The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Get You Through Dry January
According to a spirits expert.
If the first word that comes to mind when hearing the term “Dry January” is “why,” I don’t blame you. For many, a glass of wine or pour of whiskey is an essential component of a life well-lived. But alcohol consumption is not without its risks, and, for myriad reasons, drinking alcohol is just not an option for a substantial number of us. Whether you’re looking to cut back and reset after a particularly indulgent holiday season or simply looking to test your willpower, there’s never been a better time to try a Dry January — or a dry any month for that matter — thanks to the explosion of non-alcoholic brands.
There are Plenty of Non-Alcoholic Beverage Options
It’s difficult to gather up all the different options within the non-alcoholic drinks category into one neat term. Many claim to be non-alcoholic “spirits” that offer a mimicry of gin, whiskey or even tequila without the buzz or hangover, but there are so many more: delicious de-alcoholized wines, non-alcoholic beers, oddballs that don’t refer to any pre-existing drink. Afterall, I’ve even gotten in on the fun with Proteau, my own line of zero-proof botanical drinks.
Regardless of what type of drink you’re looking for, now is a perfect time to explore the new and rapidly expanding world of fancy, zero-proof beverages. Here are some good places to start:
People like to joke that non-alcoholic wine is just grape juice, which isn’t technically wrong, but it misses the point completely. Non-alcoholic wine is made just like traditional wine except for an added step that removes alcohol before bottling. Fermentation is what makes grape juice into wine, using yeast to create ethanol but also a whole host of flavorful compounds, which remain after the alcohol removal step. Semblance is a crisp, effervescent sipper perfect for any occasion.
Detroit-based Casamara Club calls their line of drinks "leisure sodas" and bases their botanical flavors on Italian amaro—bitter liqueurs often used as aperitifs or nightcaps. They currently produce six varieties, and my favorites of the bunch are "Alta" and "Sera." They’re perfect on their own or can work great as a mixer in all manner of cocktails, non-alcoholic or otherwise.
This non-alcoholic beer is made using a proprietary brewing process that avoids the production of alcohol while still retaining the flavors you’d want in a tasty, refreshing beer. Athletic makes a few styles, but my favorite is their "Run Wild" IPA, and it’s something I crave year-round whether I’m going dry or not.
Bear with me, this is a weird one. Gnista is a Swedish company that produces some of the most interesting non-alcoholic liquids around. Their Floral Wormwood bottle is reminiscent of an absinthe or fernet, but it’s also completely its own thing. A lot of spirit replacements lack the body and overall density of experience that alcohol provides, but Gnista is one of the few that rise above faded facsimile. This one is awesome to sip neat or mix with a splash of something bubbly.
Kombucha, like wine and beer, is made using fermentation and usually results in an extremely low-alcohol result. (Legally a product can be up to 0.5% alcohol and still be labeled "non-alcoholic.") United Ferments has been making single-origin-tea-based kombucha in Brooklyn since 2019, and the Snow Chrysanthemum is my favorite to enjoy alongside a meal. Its middle-of-the-road profile — floral, but with some savory note — makes it easy to pair with your favorite foods.
John deBary is the author of Drink What You Want: The Subjective Guide to Making Objectively Delicious Cocktails; CEO and Founder of Proteau, a zero-proof drinks company; and is also the Co-Founder and Board President of Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.