In recent years, the non-alcoholic (NA) space has exploded in breadth and depth. Once restricted to a handful of botanical waters, alcohol-free options now arrive in a range of guises: single-serve and large format ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails; convincing base “spirits” that do a decent job of recreating the profile of drinks like whiskey, gin, and aperitivos; and complex formulas that offer buzz without the booze.
Before we dive into this expanding space, we should address some themes that run true for the entire category — factors that remained top of mind when considering what to include in this roundup.
Whether tasting RTDs or base spirits, there needs to be an acceptance that these drinks will never taste exactly like the cocktails or liquor they’re often intended to replace. In this respect, the texture of the beverage therefore gains heightened importance, for this is an area where the best producers have been able to make up for any slight shortcomings on flavor.
In terms of texture, the best producers offer full-bodied spirits that feel weighty on the palate, rather than just flavored water. As for RTDS, and on the topic of flavored waters, we looked for drinks that push beyond this simple profile — bonafide cocktails that provide a complex drinking experience and engage all areas of the palate.
Now that we’re up to speed, here are the 14 best non-alcoholic drinks brands for 2022.
Best Non-Alcoholic Cocktails and RTDs
Curious Elixirs offers four non-alcoholic cocktails, each arriving in sleek bottles with minimalist branding. The drinks pay homage to well-known classics, including the Negroni, French 75, and Italian (Aperol) Spritz. Tasked with creating those drinks without the very distinctive flavors of ingredients like Campari, gin, and Champagne, the collection lands as a resounding success, closely mimicking the overall profile of each cocktail. Our pick of the bunch is the refreshing, light, and floral French 75.
The newest frontier for celebrity endorsements, Katy Perry entered the non-alcoholic space in early 2022 when she launched her line of booze-free, sparkling aperitifs, De Soi. The brand offers three different flavors, available in shareable 750-milliliter bottles and single-serve 8-ounce cans. Made and infused with a broad selection of sweet, savory, and botanical ingredients, their profiles are heavy on flavor and aromas, but light and bubbly in texture. Seek out the reishi-mushroom-based Champignon Dreams.
Hemp-based Jeng is another producer that offers non-alcoholic takes on well-known cocktails. The brand’s Paloma arrives with subtle sweetness and enough complexity to match the traditional combination of tequila and grapefruit soda, while the Jeng & Tonic brims with zesty lime and bitter quinine notes. More than just fancy sodas, these are balanced, well-executed highballs that bring a splash of fun to booze-free occasions.
For Bitter For Worse
The trio of large-format RTDs offered by this brand promises to challenge even the most adventurous of palates. The Negroni-adjacent Saskatoon finishes with a wave of bitterness, certain to please amaro lovers. The Old Fashioned-esque Smoky No. 56 evokes a sweet, savory, and smoky BBQ sauce. Eva’s Spritz proves to be the most “mainstream” in profile of the three, though the fruity and sparkling aperitif nevertheless arrives with its fair share of savory notes. We love the resealable closures, which allow you to slowly make your way through 750-milliliter bottles throughout the week.
New York-based author and bartender John deBary sought inspiration from amaro, fortified wines, and vermouth for his duo of RTD non-alcoholic cocktails. He also clearly called upon years of experience behind the bar when honing the recipe, for this is a selection of complex, culinary-inspired cocktails like no other in the NA space. The Rivington Spritz, which is a still cocktail, arrives fruity, bitter, and sour, thanks to the unusual inclusion of Champagne vinegar. Drinkers are directed to let the Ludlow Red evolve in glass, and this cocktail certainly hints at a fine wine, with a balsamic note that recalls aged reds. Though poured straight from the bottle, these cocktails taste as if mixed at one of the world’s best bars.
Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits
Damrak Virgin 0.0
From an Amsterdam-based gin distiller, this non-alcoholic alternative opens with vibrant citrus aromas that all but dominate the nose. The palate continues in a similar zesty fashion but delivers an unexpectedly weighty texture, which does a good job of mimicking alcohol. Though there are faint whispers of botanicals, this remains a more straightforward, easygoing example of NA gin — one that drinks very well with tonic or sparkling water.
