Sometimes not drinking alcohol can leave you feeling… well, parched. You want to clink glasses with everyone else at the party, but what’s in yours just doesn’t feel worthy of a toast. Well, lucky for you: sober options are no longer limited to bottled water and sparkling apple cider. Here, we review the most innovative and interesting that the abundant world of alcohol-free specialties, spirits, and substitutes has to offer. Every month, we’ll taste test and review a bevy of bevs so you don’t have to. But you’ll probably want to. Cheers, y’all — it’s time to drink refreshed!
Lyre’s American Malt and Cola
This is a canned take on a Jack and Coke, and boy, does it smell like one! “Impossibly crafted”, all right— this clone defies all logic at first whiff. It bubbles up delightfully over rocks, much more effervescent and exciting than, say, a flattened on-tap Coke at a dive bar; when I poured it, I almost caught a buzz. After the first sip, the whiskey top notes gently mellow into a complex, sweet-but- savory experience with a spicy, almost gingery warmth. The more I drank, the more the bourbon vibes died down and the malty vanilla depths started to shine. I continued to be surprised by the depths of the flavor profile as I sipped. After getting past the – is this just gonna taste like whiskey? Because whiskey is gross – initial concern, I found this drink to be not only intriguing, but delicious.
From its deep blood orange hue to its beautiful art nouveau-style branding, this aperitif offers up a truly elegant experience from jump. I first enjoyed it straight, and was reminded of Aperol – bright and citrusy up front, with a slightly medicinal bitterness rounding it out. Its fragrance in the fancy bottle didn’t do justice to the depths of flavor in the actual drink; it’s herbal and zesty at the same time, with a soft edge of vanilla. I also spritzed it up with a splash of Cherry Bubly I had on hand, and the sparkle added a festive dimension that took it from strong concentrate to lighthearted bouquet, from serious to flirtatious. The cherry flavor softened the herbs and gave it a non-cloying fruit punch-like vibrance, elevating the sweetness in a romantic way that brings to mind the summery glam of a trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Seedlip Spice 94
Seedlip’s signature spirit is sophistication in a bottle. Leading with clove and cardamom on the nose, on the tongue its flavor expands to a citrusy, woodsy fullness. This is perhaps a gentler nudge into the world of n/a aromatics than Ghia, but has the same complexity you would want in an elevated beverage without the booze. I enjoyed this most over ice (the Cherry Bubly I had is not its best friend, overpowering the delicate interplay of herbs here), but it would be sublime with a plain soda water and a squeeze of fresh grapefruit or lime. Sipped on its own, the punch of florals and citrus rounds out subtly to clove again, leaving you refreshed and curious about what your palate might encounter on your next sip (spoiler alert: there’s also ginger, lemongrass, oak, and rosemary in the mix). With a spirit this warm and inviting, you won’t miss the harsh bite of alcohol; in fact, you’ll be glad it’s not there to obscure the intricate flavors here.