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  • Brian Tasch

Non-Alcoholic Round Up

As “Dry January” winds down it seems every food and drink publication is writing about their experiences with the non-alcoholic spirit boom. One more can't hurt, right?


Non-alcoholic spirit. Spirit alternative. Zero-proof spirit. Spirit substitute. Zero-proof botanical drink. There are a lot of marketing terms being thrown around these days as brands look to see what sticks in a new and growing marketplace. For the sake of simplicity, I'll be referring to them as non-alcoholic spirits, or N/A spirits.


If you couldn't tell by the scatterbrained marketing, there is no industry standard on how to approach the production of these N/A products. Some are alcoholic macerations that are distilled down to less than 0.5% ABV. Some of them are basically just water with flavor extract. Some producers thicken their products for a satisfying texture missing often from the distilled non-alcoholic spirits.


To be honest, this exploration into N/A spirits is less about my excitement for the category and more about solving my biggest issues with it: cost, texture, the concentration of flavor (both taste and aroma), and general mixability and usefulness.


A couple of years ago, after trying my first N/A spirits, I started developing what my partner and I jokingly refer to as “Thicc Tea” for home use. Rather than pay $30+ for what we considered to be little more than flavored water, I found it more economical and ultimately more satisfying to simply add a combination of xanthan gum and gum arabic to strongly brewed teas and tisanes.


Using a combination of natural emulsifiers such as xanthan gum and gum arabic in varying ratios, vegetable glycerin, and various fruit and vegetable oils I aim to develop recipes to solve all of the above issues. Don't worry, I'll write all about it.


Until then, this is what we're working with.

a series of bottles lined up in a row featuring proteau rivington spritz and ludlow red, ritual zero proof whiskey and gin alternatives, monday gin, and seedlip spice 94 aromatic, garden 108 herbal, and grove 42 citrus.

Just two years ago it seemed like Seedlip was the only well-known option available. Today, according to Camper English's list of every N/A spirit brand on the market, there are over 100. Before Covid-19 hit, there were at least four dedicated non-alcoholic cocktail bars in NYC and Brooklyn. Punch recently published an article highlighting a new N/A bottle shop in NYC's Lower East Side. It looks like the Low ABV trend gave up and went sober.


So I guess N/A spirits are here to stay, or at least that's the market prediction for the time being, but are they any good? Are they worth the money? Are we being presented with a new category of beverage to add to our arsenal or are we being duped into spending huge amounts of money on bottled tisanes?


The convenient thing about most of these products is they are simply flavored with extracts or juices so the tasting notes will very often directly reflect these ingredients. The tasting notes are the easy part here, the functional application of each bottle is trickier.


Many of the N/A products are specifically marketed to be used interchangeably with proper, alcoholic spirits. Some of them argue they provide alternative spirit bases with which to create new drink templates. Most aim to replicate or replace existing products and the rest compare themselves to existing products or categories.


If a product is going to market itself as “gin” it can be judged by whether or not it tastes, smells, and performs like a gin. Likewise, if you want to pique a consumer's interest by dropping a recognizable brand or category, it should be an honest hook, not a total reimagining. These products have functional goals to achieve and therefore have definable markers of quality and success within the category.


Every brand on the market has a different idea of how they believe the consumer will want to enjoy their products. At this point in the game, brands are essentially throwing handfuls of darts at a board to see what sticks.


Marketing aside, let's see how these products taste on their own and how well they work in cocktails - both in classic cocktails and in recipes formulated specifically around each product. I'll provide a review of the brand as a whole with some digging into specific products, followed by tasting notes and ingredients for each expression.


Seedlip Review


Seedlip has led the charge for the entire category of non-alcoholic spirits since it launched in 2014, and last year's acquisition by Diageo shows the brand's growth has no signs of slowing. Unfortunately, try as I might, I just can't get behind it enough to justify the cost.


I'm certainly not the first to point out that the watery nature of the product line doesn't work in any traditional cocktail applications. Seedlip insists their products are not to be consumed neat, but always mixed. What you usually end up with is a cocktail that feels like it was nudged in the direction of whatever Seedlip flavor went into it with wildly varying, usually disappointing results.


Seedlip is a distilled product. That means it contains up to 0.5% alcohol by volume. This is within legal definitions of “non-alcoholic” – any producer of N/A spirits is quick to point out there is more alcohol in a banana, a hamburger bun, kombucha, or soy sauce.


