It’s that time of year already! While alcohol consumption is up during the holidays, it may be time to rethink your relationship with alcohol for the month of Dry January.

Photo by Neha Deshmukh via Unsplash
Photo by Neha Deshmukh via Unsplash

What the heck is “Dry January,” you ask? For some people (such as regular drinkers who maybe partied a little too hard in December), it’s abstaining from alcohol through the entire month of January in order to reset.

Many people go dry on weekdays only during this period of time– so don’t think it’s all or nothing if you’re not quite ready to give up your glass of wine! Yet for others, they turn a dry month into a yearlong lifestyle of focusing on nonalcoholic drinks.

Or maybe you are pregnant (or your partner is) or sober, but you’d still like to enjoy a creative cocktail. Whatever the reason– whether you’re a moderate drinker who just wants to rethink your alcohol intake, or you’re ready to live a sober lifestyle– you shouldn’t have to give up your favorite drinks completely.

Since excessive drinking has been on the rise during the pandemic, we really want to focus on how to make delicious, spirit-free cocktails and enjoy other beverages such as nonalcoholic beer and wine. Whether you view it as a health trend or a way of life, we have you covered for what non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy in January and beyond.

SPIRIT-FREE SPIRITS

What am I even talking about? Yes, there really are spirits that are still carefully-crafted while leaving out the booze. We’ve had the benefit of trying many samples, and we even host company-wide monthly happy hours where we make our favorite cocktails– sans alcohol– using Seedlip, one of these alcohol-free spirits.

Photo via Unsplash
Photo via Unsplash

You’ll notice a couple of our recipes below call for what looks like booze, but it’s actually a craft, non-alcoholic, distilled “spirit” that you can use in place of alcohol.

Now, don’t expect it to taste like actual liquor. These alcohol-free spirits have their own distinct, often earthy flavors that approximate– but don’t actually mirror– the flavor of alcohol.

Here are some of our favorite recommendations:

  • Seedlip: This is the one we use the most at A Bar Above, including all of our company-wide meetings. They offer three expressions: Garden, Spice, and Grove. Click the Seedlip link to hear Chris’ interview with their brand ambassador regarding the different flavor profiles.
  • Monday: With whiskey and gin alternatives, you can recreate many classic cocktails with Monday’s non-alcoholic spirits.
  • Amass: Although they are known for their alcoholic spirits, Amass also makes a zero-proof spirit using gin botanicals– although they say not to expect a gin proxy, per se.
  • Lyre’s: This one’s a unique option, as Lyre’s Italian Orange is a spirit-free Campari alternative, perfect for your non-alcoholic Negroni.
  • Pathfinder: Made from hemp, Pathfinder offers one alcohol-free spirit that mixes the complicated flavors of orange, juniper, ginger, and sage, amongst other botanicals.
  • Ritual: With four different varieties of NA spirits, Ritual has you covered in terms of versatility with their zero-proof tequila, rum, whiskey, and gin.

EASY NON-ALCOHOLIC COCKTAILS

Of course, we’re not saying you can’t have a cocktail every now and then, but we’re all about balance here at A Bar Above– Heck, you can use our bar tools to make any sort of mixed drink, so it definitely doesn’t need to have booze in it as far as we’re concerned!

Sometimes referred to as virgin cocktails or mocktails (a common term that I’ll use throughout this article for the sake of familiarity and Google searches), let’s explore some delicious alcohol-free cocktails.

Photo via Unsplash
Photo via Unsplash

MULE MOCKTAIL

One of the most-searched mocktail recipes, this refreshing drink is a fun way to skip the alcohol without cutting out flavor. And without alcohol, it’s super simple!

  • ½-1 oz of Fresh Lime Juice (depending on personal preference)
  • 6+ oz of Ginger Beer

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Squeeze your desired amount of lime juice into your copper mug or Collins glass with ice.
  • Top with ginger beer.
  • Using a bar spoon, give a quick stir to mix the ingredients.
  • Garnish with a slice of lime.

While you could theoretically add a non-alcoholic spirit in lieu of vodka (the spirit traditionally used in Moscow Mules), the ginger beer will really dominate the drink anyway, so it’s a bit of a waste to add anything else.

