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
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.)
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.”
“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.
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.”