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Cocktail Hour: The Best Alcohol-Free Spirits For Sober Sipping in Dry January

With the rise of the sober curious movement, it’s time to add alcohol-free spirits to your bar cart

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By House & Garden South Africa | January 23, 2024 | Shopping

Anything alcoholic spirits can do, non-alcoholic options can do just as well, but without the hangover. January may be the month of adopting new habits, detoxification, and annual resets, but that doesn’t always mean completely cutting off festivities completely. The last time we checked, January was still summer for us South Africans and the cocktails are still flowing as long as the sunsets and sundowners are on the menu.

But, with the rise of the more sober curious drinker paired with people’s goals for a ‘dry January’, means the home entertainer and bartender should have the bar cart stocked with at least one alcohol-free option for sober curious guest. The desire for more non-alcoholic options is more than a short wellness trend, but a shift in perspective by almost an entire generation. While being the sober curious guest is more about being mindful about one’s overall alcohol consumption as opposed to total abstinence, sober curious host will have the tools of the trade to make delicious low alcohol cocktails using the best spirits on the market. Many bottle stores and supermarkets are stocking non-alcoholic alternatives, but we recommend online one-stop-shops like Bar Keep, Zero Drinks, or Drink Nil.

Here are some of the best locally-available alcohol-free alternatives to many well-known spirits.

For the Negroni Lovers: Babylonstoren Bitterlekker

Babylonstoren’s Bitterlekker is a small, but mighty aperitif that tastes just like a spocy negroni. While this aperitif tastes like honeybush tea, the additional flavours of rosemary and sweet blood orange give a more negroni-like punch than a simple afternoon aperitif. Typically bought in a pack of six, Babylonstoren’s Bitterlekker is great to have on hand for those guests who love sipping on a negroni. Serve with a single, large ice cube and an orange peal for the full negroni experience, or serve it one part Bitterlekker, one part soda water for a Bitterlekker spritz!

For Those Who Love Bubbles: Allure Non-alcoholic Sparkling Wine

The Allure Non-alcoholic Sparkling Wine by Graham Beck is the perfect celebratory companion for the sober curious and sober alike. With many non-alcoholic sparkling wines lining the shelves along with simple sparkling grape juices, this one takes the cake. It is elegantly light and charming, which makes for a divine de-alcoholised glass of sparkling wine.

Labels that read ‘De-alcoholised’ points to drinks that have been fermented so the alcohol is removed prior to bottling.

For Those Who Sip Gin and Tonics: Seedlip spice 94 Non-Alcoholic Distilled Spirit

Few spirits can claim they were the first in a category of non-alcoholic alternatives to the classics. Today, Seedlip spice 94 Non-Alcoholic Distilled Spirit claims to be the pioneering first of alcohol-free gin, best served with your favourite tonic water. With sophisticated top notes of peas and hay bottled with its herbal base notes of spearmint, rosemary, and thyme, it is a great option to have on hand for alcohol-free gin and tonics.

For the Whiskey Lover: Mahala Amber Triple Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirit

If you are looking for a smokey whiskey alternative, the Mahala Amber Triple Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirit is your highball glass’s new favourite companion. Not only is it an as-good-as-the-original contender, Mahala is a great gluten-free option. Stir this whiskey-alternative with a dash of bitters and distilled water for an alcohol-free old fashioned.