However, if you wanted to add even more sweetness (and you don’t mind the sugar) to a slightly spicy ginger beer, you could add 1 oz of simple syrup. Honestly, it’s mostly a ginger beer mocktail with some lime for extra flavor; however, it’s a refreshing, non-alcoholic option all year long.

Photo by Tatyana Vega via Unsplash

Photo by Tatyana Vega via Unsplash

SOCAL SODA: A PLAY ON A MOJITO MOCKTAIL 

This fun mocktail mojito recipe comes from our resident bartender, Rob Harrah, and brings a little flavor to the non-alcoholic experience. While a classic mojito includes white rum, you’ll notice there is no substitute here, as there is already enough going on in the flavor department.

  • 3/4 oz Passionfruit Syrup
  • 1/4 oz Lime Juice
  • 3 Mint Leaves
  • 4 oz of Soda Water/Club Soda

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Muddle mint leaves in a Collins glass.
  • Add all other ingredients without ice.
  • Give all the ingredients a strong stir to mix, and then add ice cubes.
  • Garnish your virgin mojito with a lime wheel and mint sprig.
Photo by Lily Banse via Unsplash
Photo by Lily Banse via Unsplash

BEE’S KNEES

Brought to you by Rob, this non-alcoholic mixed drink calls for either one of two expressions of Seedlip, depending on which you prefer and/or what you have on hand. 

  • 2 oz Seedlip Grove or Spice 94, depending on personal preference
  • 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 oz Honey Syrup (You can also make your own with water, sugar, and honey.)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker tin with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled.
  • Strain with a Hawthorne strainer into a favorite martini or coupe glass.
  • Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Photo by Taylor Frieh via Unsplash
Photo by Taylor Frieh via Unsplash

THE CUKE & TONIC

A zero-proof marriage somewhat between a gin and tonic and a cucumber martini, this very refreshing summer mocktail is great all year round.

  • 1/2 oz Elderflower Syrup
  • 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
  • 3 slices of Cucumber
  • 4 oz Tonic Water

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Muddle the cucumbers in a shaker tin.
  • Add everything but the tonic.
  • Lightly shake– only to mix– then double-strain with a Hawthorne and fine strainer into a Collins glass.
  • Add the tonic water first, and then add ice.
  • Garnish with a cucumber slice and lemon wheel.

Of course, with liquor alternatives, you can sub them into your favorite traditional cocktails as well, but hopefully these mocktail recipes are inspiring enough to get you started.

SUPER EASY PRE-MADE, NON-ALCOHOLIC COCKTAILS

If you don’t want to make your own drinks or are heading to a mocktail party and need something easy to bring along, these zero-proof drinks are about as easy as they come. The cool thing about these, too, is that they usually come in packs of four or more for sharing options.

  • DRY Soda: You’ll never get bored with the abundance of flavors that DRY provides! Meant to be a non-alcoholic beverage for sober adults to enjoy, the flavors are complex and unique. You can hear more about DRY in Chris’ interview with the company’s founder, Sharelle Klaus.
  • SPIRITY Cocktails: With options like a zero-proof margarita, non-alcoholic negroni, and a mocktail mule, these canned virgin cocktails are great for taking to parties.
  • Casamara Club: Described as a leisure soda, Casamara Club offers a variety of alternatives to canned mixed drinks that contain booze. You can listen to Chris’ interview with founder Jason La Valla to learn more about the company.
  • Curious Elixirs: Curious offers a monthly box of booze-free cocktails that emulate classic mixed drinks like the Manhattan– although I’ve found that it’s good to go in without expectations and appreciate these mocktails for what they are instead of trying to compare them to their alcoholic counterparts.
  • Mingle: This sparkling mocktail is very light and refreshing; it doesn’t have a bitter bite that tries to replicate alcohol, but it’s delicious (I love the blackberry hibiscus bellini) and would even make a great mixer if you felt compelled to mix it with liquor or a non-alcoholic spirit.
Photo by Mateusz Feliksik via Unsplash
Photo by Mateusz Feliksik via Unsplash

MIXERS TO ENJOY WITH NON-ALCOHOLIC SPIRITS AND ALTERNATIVES TO ALCOHOL

Note: If you allow very small amounts of alcohol during your month of abstinence from booze, you can also add a couple drops of bitters to your mocktails.