To put things into perspective, if you filled a 5-ounce cocktail coupe with water and added 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (44.5% ABV), you would have a drink sitting at about .4% ABV. This is essentially the concentration of alcohol found in distilled N/A spirits like Seedlip.


I did just such a thing and found the flavor of the Angostura water to be nearly as flavorful as Seedlip's own Spice 94 Aromatic product. I then repeated the test with Bittermen's Elemakule Tiki bitters (44% ABV) and it was notably more flavorful than Seedlip.


So my question is this: if I can add 2 or 3 dashes of bitters to plain water and get just as strong of a flavor for the same “non-alcoholic” ABV, why would I spend $35 per bottle of Seedlip? It seems even the marketing team at the second-largest multinational spirits corporation has yet to find a way to answer that question, choosing instead to comfortably ride the trend out with pretty bottles and buzzwords.


the seedlip product line

Seedlip products can be ordered directly from their website.


Seedlip Grove 42 Citrus

Ingredients: bitter orange, blood orange, lemongrass, lemon, mandarin orange, ginger

Nose: lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, lemon verbena, faint gentian earthiness

Palate: lemon, orange, ginger, lime

Finish: orange, lemon, faint ginger

Additional Notes: As the name would imply, it's mostly pure citrus from nose to finish. Grove 42 Citrus is not very complex or interesting, mostly tasting like something you may be greeted with at a hotel: water infused with some slices of orange and lemon.


Seedlip Spice 94 Aromatic

Ingredients: allspice, oak, green cardamom, cascarilla, grapefruit, lemon

Nose: green cardamom, allspice, orange, cedar, vanilla

Palate: lemon, orange, allspice, green cardamom, clove, sandalwood

Finish: allspice, green cardamom, nutmeg, orange

Additional Notes: Green cardamom dominates the Spice 94 Aromatic, with allspice and orange notes playing support throughout.


Seedlip Garden 108 Herbal

Ingredients: peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary, hops, thyme

Nose: snap pea, green bell pepper, mint, thyme, cucumber

Palate: snap pea, green peppercorn, grass, cumin, straw

Finish: snap pea, cucumber, mint, white corn, iceberg lettuce

Additional Notes: Generally considered the crowd-favorite of the trio, Seedlip's Garden 108 Herbal is a delight. The flavors are fantastic and unique.


Monday Gin Review


I was really excited about this one. While it's produced under contract in Los Angeles, Monday is from Carlsbad, a small town on the coast of Southern California where my partner and I got married in 2018. Needless to say, it made for a sweet Christmas gift.


As soon as you pop the cork, you'll be overwhelmed by citrus and piney juniper extracts which unfortunately bring to mind Pinesol or other similar cleaning solutions. Nothing is satisfying on the nose as it all smells artificial. No matter how “natural” its extracts are, they come across as perfumey and artificial.


It's a bit astringent on the palate with a slightly oily body. It's pretty much all lemon, juniper, and cucumber on the palate, but never in harmony. There is also a fair amount of heat from start to finish, probably from capsicum, which comes across like fresh ginger.


The finish is musty and has a dirty dish soap thing going on. As someone who puts coriander or cilantro in everything I eat, I can assure you I don't have any negative association with cilantro and soap. That said, I can't figure out where else it would be coming from, though there could be some funk from the monk fruit extract since I can't tell if it is used as a sweetener or a flavoring.


Thankfully, the more unpleasant-tasting notes don't come through when mixed into cocktails. It mixes well with tonic but doesn't do much with soda water. It made for a very poor 2:1 Martini made with Florentino Extra Dry Vermouth, though that was probably too dry and acidic of a vermouth to use.


The most successful classic cocktail I made with Monday gin was a Debutante, which was quite tasty. Mixing Monday with fresh citrus or juice will always require a significant rejiggering because, despite the thickening agents, Monday doesn't come close to emulating the full-bodied, rounded mouthfeel of alcohol when mixed.


Overall, this is certainly no substitute for gin, but I suppose if you squint your tongue hard enough you could convince yourself it works in certain applications. I appreciate the texture, but the flavors just aren't that good. There is no way I would recommend this over Ritual's similar, but superior gin alternative. If anything, I would use this to cut a full portion of real gin to lower the proof of a cocktail.


Or maybe just drop “gin” from the marketing and labeling. This is a fine product, but it doesn't live up to the expectations it sets for itself. It's also $39.99 per bottle. At this price, I don’t recommend it.


