Help me replace my evening drink with something that isn't alcohol.
September 7, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me replace my evening drink with something similar, but not. I very much enjoy dark beer and red wine, but I'm looking for options that aren't alcohol. Something sip-able.

I'm not a heavy drinker, but I find that I'm drinking more than I'd like to. Basically, if I'm out with friends, I'm probably a 2 beer guy. On a date, we'll probably split a bottle of wine. I'm ok with that.

The problem is when I'm at home, alone. I still enjoy having something to sip on. I'd like to find a beverage without alcohol that I can enjoy the same way I'd enjoy a dark beer or glass of wine. Something to sip over a period of time. For example, if I were to pour myself a glass of wine, I could easily sip that glass for an hour, especially if I'm watching a movie or working on a project.

I'm not worried about becoming an alcoholic or anything like that. I've probably been drunk fewer than five times in the last decade. It's just that I'd rather not be a 2 drinks a night, every night, guy. I really do like to drink - to taste - to sip - to savor - and, for evenings when I'm at home, I'd like to have options that aren't alcohol.
posted by 2oh1 to Food & Drink (46 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
I find tea does a good job of replacing the routine of making myself a drink at night. Buy some nice loose leaf instead of the crap they put in bags.
posted by auto-correct at 3:14 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh man great question. I can't wait to see the answers. Though if the OP is anything like me, in response to the first answer, I'm a huge tea nerd, but tea either cools down (if it's hot) or gets watered down (if it's iced), so it wouldn't be my first choice as a wine replacement as something to sip over a long period of time.
posted by olinerd at 3:18 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: - Homemade fruit smoothie
- Tonic water + fruit juice
- Fruit nectar (pear, mango, peach) cut with some sparkling water
- Cranberry juice + lime
- If you're not too sensitive to caffeine, you can really geek out on coffee (picking small-batch single-origin beans, calibrating the brew to your exact preferences, etc.).
posted by AngerBoy at 3:26 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm also a red wine/dark beer drinker at night kinda guy who rarely gets drunk, and I asked a similar question here a few years ago. The best answer I got was Rooibos tea, which I drink occasionally. It has a nice, earthy taste. I usually make it hot and let it cool closer to room temp (like red wine) before I drink it. Unlike red wine, however, I found I didn't want another cup after the first.

Lately, the best replacement I've found is water with lemon or lime but that is probably because it is summer. In fall/winter, I've also found lemon-ginger tea (especially if steeped from real ginger and lemons) works well for a sipping drink.
posted by perhapses at 3:27 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

In response to olinerd's comment, I drink hot tea at work out of a taller, heavy mug and it stays hot for a good hour or two. It probably holds 1.5-2 times as much as a normal mug, and it's not a wide mouth, both of which help hold in the heat.
posted by ella wren at 3:28 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

A really good (hearty) apple cider might be an option.

Or hot cocoa once the weather gets colder. You can go wild and make your own marshmallows, too.
posted by argonauta at 3:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Tea is pretty great for that, especially when you get into fancy varieties. If you're looking for something more abrasive so that it encourages sipping rather than gulping, try 100% cranberry juice + lime + soda water.
posted by aaanastasia at 3:30 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could try stronger, tart-rather-than-sweet fruit juices like pomegranate, cranberry, or açaí. An ice cold glass of pomegranate juice is perfect to sip.

If you really want a stronger flavor like wine/beer, make sure it's 100% the fruit you want-- for some reason a lot of different juices have apple juice as the main ingredient as some kind of cheap, sweet filler. Also, beware of "juice cocktails" or "juice drinks" which are often loaded with added sugar/sweeteners.

I also really like V8 Fusion vegetable/fruit juices as a more sippable, less gulpable drink.
posted by desertface at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, also: kombucha.
posted by aaanastasia at 3:38 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like herbal teas at night. They are cheap, sippable, and caffeine free.
posted by COD at 3:39 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: I like to add a few dashes of bitters to soda water or seltzer. The bitters do have alcohol in them but I don't add enough to make it a measurable amount. You can find delicious flavors of bitters to change things up.
posted by shornco at 3:43 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Nice, cold club soda. I was finding myself drinking Pinot Grigio a little too frequently at night and I realized it wasn't even necessarily the buzz I liked, but the 'bite' of the dry white wine. Now I just buy club soda in the cans, squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into a pint glass, and pour a whole can. It is so ridiculously satisfying/refreshing--much more so than regular water, maybe because of the carbonation.

Sometimes I like to get real fancy with it and muddle some fresh basil or rosemary leaves in the bottom (then the lemon/lime juice, then the soda). I probably like my booze a hair more than I should and I find this to be a totally acceptable replacement.