MIXERS

  • Ginger beer: Our community group of bartenders specifically recommends Fever Tree.
  • Ginger ale
  • Soda water
  • Tonic water: Again, our Facebook group suggests Fever Tree. (If you’re mindful of the health benefits of cutting alcohol and also want to watch your sugar intake, check out the tonic and other sodas from Zevia.)
  • Juice (A little can go a long way here– Sometimes all you need is a splash! Remember, fruit juices naturally contain a lot of sugar as well.)
  • Fresh lime juice and fresh lemon juice (usually small amounts up to 1-2 tbsp max)

ALTERNATIVES TO LIQUOR

If you’re looking for an alcohol-free option that requires zero effort and contains very few (if any) calories– and you don’t want premade “virgin drinks” out of a can– try some of these alternatives when you’d regularly have a cocktail.

Photo of kombucha brewing by Tim Oliver Metz via Unsplash
Photo of kombucha brewing by Tim Oliver Metz via Unsplash
  • Kombucha: There are a variety of brands to choose from at every grocery store now, but you can also take a page out of my pandemic notebook and start making your own! If that’s not your thing, I personally recommend Better Booch and Local Roots’ NA versions.
  • Tea: With or without caffeine, hot or iced, tea is a great way to stay away from alcohol; it comes in such a wide array of flavors that you may never feel limited by your options.
  • Sparkling water/seltzer water or flavored water like La Croix or Bubly
  • Ginger ale or ginger beer (Of course, these do contain more sugar than, say, unsweetened tea or sparkling water, so we don’t recommend drinking them on their own too often– I prefer them as mixers myself, but some of my family enjoys them on their own because they offer a lot of flavor.)

NON-ALCOHOLIC BEERS AND WINES

This side of the industry has come a long way, so O’Doul’s is not your only option anymore! I asked my husband, the beer expert in our house, to weigh in on some of his favorite craft non-alcoholic beers and also polled our Facebook community groups for their favorite options.

Photo by Josh Olalde via Unsplash
Photo by Josh Olalde via Unsplash

NON-ALCOHOLIC BEERS

  • Two Roots Brewing Co.: The Straight Dank IPA is a common staple in our house, but Two Roots currently makes three other expressions– I personally have my eye on the Dark Cookies milk stout.
  • Surreal Brewing: While my husband recommends the Milkshake IPA, Surreal actually offers a bunch of NA beer options in a wide range of styles– a little something for everyone!
  • Lagunitas IPNA: You may be familiar with this brewery already, but did you know they have a zero-proof version of their IPA? Well, they do, and a lot of people swear by it!
  • Ceria: With two different styles, Ceria appeals to both hop-lovers and beer-drinkers who prefer a lighter white ale– sans alcohol.
  • WellBeing: Ranging from a golden wheat to an IPA to a coffee brew, WellBeing really offers a zero-proof beer for all beer lovers who want the flavor without the buzz.
  • Hop Wtr: So, you can’t really call it a non-alcoholic beer, per se… But Hop Wtr is a zero-calorie sparkling water made with hops for a beer-like taste.

NON-ALCOHOLIC WINES

Our friends over at Better Rhodes have a great collection of non-alcoholic wine, especially if you’d like to try a variety to see which you like best. You can also listen to Chris’ interview with Chris Becker from Better Rhodes for more non-alcoholic beverage suggestions and tips, too.

Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi via Unsplash
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi via Unsplash

Here are a few NA wine recommendations we got from our Facebook community groups and from Better Rhodes:

  • Fre Wines: Probably one of the most well-known alcohol-free wines, Fre offers a variety of styles for you to have at your next book club when you don’t want to drink liquor.
  • Noughty: A popular non-alcoholic sparkling wine alternative, Noughty will make you feel fancy without feeling tipsy.
  • Surely: You can find several Surely products at Better Rhodes, including sparkling wine, white wine, and rosé.
  • Pierre: This brand has a lot of different offerings, both with and without alcohol– Their non-alcoholic selection is definitely the largest I’ve seen, and they’re often featured at Better Rhodes.
  • Proteau: Is it a spirit? Is it a wine? Proteau kind of walks the line between both and has two expressions– a “spritz” and a red.