That said, Monday Gin is available for purchase directly from their website.


a hazy pour of monday gin into a wine glass

Monday Gin

Ingredients: Natural Spring Water, Monk Fruit Extract, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Natural Juniper Extract, Natural Coriander Seed Extract, Natural Cucumber Extract.

Nose: pine, lemon, cleaning solvent, cucumber, lime, grapefruit, ginger

Palate: lemon, pine, cucumber, ginger, wet leaves

Finish: soap, ginger, monk fruit, lemon, pine, musty

Additional Notes: Monday gin has a cloudy, hazy appearance which clears up with dilution. As a distilled product, they aim to solve the texture issue levied against Seedlip by adding xanthan and locust bean gums for a richer mouthfeel.


Ritual Review


This is the most successful N/A brand I've used in cocktails. While many brands suggest substituting their N/A spirits 1:1 for the real deal, straight substitution rarely works. Ritual's Zero Proof line is the closest I've tasted and I imagine that is mostly on account of the potency of the flavors and the rich mouthfeel.


Speaking of that mouthfeel, Ritual's products are viscous, with a consistency similar to simple syrup without the stickiness. While you wouldn't want to sip it neat at room temperature, the thicker body means it holds up in cocktails as an actual spirit substitute.


Unlike Monday's gin which tastes like Pinesol, Ritual Gin Alternative tastes like juniper. Unfortunately, the juniper is dialed back behind the chili spice and cucumber. This drinks much more like a spicy Hendricks than a London Dry Gin. It works well with tonic and with soda. It makes for a delicious Old Fashioned. It works in sours with a little rejiggering. I didn't like it in a Martini because of the huge amount of chili heat it brings along with it.


Ritual’s whiskey works well in Old Fashioneds and Sazeracs. It makes for passable Manhattans. It's great with soda, tonic, and in sours with some rejiggering. Because of the heavy ginger and baking spice notes, it can be used almost as a spiced rum in drinks like a Dark and Stormy. It works perfectly in just about any buck style drink, especially the Kentucky Buck.


A word to the wise: do not slurp this product when tasting! There is a ton of capsicum (chili) and you'll no doubt be coughing when it hits the back of your throat. I enjoy what I've tasted from Ritual, but it's too damn spicy across the board. It seems like the current trend to emulate the bite of alcohol is to add capsaicin (chili). I like it more in theory than execution, but the capsicum fruit is prevalent enough to burn your lips and to completely turn away those with sensitive palates.


Ritual's Zero Proof product line can be ordered directly from their website.


a pour of ritual zero proof gin alternative in a wine glass

Ritual Zero Proof Gin Alternative

Ingredients: Filtered water, natural flavors, cane sugar, xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate & potassium sorbate as preservatives, Siberian pine, coriander berries, angelica root, hemp leaves, sweet basil, English cucumber, juniper berries, green lemongrass, capsicum fruit, green peppercorn, prickly ash, peppermint leaf

Nose: cucumber, lemon, pine, black peppercorn, grass, angelica root, orange, cinchona

Palate: cucumber, cinchona, black peppercorn, lime, chili, mint

Finish: chili, ginger, cucumber, juniper, lime, sea salt, mint

Additional Notes: There was a drink on the menu at Chicago's Sable which I vaguely remember as being a cross between a Eastside and an Aviation with a Sriracha-dotted cucumber wheel garnish. This gin tastes like a bottled version of that drink. Lots of cucumber and chili spice with plenty of supporting citrus notes.


Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative

Ingredients: Filtered water, cane sugar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate & potassium sorbate as preservatives, American oak, Madagascar Vanilla, capsicum fruit, sugar floss, mesquite smoke, caramel, hemp leaves, green peppercorn, prickly ash, toasted spices

Nose: vanilla, cherry, mesquite, pear, caramel, leather, Play-Doh (wheat, flour, and salt)

Palate: mesquite, ginger, vanilla, banana, apple, cinnamon, chili, lemon

Finish: caramel, pear, vanilla, lemon, ginger, apple, cherry

Additional Notes: Slightly hazy with trace bits of unfiltered sediment floating around, Ritual Whiskey Alternative looks very much like raw apple cider vinegar. As a whisk(e)y, it tastes something like a cross between a Tennessee Whiskey and a blended Scotch. There’s an especially rich mouthfeel on account of added cane sugar, which does come across on the palate as well. While it's certainly not sweet enough to be cloying, it has a candy-like flavor as a result. Thankfully, unlike with the gin, dilution greatly tempers the over the top capsicum heat.


