included, which adds to the subtle aromatics and makes for a smoother mouth feel and finish. You can use this zero alcohol spirit in place of pink gin in pretty much any cocktail that normally calls for it. However, as this is fairly low-profile in flavour, you may want to think about working in some sourer flavours into the final recipe for balance.
Mother Root Ginger Switchel is one of the better options out there for those looking to switch to a non-alcoholic spirit, without losing too much fiery heat and character. Spirits with zero alcohol content tend to be fairly dull on the tongue, but Mother Root makes use of pressed ginger to restore much of that heat. There’s also apple cider vinegar in the mix, adding a zesty kick that carries all the way throughout, right up until the refreshing finish.
Ginger Switchel works particularly well with spritz cocktail recipes. Because the ginger flavour is quite pronounced, it can be blended with sparkling water, as well as still soda mixers. When it comes to adding a garnish or two, avoid overburdening your cocktails with ginger and reach for orange peel or citrus slices. Herbaceous garnishes will also work well with this non-alcoholic aperitif.
If you’re looking to substitute white rum for a non-alcoholic alternative, Lyre’s White Cane Spirit should tick every box. Lyre’s is a heavyweight in the world of non-alcoholic spirits and White Cane Spirit is one of their best offerings. Unlike many gin alternatives on the market, this white rum substitute is little more calorific. However, this is all down to the ingredients used to replicate the natural flavour and aromas of rum.
Sugar cane provides essential sweetness, while delicate coconut and marzipan provide other rum signatures. There’s also more than a hint of orange, along with a subtle undertone of oak to add an aged quality to the taste and aroma. You’ll also notice a lingering peppery character, which helps build toward a sharp and refreshing finish. You can use Lyre’s White Can Spirit in place of white rum in almost any cocktail recipe. However, it’s nowhere near as punch as the real thing, so you may want to double up on your base measures or limit the amount of mixer you are using.
Non-alcoholic spirits are far from perfect imitations of their full-bodied alternatives, but there are plenty of impressive products now available on the market. Consuming non-alcoholic spirits is obviously not going to get you drunk, but the lack of alcohol has other implications. Drinks made with non-alcoholic spirits tend to lack the punch of ones that do, so be prepared to compensate for this with garnishes and mixers.
If shopping for non-alcoholic gins and vodkas, look for products that have been made with similar ingredient lists to the real thing. In the case of gins, that includes juniper, citrus fruit and earthy spices. If you’re interested in sampling non-alcoholic aperitifs, opt for ones that are big on bitter flavours and don’t forget to serve them well chilled.
Finally, you’ll need to be careful when combining non-alcoholic spirits with mixers. Many zero alcohol spirits have been carefully produced to deliver balanced flavours that showcase all the hallmarks of their alcoholic varieties. You want to avoid drowning out all of this hard work by being too liberal with sparkling water, sickly-sweet syrups and sugary garnishes.