The latest alcohol trend is cutting back, more and more people are ditching the buzz in search of a “healthy” glow rather than the kind of glow you get after your first glass. In fact, 34% of Americans said they were trying to drink less alcohol in 2023 in this NCSolutions study. Whether you’re cutting out alcohol entirely, reducing to strive for a health goal, or skipping a night to serve as the designated driver– alcohol-free wine and spirits may be the best bevvy for you.
Reducing alcohol consumption is in vogue, and there are several non-alcoholic spirits that can help you kick the habit. But will wine purists be on board for a shifting consumer market? A few key players think it’s high time we tune into the sober-curious movement.
The numbers are written on the wall– NielsenIQ reported that 82% of non-alcoholic buyers are also buying alcohol-containing drinks, so zero-proof brands aren’t just playing to the sober market, they’re playing to all alcohol consumers. It’s true– we’re facing a major culture shift, and we have been since the COVID lockdowns. This health-forward sentiment has seeped past the green-juice sipping Southern California to the rest of us. Wellness culture is everywhere, and the industry behind the movement is booming. The Global Wellness Economy projects that the segment will reach $7 trillion in 2025 and sober-friendly beverages will take a significant cut of that.
Almost every food and wine writer that’s touched the subject has compared alcohol-free drinks to plant-based meat and the sober-curious movement to flexitarianism… so let’s follow suit!
Flexitarianism encourages a plant-based diet, but leaves room for meat in moderation– essentially, it’s a more chill approach to vegetarianism. Here’s how it’s been explained to me: Flexitarians won’t order themselves a pepperoni pizza, but if there’s a pepperoni slice waiting for them at a party, they won’t let it go to waste. They won’t turn their nose at the animal fat in their bean and cheese burrito, but you probably won’t see them grilling up some carne in their free time. Flexitarians aren’t making hard and fast rules of a 100% meatless life. They view that as impractical, and sometimes even wasteful. The point is to reach for meatless, healthy (and environmentally conscious) foods whenever possible.
The flexitarian wave has crashed over us all! The International Food Information Council reported in 2021 that most Americans chowed down on a plant-based meat alternative that year. 41% of American households buy vegan milk! I could keep going, but you get the idea.
The same idea goes for the sober-curious crowd, and they’re just getting started.
What are Alcohol-Free Spirits and How are They Made
To put it simply, non-alcoholic spirits are just spirits without alcohol. Zero-proof spirits are made out of a variety of botanicals, such as roots, flowers, spices, and leaves and are kept alcohol free through a distinct distillation process that keeps alcohol out before its formed, or are crafted by removing alcohol after it has been formed.
Here’s how Boisson explains the processes of zero-proof spirit production.
“The first method— preventing alcohol from forming in the first place during distillation— is actually pretty simple. Most fermentation processes produce a liquid that contains around 30% alcohol by volume (ABV). But if you stop the fermentation process at an earlier stage, you can create what’s called a low wine. This low wine has a much lower ABV- usually around 0.50%. From there, you can dilute it even further with water until you have a final product that contains effectively no alcohol.
The second method is removing the alcohol after it’s already been distilled. To do this, you have to use a process called fractional distillation. This is where the alcohol is literally distilled out of the spirit through evaporation, leaving behind only the flavorful essence of the drink.”
Boom. There you have it: alcohol free spirits.
Non-Alcoholic Spirits Changing The Game
I want to start with a distinction. When I say mocktails, I don’t mean your Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri, Sherly Temple, Nauseating Soda Water/ Grenadine Bombs. Mocktails have come a long, long way, in large part thanks to the 25+ zero-proof spirit brands that have popped up in the US market.
These alcohol-free spirits are sophisticated, herbaceous, and can be just as good as the real deal with no hangover attached. Here are some brands to look for your next booze-free cocktail.
If you want close copies of the real deal, Monday is a great option. They offer award winning zero alcohol whiskey, mezcal, and gin.
Skip the alcohol, but keep the buzz– that’s their pitch. Kin Euphorics offers two spirits packed with adaptogens that will enhance your mood. They offer a “social magic” High Rhode spirit that energizes and gets the party started and a “soothing serenity” Dream Light spirit, perfect for a night cap.
These spirits are not liquor dupes, Kin is its own thing. The energizing High Rhode offers notes of hibiscus, orange bitters, licorice root, and sea salt. The calming “Dream Light” is sultry and spicy, with notes of oak, smoked clove, rosemary, and cinnamon.
Seedlip is the most recommended non-alcoholic spirit out there, beloved by the sober crowd and beyond. They don’t make liquor dupes, but some remark on Seedlip’s gin-like qualities. They offer three spirits: Spice 94, Grove 42, and Garden 108, all of which have a unique blend of spices, and distinct, sophisticated flavor profiles.
Seedlip’s spirits are great for mixing into cocktails or sipping over ice, offering an elegant and complex sober-friendly aperitif.
How Alcohol-Free Wine Is Made
The process of making alcohol-free wine is not as simple as zero-proof spirits because fermentation is intrinsic to making wine. (If you want your alcohol-free wine to actually taste like wine, at least.) To make dealcoholized wines, you have to perform vacuum distillation or reverse osmosis.
Vacuum distillation is carried out by, you guessed it, a big, powerful vacuum. Inside the vacuum, the alcohol is gently boiled off in temperatures that reach (but NEVER exceed) 95 degrees fahrenheit. As the temperatures rise, the vacuum suction increases, which keeps the wine from actually cooking, preserving the wine’s flavor.
Reverse osmosis is a filtration process that occurs from pressurized force. The pressure splits the wine on a molecular level, creating two liquids: one mixture is a very concentrated grape musk, and the other is a mixture of water and alcohol. The alcohol/water mixture is heated to boil off the alcohol, then incorporated into the wine mixture.
A lot of science and spare ethanol later, there you have it– viola – alcohol-free wine.
Should the Wine Industry Be Pivoting?
The writing is on the wall. More and more people are sober-curious. The dealcoholization technology is locked and loaded. Alcohol-free wine producers have been honing their craft… The rest of the wine world just has to catch up, and we expect that they will.
Times are a changin’, and we could all use more wine with less hangovers, right? But if you aren’t quite convinced yet, we have some fabulous selections (with all of their natural alcohol) for you to shop now!