Proteau Review


Proteau products are not designed to be a spirit replacement, but finished products to be consumed straight from the bottle. This technically puts Proteau in more of the RTD (ready-to-drink) category with canned and bottled drinks.


I generally don't care for ready to drink, canned, or bottled cocktails. They're the frozen TV dinners of the cocktail world. Historically, when humans decide they want nice things without having to work for them, processed and pre-packaged at retail for instant consumption, it's a sign of the apocalypse. These types of compromises are part of why the food and drink landscape of America got so absolutely shitty for so long.


With that in mind, Proteau is instantly more intriguing than other finished, ready to drink products on the market.


The licorice root in Proteau Ludlow Red is prominent, performing double duty as both a spicy seasoning and a sweetener. I'm not entirely sure what the base of the extracts are, but if I had to guess I'd guess they are glycerin-based on account of the overall mouthfeel and underlying sweetness. Either way, it has a surprisingly satisfying texture, no doubt aided by a bit of xanthan gum considering there is zero added sugar only 40 g/l of sugar from the blackberry juice (30 g per bottle).


Thankfully there is just enough sugar to get Ludlow Red to stick to the palate, though the majority of the flavor journey exists on the nose and finish. While the Ludlow Red is marketed as a functional approximation of an aperitif-style product like Lillet Rouge or a dry substitute for crème de cassis, it's really more of an aromatized juice in execution. The flavors are on the earthier, more bitter spectrum. There's some vinegar acidity, enough to brighten the palate, but not enough to push it into shrub territory.


It's like the lightest vermouth or amaro you'll ever have. It's delicious on its own and it pairs well with food. It's vegetal, acidic, and fruity, in that order. As I sipped it, I wanted to add more vinegar and a bit of oil so I could toss it on a salad. I drank it all before I had the chance. In fact, after two bottles, I barely had enough for the picture.


Meanwhile, Porteau’s Rivington Spritz is farther from Aperol or Campari and closer to a carrot-and-strawberry kombucha. All of the above are tasty, but set your expectations accordingly.


To be honest, I was thrown off at first sip, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided my issues had more to do with my expectations, preconceptions, and misconceptions about Proteau.


My initial intent for the Ludlow Red was to see how well it held up as an aromatized wine substitute (specifically a quinquina like Lillet Rouge as mentioned on their website) and how well the Rivington Spritz worked as a bitter aperitif (the website mentions Aperol and Campari...heckuva stretch). Neither worked well in those applications and I do wish they would omit these suggestions from their marketing.


Both products contain a fair amount of unfiltered sediment in the bottle which wouldn't bother me if there was anything beyond a bit of vinegar to act as a preservative. All of those floating bits act as nucleation points for bacteria.


Because of the addition of vinegar - enough to be noticeable on the nose and palate, but not enough to act as shelf-stable preservative like a shrub. It always has the sharp vinegar bite of fruit juice turning and fermenting. I like this sour flavor: I enjoy shrubs, kombucha, acidic wines, sour beers, and straight shots of apple cider vinegar, but it makes it difficult to tell when the product is going bad.


Then again, I can't imagine why a bottle would last more than a day or two if you enjoy it. Porteau recommends consuming an opened bottle within two weeks.


Porteau’s current packing and shipping leave much to be desired: as of December 2020, the shippers don't properly fit the bottles. They're still relatively securely packaged, but 1 of the 4 bottles I received appeared to have a weak seal with a bit of sticky residue from a small leak. I'm guessing (hoping) this had more to do with unexpected issues over the holidays rather than the way they intend to ship things moving forward.


Considering the only viable way to get your hands on Proteau is by ordering it online and having it shipped, this is less than ideal. What's worse is these bottles didn't have to travel far to reach me in Brooklyn so I have little faith in a safe cross-country journey. Since most of the flavors come from extracts that dissipate with oxidization, minor leakage could affect the flavor before you open the bottle.


The Ludlow Red was consistent from bottle to bottle, despite suspected leakage. My first bottle of Rivington Spritz was overwhelmed by the carrot extract while the second was bright and full of strawberry.


Proteau can be ordered directly through their website.