YOUR DRY JANUARY SHOPPING LIST

Even if you just need a little break from alcohol, your shopping list isn’t going to look too different from your regular one for your next cocktail party. You can make great drinks with lots of fun ingredients, even if you’re skipping the booze.

Besides the non-alcoholic spirits and mixers listed above, if either cocktails or alcohol-free drinks are your thing, here are some things you should always have on hand.

Photo by Haoward Nguyen via Unsplash
Photo by Haoward Nguyen via Unsplash

MOCKTAIL INGREDIENT LIST

Fresh ingredients will take you really far in your cocktail-making journey– with or without liquor– so most of our additional shopping list is fresh produce and herbs for your drink recipes. You can also add things based on seasonal flavors (like cranberries in the winter, for example).

  • Limes: Great for fresh lime juice, but also adding a lime wedge to any drink adds a little something, especially if you’re drinking something simple like flavored soda water. (Give your slices of lime a little squeeze to add lime flavor to your drink before adding as a garnish.)
  • Lemons for the same reason as limes
  • Oranges (especially for orange peel garnishes)
  • Cane sugar/granulated sugar for making simple syrups
  • Fresh mint leaves and other herbs (I love a rosemary sprig in a cocktail this time of year!)
  • Cocktail cherries for garnish
  • Fresh fruit of choice for muddling or throwing in your drink– I recommend berries like raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries– as well as watermelon– depending on the season. You can make syrups, muddle them into cocktails, and create garnishes.
Photo by JP Holecka via Unsplash
Photo by JP Holecka via Unsplash

Note: In my experience, blueberries don’t add a ton of flavor unless made into a syrup.

COCKTAIL EQUIPMENT LIST

Regardless of whether or not you include alcohol in your cocktails, you’ll need some basic equipment for all your mixed drinks. Here are our basic recommendations, although the possibilities are, of course, nearly endless:

Photo copyright A Bar Above 2021

Photo copyright A Bar Above 2021

  • Cocktail shaker: We recommend our own Boston shaker to get you started– You can shake and mix in your shaker tins.
  • Hawthorne strainer: Our Hawthorne strainer is designed to fit perfectly into our Boston shaker and is made with a super-strong handle.
  • Jigger: It’s really just personal preference if you choose the Japanese or bell jigger for measuring your liquids, but you’ll definitely want one or the other because ours have every measurement line you could ask for.
  • Glassware: If you don’t know anything about cocktail glasses, a couple rocks glasses and coupe glasses are a great place to start– but you can also click on the “glassware” link for a comprehensive guide to all things cocktail glasses.
  • Bonus gear: Muddler for muddling herbs and fruit, bar spoon and mixing glass for spirit-forward stirred drinks (not shaken– You can also start with just the spoon and use your shaker tin), citrus juicer, fine strainer for double-straining your cocktails that contain fruit and herbs, and cocktail picks for garnishes

DELICIOUS DRINKS FOR DRY JANUARY

Just because you’re skipping the boozy drinks doesn’t mean you have to give up on tasty, complex flavors. Whether you make a non-alcoholic drink at home or visit a bar (there are even sober bars!), you obviously have plenty of options.

Photo by Kaizen Nguyn via Unsplash
Photo by Kaizen Nguyn via Unsplash

We’d love to hear all about your favorite alcohol-free alternatives in our Craft Cocktail Club; and if you make any of our recommended mocktails, we’d love to know what you think. Whatever you’re drinking this year, we sure hope it’s delicious– because because you’re alcohol-free doesn’t mean you don’t have to settle. Cheers!

Melanie Tornroth

MELANIE TORNROTH

A former English teacher, Melanie optimistically embraces the struggle that is work-from-home parenthood as the in-house writer for A Bar Above. When not responding to “Mom” and writing articles for ABA, she also runs Goodnickels Photography, loves to cuddle her cats, and is perfecting the art of keeping her pandemic “fermentation babies” alive.