5 No-Alcohol Cocktails for a Dry January and Beyond

There’s flavor, flair—and yes, fun—in these nonalcoholic concoctions from bartenders and other pros across the country

Grid of images from story, chefs and drinks Photos: Alex Lau, Theodore Samuels, Farrah Skeiky, Lauren Paylor, Douglas Waters, Sammy Faze, Julia Momosé, Kira Bottles, Dry Soda Company, Alicia Leigh

Thinking about skipping alcohol—or at least trimming your tippling—for Dry January 2022? You’ve got company.

Interest in no-alcohol beers, cocktails, spirits, and wines is rising like bubbles from a fake sparkling rosé. Searches with the term “non-alcoholic” ballooned 52 percent on Amazon for the first 11 months of 2021 compared with a similar period in 2020, according to Pattern, an e-commerce data analytics company in Lehi, Utah.

Sales of nonalcohol and low-alcohol beer, wine, and spirits rose 33 percent between early October 2020 and 2021, says NielsenIQ, the Chicago-based consumer data analytics company. No-alcohol beer, the largest part of that pie, grew in sales by 31.7 percent. Sales of no-alcohol spirits more than doubled, to 113 percent.

“When I started doing Dry January in 2017, my friends rolled their eyes at me,” says Hilary Sheinbaum, New York-based author of “The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month.” Over time, she has found that people have become more understanding. “And it’s not just accepting of Dry January, but of stopping drinking for other and longer periods of time.”

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Of course, you may simply prefer nonalcoholic drinks over booze. Either way, you can take advantage of a growing market in low- or zero-proof spirits. “It’s a product space that has exploded,” says Douglas Watters, who in November 2020 opened Spirited Away, New York City’s first store dedicated to selling zero-proof spirits, bitters, wines, and beers. “During the pandemic, this trend may have even more traction. When you’re working at home, you just close the laptop and shift into making drinks. In my case, an alcoholic cocktail every single evening isn’t what I want or what’s best for me.”

Below, five cocktail pros share their favorite low-alcohol cocktail recipes to try at home. Keep in mind that while these don’t have alcohol, they do have a fair amount of sugar, so you should still treat them as indulgences. You can make these cocktails with basic kitchen tools and appliances, such as a blender, soda maker, or juicer. Cheers!

Drink: Bright One
From Julia Momosé
Bright One Drink

Photo: Julia Momosé Photo: Julia Momosé

“This drink calls for ice, but you actually don’t need it if you pre-chill the ingredients and you’re adding sparkling or soda water,” says Julia Momosé, owner of Kumiko, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in Chicago and the author of “The Way of the Cocktail,” about Japanese cocktails and culture. “The carbonation from the soda water lifts the flavors and adds texture.”

1 oz. fresh or bottled yuzu juice (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit. Bottled yuzu juice is sold year-round at specialty grocers and online; fresh yuzu juice is available only during the winter at specialty grocers and online.)
1 Tbsp. honey
1 oz. Seedlip Spice 94, a nonalcoholic spirit
4 oz. sparkling water

Mix the juice, honey, and Seedlip together. Pour over ice, stir to chill and fully combine, and top off with the sparkling water.

For a garnish, make a bouquet of herbs. Take a fresh bay leaf, plus some other herbs like sprigs of rosemary, thyme, or mint. Make an incision in the bay leaf and slide the other herbs through it. The bay leaf becomes the wrapper holding the bouquet. Rest it on the lip of the glass.

Julia Momosé, Owner, Kumiko, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in Chicago

Photo: Sammy Faze

“My parents don’t drink alcohol. When I became a bartender, I wanted to create a more-inclusive dining and drinking experience, and include non-alcoholic drinks. There’s less of a stigma now. People were being judged for not drinking alcohol at bars, but now at last, it is seen as a choice. And these 'spiritfrees,' as I prefer to call them, take as much time and care to make as any alcoholic cocktail.”

Drink: Billows & Thieves
From Julia Bainbridge
Billow & Thieves Drink

Photo: Alex Lau Photo: Alex Lau

“Before I tried this drink by Mike DiTota, former bar director of The Bonnie in Queens, N.Y., I was skeptical,” says Julia Bainbridge, a New York City-based journalist and author of “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason.” “Iced coffee and grapefruit juice? Yes! The bitter-on-bitter combination of coffee with grapefruit juice just works.”

3 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1⁄2 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. cold-brew concentrate, such as Grady’s
1⁄2 oz. black cardamom–cinnamon syrup (recipe below)
Small pinch of smoked sea salt
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

To make the black cardamom–cinnamon syrup: Use 2 cinnamon sticks, cracked; 3 black cardamom pods, cracked; 1⁄2 cup water; and 1 cup maple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, toast the cinnamon sticks, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cardamom, water, and maple syrup, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Pour through cheesecloth or a fine strainer, and discard the solids. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)

Combine the juices, cold-brew concentrate, syrup, and salt in a cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice, seal, and shake vigorously for 20 seconds, until the shaker is ice-cold. Double-strain and pour, ideally into a coupe glass. Finish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

Julia Bainbridge, New York City-based journalist and author, "Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You're Not Drinking for Whatever Reason"

Photo: Theodore Samuels

“Serendipitously, I removed alcohol from my life around when alcohol-free beverage options started to get more interesting. It’s been a pleasure tracking and celebrating this innovation.”