Proteau Ludlow Red

Ingredients: water, blackberry juice concentrate, fig vinegar, licorice root extract, roasted dandelion root extract, chamomile extract, rose extract, hibiscus extract, black pepper extract, chrysanthemum extract, honeysuckle extract, xanthan gum

Nose: carrot, vinegar, dandelion, beetroot, chamomile, fig

Palate: blackberry, licorice, black pepper, hibiscus, roasted beet

Finish: carrot, licorice, hibiscus, chamomile, dandelion, black pepper

Additional Notes: The Ludlow Red is the tastier, more enjoyable of Porteau’s offerings. It comes out of the bottle a saturated blackberry red/purple color, leaving some sediment in the bottle. Black pepper is probably my all-around favorite spice (especially Tellicherry Black Peppercorn) and I drink roasted dandelion tea every day, so I'm instantly drawn to Ludlow’s two punchiest botanicals which provide the most interesting flavors in the mix.



Proteau Rivington Spritz

Ingredients: water, champagne vinegar, strawberry juice concentrate, chamomile extract, rhubarb da huang, hibiscus extract, gentian root extract, purple carrot extract, xanthan gum

Nose: carrot, rhubarb, strawberry, vinegar

Palate: Chinese rhubarb, strawberry, carrot, chamomile, vinegar

Finish: hibiscus, rhubarb, strawberry, chamomile

Additional Notes: The color is that of oxidized strawberries which makes sense since it is 34% strawberry juice. All of the sugar comes from the juice at 20 g/l sugar (15g per bottle). With half the sugar of Ludlow Red, the Spritz doesn't stick to the palate as much. The textural trade-off comes in the form of effervescence. You can expect about the same carbonation (and vinegar acidity) of a bottle of kombucha. The carbonation fades quite a bit after the first 24 hours, so best to consume quickly! A pour of Rivington Spritz greatly benefits from a citrus twist or aromatic garnish to guide the palate away from the prevalent earthy carrot notes.


Worth it?


At this point, I've been trying for almost 2 years to justify, or straight-up enjoy the non-alcoholic offerings creeping onto retail shelves. I've spent hundreds of dollars and I've barely scratched the surface of the category. For the most part, I'd rather drink tea, kombucha, soda, fruit juice, or turn to the tastier non-alcoholic beers on the market.


I get it. Cocktails are a luxury and these products are being marketed to the health-conscious who want all the fun and most of the sensory experience of a cocktail without the booze. Like most luxury items these products are priced at a premium.


Seedlip is $35 per bottle. Monday Gin is $40. That's wild to me. I imagine a large part of those costs come from the fact that both of these producers distill their products, which is an expensive, usually wasteful process (Seedlip has a pledge to be carbon neutral by the end of next year, but it seems like a solution to a problem which shouldn't exist in the first place). Considering I haven't found distilled N/A spirits to be any better than those with a filtered water base, it's even harder to justify the cost.


Again, most of these non-alcoholic spirits are designed for a luxury market. If anyone was actually interested in getting the average consumer to drink “better” they would be priced in such a way to allow the average consumer entry. Like too much in this world, if it can be marketed as “healthy” it will be priced out of the hands of those who could benefit the most.


If you've read even one article on the category, you've probably come across the phrase “sober-curious” to describe a growing contingent of consumers. It seems to me that brands are more interested in capitalizing on the curiosity of those with disposable income, rather than leading some sort of “healthy revolution” as their marketing teams would have you believe. Cynicism aside, “it's not booze” is about as healthy as these things get.


So far, of the “spirits” we tried, the Ritual products are the only ones I would buy again. I legitimately enjoyed them for what they were and found they worked better in classic cocktail templates than anything else I've tasted. I haven’t yet tried it, but if Ritual's Tequila holds up as well as their gin and whiskey, it would practically be a spicy Margarita in a bottle. Additionally, at $25 per bottle, they're affordable enough to at least consider.


For under $20 per bottle, I would also check out Proteau. I don't think it mixes well, but it doesn't need to. I imagine it could be polarizing with the vinegar and root vegetable notes, but I find it intriguing, incomparable, and downright tasty. Because their products pair so well with food, they make for an excellent wine substitute. It's also worth noting that you'll drink it as quickly or quicker than a bottle of wine.


I chose these brands to start with and have my eyes on a few more but considering N/A spirits cost as much as real spirits and they don't seem to be of comparable value, it's hard to say how much further I intend to explore the category as a whole. Instead, I'll mostly focus on developing my own low-cost alternatives over the coming weeks and share the results as soon as I've nailed down some recipes.


In the meantime, here are my suggestions on how to best utilize the N/A spirits I've tasted.


Rejiggering with Non-alcoholic Spirits


Let's talk about citrus, sugar, and water dilution in cocktails. Why do we use these ingredients in the portions that we do? Water and sugar exist to temper the edge of the spirit. Sugar also smooths out the harsh alcoholic burn. In a sour, citrus provides structure and balance by bringing in acid to counter the sugar.


