Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits & Aperitifs
If you’ve ever been at a bar and been served a Diet Coke because it was the only non-alcoholic option available, this one’s for you. I’ve already written about the various low-alcohol beers you can get your hands on as well as the problem with most (but not all) non-alcoholic wine, however, this guide to the best non-alcoholic spirits and aperitifs goes out there to the cocktail and amaro lovers who want something nice and not-sweet to drink at the end of the day.
The issue I find with most of the non-alcoholic cocktails you’ll find at bars is that they’re pumped with sugar and fruit flavours to mask the lack of alcohol. One of the ways of avoiding that is by opting to make your own cocktails at home instead using one of the many bitter and complex alcohol-free spirits now available. From Crossip and Seedlip to Lyre’s and Wilfred’s, I hope you’ll find at least one of these drinks is to your liking.
Dry January is obviously a great time to give your liver a break and reassess your own personal relationship with alcohol but whether you’re sober, sober-curious, or simply looking for something nice to drink that won’t make you feel awful the next day, these alcohol-free spirits and aperitifs should all whet your whistle. These are the best non-alcoholic spirits and aperitifs out there, peruse at your pleasure.
Ben Branson’s Seedlip specialises in distilled, non-alcoholic spirits that are a far cry from the childish alcohol-free options of just a few years back. Seedlip is a totally adult drink that involves an intricate six-week maceration, distillation, filtration, and blending process where each individual botanical ingredient has to be distilled separately. That meticulous attention to detail is worth it, though, as every spirit they produce is top drawer stuff. Available in three different flavours (Grove 42, Garden 108, and Spice 94), each has its own unique character that suits a different cocktail and occasion. Half of the fun is creating your own bespoke cocktails and toying with them to suit your palate.
Crossip is a concentrated non-alcoholic, macerated spirit made from natural botanicals. It’s the sort of stuff that a doctor would have served you back in the day in an attempt to cure whatever ailments you had. Most probably consumption. Crossip comes in four different flavours: Fresh Citrus, a fresh and, er, citrussy number; Dandy Smoke, a smoky whiskey-ish drink that really scratches an alcohol itch; Pure Hibiscus, which is subtly bitter with a floral whack; and Rich Berry, a limited-edition winter version that’s sort of like a grown-up Ribena. Drink up.
I’m a big amaro and aperitivo, so when I found out that Æcorn Drinks were making high-quality alcohol-free aperitifs, you can bet that I was pleased as punch. Both the Æcorn Aromatic and Æcorn Bitter they produce are excellent serves, free from the oversweet and saccharin aftertaste that lingers with less-good alcohol alternatives. Serve the Æcorn Bitter with a glug of soda water, ice and an orange slice and you’ve got the next best thing to a Campari Soda. Praise which I do not use lightly.
Made by distilling unique plants native to the Cornish coastline – such as samphire, sea salt, and wild seaweed – Pentire is a non-alcoholic spirit that has a genuine sense of terroirs. Seaward and Adrift are the two different liquids that Pentire produces. The latter is a more herbaceous and classically bitter affair while the former is lighter, brighter, and more citrussy. Both are delicious and worth mixing with a good tonic at the end of a stressful day.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re more of a gin or rum person, Caleño has got you covered. Their Light & Zesty non-alcoholic tropical gin is a pleasant blend of tropical, citrus and spice botanicals while the Dark & Spicy non-alcoholic tropical rum is a distilled blend packed with dark pineapple tropical notes, ginger and kola nut spices. Caleño is flavourful and easy proof that alcohol-free drinking doesn’t have to be free of fun.
Everleaf sounds like the sort of thing you’d drink while LARP-ing but these non-alcoholic aperitifs are probably more suited to sipping in your living room while you’re listening to Joni Mitchell. The Marine drink they make is a proper gin substitute: juniper, bergamot and citrus all blended up with sea buckthorn and olive leaf. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that it’s better than a lot of actual gins out there.
It was only a matter of time before the big alcohol brands started swinging their weight about in the non-alcoholic market and this Italian alcohol-free aperitivo from the people at Campari is the best example of that done well. Dubbed Crodino, this bright yellow liquid was actually created back in 1965 with the Campari Group having rebranded the drink to give it a new lease of life with sober consumers in 2020. And it worked. It also doesn’t hurt that Crodino is just as deliciously sweet and bitter as you’d expect.
Lyre’s range of non-alcoholic spirits is up there with the best of them. It’s also by far and away the most extensive range around. Not content with merely producing one or two spirits, Lyre’s makes alcohol-free alternatives to bourbon, gin, Aperol, Campari, rum, vermouth, coffee liqueur, triple sec, and even absinthe. Yep, if you’ve ever danced with the flaming green fairy, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s now a non-alcoholic version out there. A great way for not drinking booze to not feel like a compromise.
A good spritz hits the spot like nothing else. Made right here in good ol’ blighty using natural botanicals, Wilfred’s Aperitif is a bittersweet orange and rosemary-flavoured aperitif that gets its punch from extracted natural rosemary, bitter orange, rhubarb and clove. It’s free from alcohol, artificial flavours, and packed with flavour. Serve it with top-shelf tonic water and you’ll be handsomely refreshed for your efforts.
First things first, can we all take a moment to appreciate how ADORABLE the name Sprigster is? It sounds like it should be the name of the helpful comic relief character in an epic fantasy novel that was written in the ‘80s. Great name aside, Sprigster also makes a neat non-alcoholic shrub infusion. Again, the fact they call it a “shrub infusion” fits the fantasy theme. Sprigster’s non-alcoholic aperitif is made from a medley of natural ingredients including fennel, rhubarb, hops, and ginger. Those ingredients are then slow-cooked in distilled grain vinegar before being blended with an apple reduction and spring water to create the final product. If that sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is. But the malty, fruity aftermath is a joy to imbibe.
STRYKK specialise in a range of non-alcoholic spirits that attempt to mimic the flavour profiles of gin, vodka, rum, and even – believe it or not – vanilla vodka. These aren’t made for drinking neat but they work well when combined with a decent mixer and definitely help with feeling less left out if you’re not drinking. This is the one I’d go for if you’re a student who doesn’t want to drink but still want to get involved in the feeling of mixing yourself a double vodka coke on a Friday night. There is a time and a place for this non-alcoholic spirit.
They're even offering you (the Mob) a special Dry January discount. Use the code MOB12 at the checkout and a bottle will cost you just £12 (usually £18).