Free Spirits offers three options aimed at providing direct alternatives to popular spirits. All finish with a fiery kick akin to fresh ginger and seemingly intended to recreate the “burn” of alcohol. The Spirit of Gin oozes lime oil on the nose and kicks in a peppery bite of juniper on the palate. The brand’s tequila alternative — aimed at reposado and añejo drinkers — matches sweet vanilla with rustic herbaceous notes, and is the best booze-free tequila imitation we tasted. The Spirit of Bourbon does a similarly fine job of delivering notes of corn, caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak that define America’s native spirit.
Lyre’s leads the way in terms of the range of its portfolio, and many of the brand’s offerings represent the best non-alcoholic versions of their intended spirits. Aperitif Rosso and Italian Orange prove worthy choices for aperitivo hour. So tasty are both when mixed in a spritz that even the most reluctant Dry January participant won’t be left craving booze. You might question what use you have for NA Orange Sec or Amaretti; upon tasting, you’ll actively search for drinks to mix, given how enjoyable their profiles are. The Dry London Spirit is bold and juniper-forward, while the Dark Cane Spirit might just be the finest pick of the bunch, with intense aromas and an exceptionally balanced palate. It’s no wonder that this brand is already valued at over $350 million despite being around for less than three years.
New London Light
From England’s Salcombe Distilling Co., this NA gin alternative offers convincing piney complexity. Where other examples don’t stray too far from citrus in their profiles, this distilled beverage showcases notes of rosemary, juniper, and fresh wafts of mint. Combined with its rich texture, there’s no danger of New London Light getting lost in cocktails, whether highballs or stirred “spirit”-forward creations.
A pioneer of non-alcoholic spirits, Seedlip has so far made more inroads into the bar world than most other zero-proof brands. With three distilled herbal elixirs in its lineup, Seedlip aims not to mimic existing spirits but offers three different profiles for bartenders to work with: the citrusy “Grove,” herbal and savory “Garden,” and “Spice.” When tasted alongside other NA spirits, the body of these options feels slightly thin but the flavors and aromas remain concentrated and intense.
Spiritless Kentucky 74
A bourbon alternative like no other, Kentucky 74 begins with an intense one-two punch of cherry candy and almond essence aromas. It enters the palate sweet, before complex flavors begin to unfold, each one cementing its case as a quality whiskey replacement. Spiritless suggests sipping the drink on its own or in a 50/50 split with your favorite bourbon. While this won’t be an option for those choosing to completely abstain, the experience is infinitely more enjoyable than watered-down bourbon, and allows drinkers a genuinely tasty way of cutting the proof and calories in their whiskey glass.
“Bittersweet Orange and Rosemary” reads the label description of this Aperol/Campari alternative, and the liquid inside sure lives up to the brief. Its bittersweet profile cries aperitivo, while the inclusion of rosemary adds distinctive personality and pairs wonderfully with its orange aromas and flavors. Ideal for spritzes, it also drinks wonderfully on the rocks with a large orange wedge (and a few dashes of bitters, if you’re not worried about adding a small amount of alcohol).
The landscape of brands offering buzz without the booze has expanded in recent years, but Three Spirit remains ahead of the pack on quality in that space. The brand’s three non-alcoholic “spirits” offer punchy, flavorful options for each stage of the night. The fruity “Livener” kicks off the party, while the bitter chocolate and cold-brew-leaning “Social Elixir” keeps things going. For the end of the evening, there’s “Nightcap,” which is bold, lusciously sweet, and finishes with a fiery kick. The latter can be nursed over a large chunk of ice, but don’t miss out on the brand’s extensive range of cocktail recipes.
Vera Spirits Ginø
From the Adriatic Coast, this homage to gin is flavored with juniper berries, angelica, cardamom, bay leaf, and citrus. Its aromas and flavor profile live up to its attractive packaging, and its character seems to be magnified by the inclusion of sparkling or tonic water. The dry, savory nature of this drink makes for a very convincing G&T. Don’t forget to add a fresh lime (or lemon).