Drink: Spicy Persimmon Fizz
From Chris Marshall
Spicy Persimmon Fizz

Photo: Kira Bottles, DRY Soda Company Photo: Kira Bottles, DRY Soda Company

“In the nonalcoholic space, you certainly can replicate alcoholic drinks,” says Chris Marshall, founder and owner of Sans Bar, an alcohol-free watering hole in Austin, Texas. “But as with this recipe, you also can try new things; play with new flavors like chai, Earl Grey, and lapsang souchong tea.”

1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled and cut into pieces
1 oz. chai simple syrup (recipe below)
1⁄2 oz. water
1⁄2 oz. lemon juice
Dry Blood Orange Botanical Bubbly (available online)

To make the chai simple syrup: Combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring periodically until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil, then remove from heat. Remove the tea from 2 chai spice tea bags, and add it to the sugar mixture. Let it steep, then cool to room temperature before straining into a glass jar. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)

Place persimmon pieces, chai simple syrup, water, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until light and foamy. Pour into a wine glass and top with Dry Blood Orange Botanical Bubbly. Garnish with a persimmon slice.

Chris Marshall, Founder and owner, Sans Bar, an alcohol-free watering hole in Austin, Texas

Photo: Alicia Leigh Photography

“When I stopped drinking, there weren’t many places in the alcohol-free space for me to go to socialize. Then I became a sobriety counselor and I found my clients were having the same problem. So in 2017 I started Sans Bar. What I love about it is, if you were to walk in—pre-COVID, that is—you would not know that you were in an alcohol-free space.”

Drink: Beet Therapy
From Lauren Paylor
Beet Therapy

Photo: Lauren Paylor Photo: Lauren Paylor

“Beet juice already has natural sweetness," says Lauren Paylor, a bartender in Silver Spring, Md., and owner and co-founder of Focus on Health, an organization that promotes health and wellness among food and beverage industry workers. “With the addition of a bit of spice and some acidity, this beverage can be enjoyed both at the beginning and end of your day. Play with the proportions to meet your preferences.”

2 oz. beet juice
½ oz. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 oz. ginger syrup (recipe below)
2 oz. club soda
A piece of candied ginger (optional)

To make the ginger syrup: Juice 8 to 10 ounces of ginger (about two 6- to 7-inch pieces). Depending on which juicing method you use, this should yield 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cups. Pour the juice in a saucepan in a 1-to-1 ratio with granulated cane sugar. Simmer till the sugar dissolves, then cool. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)

Pour the beet juice, lemon juice, and ginger syrup into a glass filled with ice. Top off with the club soda. Garnish with the candied ginger. (If you juice the beets yourself, you can dehydrate the leftover beet solids in the oven, then float them in the drink as a garnish.)

Lauren Paylor, Bartender based in Silver Spring, Md. Owner and co-founder of Focus on Health, an organization that promotes health and wellness among food and beverage industry workers

Photo: Farrah Skeiky

“I lost about 30 pounds when I started to take better care of myself. When we experience progress, we should share that with others. So, I helped start Focus on Health, which has a philosophy that rests on five pillars of health: physical, mental, financial, social and environmental. We’d like people to take the concept of Dry January—taking better care of themselves—and try to sustain it after those 31 days.”

Drink: Three Spirit Penicillin
From Douglas Watters
Three Spirit Penicillin

Photo: Douglas Watters Photo: Douglas Watters

“The traditional version of this drink, made of two types of scotch, ginger syrup, and lemon juice, is one of my favorite wintertime cocktails,” says Douglas Watters, founder and owner of Spirited Away, a New York City store that only sells nonalcoholic “spirits.” “For the nonalcoholic version I squeeze a whole fresh lemon, which is entirely too much for penicillin purists, but YOLO—you only live once.”

2 oz. Three Spirit Nightcap (a nonalcoholic spirit, available online)
1 oz. honey-ginger syrup (recipe below)
1 oz. fresh lemon juice or a whole lemon, juiced
Lemon peel (optional garnish)
Candied ginger (optional garnish)

To make the honey-ginger syrup: Peel and thinly slice a 6-inch length of ginger and place it in a saucepan with 1 cup each of water and honey. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture steep overnight in the refrigerator, then strain with a cheesecloth. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain over an ice-filled whiskey glass.

Douglas Watters, Founder and owner of Spirited Away, a New York City store selling only nonalcoholic “spirits.”

Photo: Douglas Watters

“I’ve always been a cocktail enthusiast. In 2020, my tastes trended toward low-alcohol content drinks, but I found they were only available online. I envisioned my store at the end of the summer of 2020, and was able to make it happen because rents in Manhattan were down due to the pandemic.”

Tobie Stanger

I cover the money side of home-related purchases and improvements: avoiding scams, making sense of warranties and insurance, finding the best financing, and getting the most value for your dollar. For CR, I've also written about digital payments, credit and debit, taxes, supermarkets, financial planners, airlines, retirement and estate planning, shopping for electronics and hearing aids—even how to throw a knockout wedding on a shoestring. I am never bored. Find me on Twitter: @TobieStanger