So what if you don't have alcohol to temper? .75 oz of simple syrup does wonders at tempering two ounces of 90-proof spirit, but against a zero proof “spirit” will likely be too much sweetener.


And that .75 oz of citrus juice? Again, it perfectly balances .75 oz of syrup when the purpose of the syrup is to temper 2 oz of spirit. When paired with a non-alcoholic spirit, you not only introduce too much acid, but too much water.


Water will be the greatest enemy of your cocktails based on non-alcoholic spirits. And yes, even the water in fresh citrus is usually enough to throw the balance off.


If you intend to make balanced, traditionally recognizable cocktails, you'll want to dial back both the sweetener and citrus. If you don't, you lose the spirit and end up with little more than lemonade in a coupe.


Simple Enough?


The problem with dialing the sweetener back in a cocktail that uses a non-alcoholic spirit as its base is that you'll lose the most important structural component to achieving a satisfying mouthfeel. Some N/A spirits partially rectify this by adding thickening agents and gums, but none have enough to hold up to a standard recipe.


I recommend using rich 2:1 syrups with N/A spirits to achieve maximum texture without additional water.


Firewater


It's impossible to have a conversation about N/A spirits without talking about mouthfeel. Mouthfeel comes from a variety of sources: temperature, astringency, texture, and piquancy.


Alcohol tends to have some combination of astringency, texture, and piquancy. The fiery burn you get when sipping a spirit is from the same pain receptors activated by capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers. This has led producers to not only add thickening agents to emulate the oily texture of a full-bodied spirit, but some form of capsaicin or capsicum fruit to emulate the familiar burn.


Look, as someone who snacks on raw Thai chili peppers, I think the addition of capsicum doesn't work as well as producers think it does. It gives every product that relies on this kick a sameness: spicy this, spicy that. Sometimes it comes across a little more like ginger, sometimes pure chili pepper.


My suggestion here is simply to read the ingredients of each product before you buy it. If capsicum is listed as an ingredient, the producer is using it to achieve mouthfeel via piquancy. Monday has a pleasant, but noticeable heat. Ritual has the heat of fresh ginger – it's a lot. Your mileage will vary from brand to brand.


Chill Out


Keep your N/A spirits chilled. The majority of these products state they are good for 6 months unrefrigerated, but the benefits of chilling are two-fold.


First, your bottles of non-alcoholic spirits will inevitably last longer. Aromatic compounds dissipate over time once the bottle is opened (like aromatized wine), so while these bottles won't “go bad” they will lose their potency. Chilling will slow this process down. If these products are designed to be kept at room temperature for 6 months once opened, then keeping them cold once opened will give you even more time.


The second benefit you’ll get from chilling your non-alcoholic spirits pertains to dilution. Since most of these products are not intended to be consumed neat (some even go out of their way to express this), their only purpose is for mixing. Considering the lack of potency, to begin with, dilution is the number one thing you want to control as it will do little more than water down a cocktail struggling to begin with. Keeping your N/A spirits chilled ensures you're not spending thermodynamic energy to chill and consequently over dilute your finished cocktail.


Do NOT attempt to freeze these products to thicken the texture. These are all water-based and will freeze at temperatures below 32F. Alcoholic cocktails are usually served between 5F-18F (shaken drinks) and 18-22F (stirred). A non-alcoholic drink, no matter what the artificial spirit base is, will freeze at those temperatures. If you shake a non-alcoholic cocktail for too long, you'll only be creating slush in the tin.


I'll never tire of saying this: shake with large format ice. You will achieve maximum aeration for a satisfying mouthfeel while introducing minimal dilution.


Feel free to stir your N/A cocktail with a digital food thermometer so you can stop stirring and diluting the moment it reaches 32F. At this point, it won't get colder, and continuing to stir will only add more water. I recommend Dave Arnold's Liquid Intelligence for a lesson on thermodynamics.


Wait for it...


As I've mentioned previously, I've been tinkering with acids, gums, and solvents at home to create my own non-alcoholic spirit substitutes. I've also been reading through The Aviary's Zero to round out some of my ideas and concepts. In the coming weeks, I'll be experimenting and will return with cheap, effective solutions you'll be able to easily make yourself! As with my artificial citrus guide, I aim to create delicious, sustainable solutions for both home and bar use.


Until then, feel free to e-mail me any suggestions for N/A spirits I should keep an eye on.

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