4 Best Non-Alcoholic Whiskeys, According to a Spirits Expert

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February 27, 2023

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Two hands clink glasses of whiskey wiskey on the couch, cozy. Bar drinking menu.


Two hands clink glasses of whiskey wiskey on the couch, cozy. Bar drinking menu.

Photo by: Kanizphoto/Getty Images

Kanizphoto/Getty Images

Our Top Non-Alcoholic Whiskey Picks

I don’t have any hard data for this assertion, but in my experience whiskey is one of the most emotionally charged spirits categories out there. Perhaps it has to do with Bourbon’s connection to the United States’ mythic past, Scotch’s projection of rugged masculinity or Japanese whisky’s elegant aesthetic that is so captivating, that it inspires legions of devoted collectors. Or maybe there is a simpler reason: it’s delicious.

It’s not unexpected, then, for people to have feelings about non-alcoholic whiskey. There are plenty of detractors out there, from beverage professionals to bloggers (to Amazon reviewers) decrying the category for being too expensive or quite simply not as delicious as alcoholic whiskeys. But the non-alcoholic spirits category is still emerging, and, when compared to whiskey’s centuries of refinement, downright embryonic. That said, non-alcoholic spirits, particularly whiskeys, have come a long way in the past few years and still have a long way to go.

What Does Non-Alcoholic Whiskey Taste Like?

The primary way that non-alcoholic spirits will fall short for most people is texture, and that’s because ethanol, which makes up about 40%-50% of any given spirit, has a completely different character than water. Ethanol has a lower boiling point and lighter density than water, so it feels (and tastes) completely different on the palate, and there is really no way to mimic this in a satisfying way. For this reason, I find it more fair to approach this category as an accompaniment to full-strength whiskeys; they’re not trying to replace, just give drinkers more options.

How Is Non-Alcoholic Whiskey Made?

As a category, it is difficult to describe in a general sense how non-alcoholic whiskeys are made. Some blend natural extracts and juices to “rebuild” whiskey’s flavor profiles, while others rely on distillation to extract needed flavor characteristics from raw ingredients. Like other non-alcoholic spirits, these selections work best when mixed: either in a simple highball or more complex concoctions. So, whatever your reason for avoiding alcohol, these four bottles will help you get your hangover-free whiskey fix.

Total Wine & More

This women-founded brand took home the L.A. Spirits Awards’ gold medal in 2022, and for good reason. This Bourbon-inspired tipple is made using oak that’s been soaked in high-proof neutral spirit, distilled and then reverse distilled to remove the alcohol while retaining the oaky character that American whiskeys are so well known for. The liquid is then blended with additional flavors to create its pronounced vanilla-and-caramel profile. This bottle with work great as a one-to-one replacement for full-proof whiskey in your favorite cocktails.


Swedish non-alcoholic drinks producer does not bill their Gnista Barreled Oak as a whiskey substitute, but it belongs here in this list. I find that the most successful non-alcoholic products are not seeking to replace or mimic an existing alcoholic product but rather riff on what makes our favorite drinks so appealing and forge an entirely new path. And Gnista does this marvelously. Made from a blend of beet and rhubarb juice, alongside botanicals like oak, ginger, black pepper and rosemary, this is one of the few non-alcoholic sprits I would advocate for drinking straight or on the rocks. It’s also, of course, great for mixing, and I especially like to incorporate this into alcohol-based cocktails when you want to add a bit of complexity without increasing the alcohol percentage.


Here is another bottle that’s not pretending to be whiskey but has enough of a kinship to it that it belongs on this list. Another gold medalist from 2022’s L.A. Spirits Awards, this stuff has a flavor that I can only describe as extremely fancy barbecue sauce as a result of the maple syrup, fig and smoky lapsang souchong tea. My favorite thing to do is let the smoky complexity speak for itself alongside a splash of soda — a very weird and wonderful replacement for your whiskey highball.

Ritual Zero Proof

Ritual is one of the most well-regarded non-alcoholic spirits producers on the market currently. They have a fairly wide range and were one of the first to crack the code, so to speak, of how to offer a non-alcoholic spirit that hits the same beats as their alcohol-containing counterparts. Ritual’s products all feature some degree of heat from chili (ie capsaicin) that mimics the heat that you feel on the palate from ethanol. Some might decry this as a cheap simulacrum, but when mixed into cocktails, it works quite nicely. Stir this up with your favorite non-alcoholic vermouth (they exist!) and bitters, and you’ve got yourself a Manhattan you can drink all day.

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.

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