“Sober October” is almost over, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue with your newly acquired healthy drinking habits, and here are four products that are worth buzzing about, even though they don’t contain a drop of alcohol.
With a splash of seltzer or even straight on the rocks, Ghia boasts lovely reddish-orange hue, and it smells like an Italian aperitivo. “I realized there was a hole in the market for a non-alcoholic beverage that was for drinkers and non-drinkers alike, with a bitter profile and minimal sugar, something that wouldn’t make people feel excluded in a social setting,” says Melanie Marasin, founder and CEO of Ghia.
“I love bitters, as do many others as evidenced by the growing popularity of Aperol,” continues Marasin. “We wanted to make a bitter drink that had the complexity of an alcoholic beverage, without the overly sweet and sugary flavor of the usual mocktails. Setting out to get the right flavor while being health conscious – Ghia has zero added sugar- was both fun and challenging.”
Marasin says it took “37 iterations and 1,001 pours” to find the right combination of herbs and spices to make an aperitif that was completely without alcohol. “We set out using gentian root from day one because it provides the same, signature bitter profile you get from classic Italian aperitifs,” she says. “Interestingly, it’s been used for centuries in drinks and tinctures for its bitter effect. The orange peel adds another layer of bitterness with a sharp tang, the rosemary has more of a piney profile, and the touch of fresh yuzu rounds out the overall flavors.”
Ghia is found at 50 different places around the country, and the company’s holiday packages will be sold in 50 Nordstrom stores across the country as well. It’s also sold through the company website, and since it’s nonalcoholic, it can ship anywhere.
Chris Boyd, co-founder and CEO, was inspired to create Monday Gin on the night of his birthday a few years back. “It was a Sunday night, and I was out with my friends, sitting at the bar having some gin,” he says. “The bartender was a magician, serving up some amazing beverages, but after a couple, despite how I was enjoying the goods, I stopped and switched to water.”
“Everyone wondered why, and I answered ‘because tomorrow is Monday, and I have (expletive) to do, and I want to do that (expletive) well,” he continues. “Curiosity sparked at that moment for me: why can’t I have proper adult cocktails without the alcohol so I can keep on tonight and be sharp in the morning?”
Later that week, he ran into his friend Ben Acott, who became his co-founder. “I ran into him at the gym, and I let him know I was thinking about creating a non-alcoholic gin, and his eyes lit up,” Boyd says. “He, too, had a similar story – he’s an avid gin fan and a serial entrepreneur with no time to feel sluggish after one too many. A few weeks later, Monday was born.”
Open a bottle of Monday gin, and it smells like, well, gin. It also was made for mixing into gin-based cocktails, and for the holiday season, Monday is partnering with Fever-Tree tonic to create gift packs, which go on sale November 1. “Monday gin mimics a classic, London-dry style gin through and through,” Boyd says. “As a gin lover myself, it was imperative to me that we crated a non-alcoholic product that didn’t skimp on taste. Essentially, we want to eliminate the feeling that you’re drinking a non-alcoholic beverage because everyone deserves to enjoy a cocktail, alcohol or not.”
Master distiller Eric Knight came up for the idea of SPIRITY cocktails after studying the enzymatic fermentation that occurs during the process of making red wine. In the absence of fermentable sugar, enzymes can break down plant material without creating alcohol, and Knight decided to use tea as the base for his cocktails because the bitter flavors of tea have been used as a “suitable replacement” for alcohol for centuries.
After experimenting with different types of teas and extraction methods, Knight settled on pu’er tea, which has already been fermented and aged for three years. “I made the first batch using a small, one-gallon pot still and an old propane stove in my backyard,” Knight says.
Knight began using these spirits -they’re actually non-alcoholic spirits – distilled from tea to craft cocktails. In fact, this year, he submitted his Mindful Mule and Mindful Negroni to the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. “They didn’t have a non-alcoholic cocktail category so I just entered it into the alcoholic category,” he says. “That’s how Spirits Cocktails became the world’s first non-alcoholic cocktail to be awarded in the World Spirits Competition.”
After winning the award, Knight began canning his cocktails to share with more people. “The mindful collection of cocktails are all renditions of classic cocktails re-imagined with spirits distilled from tea,” he says. “I balance the intense bitterness (of the tea) with the right amount of acid and sweetness to make each one an all-nature, low-calorie cocktail.”
“Spirity cocktails are the first and only cocktails crafted from spirits distilled from tea, for an adult-like sipping experience without alcohol,” he says, adding that they can be ordered from Amazon. “They’re not mocktails.”
The newest nonalcoholic player on the block, NOPE was inspired by founder Beth Ann Schaeffer’s desire to offer her former husband delicious beverages that were grownup in taste but without alcohol.
“I’m not a non-drinker,” says Schaeffer. “I love to have a margarita or a dirty martini, but I do have five kids, and I remember when I was pregnant and nursing, there was nothing out there, unless you wanted a club soda with a splash of cranberry or a splash of lime. Also, my husband didn’t drink, and I would get so frustrated for me, and I would get so frustrated for him.”
That lack of options led her to experiment to create full-bodied and full-flavored cocktails that only lacked booze. “There’s so much peer pressure if you are at a cocktail party, and for a newly sober person, if you have something that actually looks like a cocktail – not like fruit juice,” she says.
The first round of NOPE cocktails will include a lineup of mango margarita with jalapeno, raspberry lime ginger beer, strawberry basil smash, and rosemary vanilla lemonade. These lovely, flavor-packed cocktails sparkle and fizz, and they also have the deep hues of a real alcoholic drink. They would be on the market already, but an aluminum can shortage pushed NOPE’s placement on their co-packer’s list back. Nope will be available for purchase when the company launchs its e-commerce website next month, and it will be available in the Maryland-Washington, D.C. area in stores, restaurants and bars.
More and more people are sober-conscious, seeking out low or no alcohol options. “You can be discreet and just pour our cocktails over ice,” she says. “Or, you can drink it right out of the can – and our cans are really loud and bold. We didn’t want to hide the mission.”
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