5 Essentials for your Spirit-Free Bar — and a Recipe

In our new story on the “sober curious” movement, we dig into how makers of cocktails, beer and wine are increasingly investing in creating craft non-alcoholic beverages as well. Author Peter Jon Lindberg, who’s tasted his way around the whole burgeoning category, shares with us here some of his favorite options for a spirit-free bar — along with a recipe for a drink you can make at home.

In just the last five years, the non alcoholic (n/a) market has positively exploded, with new offerings popping up every week (and a host of new non-alcoholic bottle shops to sell them). Even stalwart booze brands are getting in on the action: Tanqueray is about to launch its delicious 0.0% dry gin stateside, and Guinness’s excellent n/a stout is finally available in the U.S.—in a proper nitrogenated “draft” can, no less. Here are 5 other standouts to set up your n/a home bar.

Athletic Brewing Company

I think of it as near-beer for people who love real beer, and might still drink it—but want an option for daytime or weeknight outings, or before a pickup basketball game. In just four years, Athletic has bloomed from a tiny facility in Connecticut to a national operation with a second brewery in San Diego. Everyone loves the hoppy Run Wild IPA and quaffable Cerveza Atletica (a refreshing riff on Mexican lagers), but for me the All-Out Stout is their secret weapon—and the only n/a stout I’ve found that measures up. Keep a lookout for ABC’s “Pilot Program” limited releases—sours, stouts, hazy IPAs—sold only via its website.

Brooklyn Brewery

Special Effects, Brooklyn Brewery’s non-alcoholic beer.

Brooklyn’s four Special Effects brews rank at the top of the n/a class in terms of full-bodied flavor and personality, yet brewmaster Garrett Oliver is still tweaking the recipes. “Wait another three months and we’ll be even better!” he says. I love the original dry-hopped amber (in the psychedelic blue-and-yellow can), but all four styles are worth sampling.

Monday’s Gin

With bright hits of juniper, pine, and citrus peel, Monday’s gin is my favorite of many excellent offerings in a crowded category. Try it in a G&T with Fever Tree tonic. (Fever Tree mixers make everything better: use them in any drink and you’re already halfway home.) Bonus points for the stylish Deco-themed packaging, which you would happily display on your bar. Monday also makes a dependably versatile whiskey, which has a nice spicy bite from capsaicin (the compound that gives heat to chile peppers), mimicking the sting of alcohol. The company has just introduced a new mezcal.

Lyre Spirit Co.

Lyre’s Italian Orange and Tonic

A U.K. brand run by two Australians, Lyre produces a dizzying array of non-alcoholic spirits. They come uncannily close to the real deal—from rum to bourbon to vermouth and even absinthe. These are best for mixed drinks, not necessarily for sipping. You can make a pretty faithful Negroni with equal parts Dry London Spirit (a reliable take on dry gin), Italian Orange (subbing for Campari), and Apéritif Rosso (a riff on sweet vermouth).

Leitz “Eins Zwei Zero” Wines

Zero-proof wines are a tricky beast to tame—or rather, to keep sufficiently wild, as the best wines should taste. Many are just glorified grape juice with none of the depth, salinity, and character we expect in wine. Leitz’s “Eins Zwei Zero” alcohol-free wines are a rare exception, particularly the Riesling and the sparkling rosé (made from 100% pinot noir), which are both grown, harvested, and vinified like regular wines, then de-alcoholized.

…And a Zero-Proof Cocktail to Make at Home

Yuzu Cooler

The ace barman at the Rosewood Hong Kong invented this addictively refreshing drink on the spot when I asked for something boozeless.

Yuzu is a singular variety of citrus, beloved in Japan for its deliciously tart, fragrant, orange-like notes—it’s also not as astringent as regular lemon or lime juice. (Shirakiku’s all-natural yuzu extract, made from pure fruit with no added sugar, is my standby at home.) A spoonful of orgeat (almond syrup, a common ingredient in tiki drinks) supplies nutty depth and sweetness.

RECIPE:

Fill a highball glass with ice and soda water

Add 2 tsp Shirakiku yuzu extract

Add 1 tsp Liber & Co. orgeat

Gently stir, just enough to mix. Garnish with a lime or Meyer lemon wedge

In our new story on the “sober curious” movement, we dig into how makers of cocktails, beer and wine are increasingly investing in creating craft non-alcoholic beverages as well. Author Peter Jon Lindberg, who’s tasted his way around the whole burgeoning category, shares with us here some of his favorite options for a spirit-free bar — along with a recipe for a drink you can make at home.