And it keeps you hydrated!
posted by lovableiago at 3:43 PM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

I think you should consider getting a SodaStream or similar seltzer maker. One of my favorites is sparkling water + ginger/lime syrup (make a simple syrup, infuse with ginger and lime zest). Also, good apple juice + sparkling water. Or, a bit of sour cherry juice + sparkling water.

The options are pretty much limitless, and there's enough variety to keep you interested.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:47 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Other types of "beer" - birch, root, ginger.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:55 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd say tea can definitely be a good option--there are a lot of varieties, and some are more sippable than others. Try some yerba mate--it's got a really interesting flavor that you can keep tasting in small amounts, and you usually do multiple steepings for the same leaves (assuming you don't get some crappy mix that has black or green tea in with it). Just keep steeping until the flavor runs out, mate doesn't release tannins so it doesn't get bitter.

If you get into herbal teas, you need to do it without sugar (or very very little), otherwise you'll want to just drink it down in 10 mins, and you'll lose the delicate tastes that you get when you savor. Don't put milk in herbal teas--also, there's a lot more play with steeping time and temperature.

Rant: I would second the person above who said get loose leaf not bags, but to be honest, most people who buy the more expensive loose leaf end up with sub-par tea anyway because they prepare it wrong (e.g. forget to warm the mug/pot, don't use boiling water, and steep more than 5 mins, obviously the prep rules change based on the type of tea). Basically, you can make a decent cup of tea with a cheap tea bag if you do it right, but if you do it wrong, a $100/ounce loose leaf isn't going to be worth drinking.
posted by brenton at 3:57 PM on September 7, 2011

Perfect your bloody mary recipe. But without the vodka. The variations are endless.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:59 PM on September 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

While I'm still a pretty regular 1-beer-every-other-night-but-sometimes-every night drinker, I also am a big fan of Ginger Ale/Beer. My favorite brand right now is Maine Root. It's super spicy and tangy so my taste buds still feel like they're getting something interesting, which is the problem I think I have with most other drinks.
posted by JauntyFedora at 4:00 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should probably note that I'm not a tea guy, unless we're talking about something like chai or possibly earl grey. I'm also not a soda guy. I've probably had fewer than five glasses of soda during the past few years.

I tend to like bold flavors. Coffee: dark! Beer: dark! Wine: red! Even in terms of chocolate, I greatly prefer dark.

I do love hot chocolate, but I don't like the idea of all of the sugar that's in the stuff.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:07 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: Also: it'll probably be a while before I start marking any best answers, because I'm going to have to try these ideas... but I sure do like a few of them already!
posted by 2oh1 at 4:09 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: Mayan hot chocolate?
posted by contraption at 4:12 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thai ginger tea has a bit of a sting and it's definitely hard to drink quickly.
posted by empath at 4:12 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: "Flavored" kombucha, if you like strong beverages that you can sip over time. I've had a ginger-tinged kombucha that I quite liked. No cloying sweetness, some natural non-soda like carbonation, and it definitely lingers on the palate.

I have the same general parameters as you, but add to mine that sugar is a huge no-no (diabetic), so on nights that I'm not going to have a beer or two or share a bottle of wine, I usually just go for nice, cold, filtered water. Eminently sippable, and with very few of the detracting side issues of sodas or teas.
posted by beelzbubba at 4:54 PM on September 7, 2011

If you're worried about caffeine at night and hate the taste of decaf, you could try a coffee substitute like Krakus.

If you make it stronger than the instructions say, you'll get a strong & pleasantly bitter drink.
posted by burntflowers at 4:57 PM on September 7, 2011

I'm fond of Honeyed Chrysanthemum, definitely more flavour than herbal teas and seems to lend it self to sipping.
posted by tallus at 4:58 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: Definitely get a sodastream - it's changed our nighttime drinking habits! Ginger-lime, pomegranate, tamarind, real root bear, etc. It doesn't have to be sweet - it's actually better when it's not!

Agua de tamarindo - earthy, tiny bit sweet, a bit of texture, delish.

Horchata might work too. You can play with the measurements.

Agua de jamaica.

Chai has endless variations too.

Muddled cucumber with basil-infused simple syrup (aka sugar water)

Basil lemonade.

Rosemary lemonade. Actually, rosemary might be lovely with other things too.

Mango lassi.

Blood orange fresco. Hint of thyme in there to keep it from being too fruity.

Thai iced tea.

Rhubarb spritzer with a bit of bitters.

Jasmine tea. With mint. With lemon/lime.

I've used suggestions from this article - they seem to be alcoholic, but many would be easy to adapt to non-alcoholic versions.

Spiced ginger - Palm sugar

Bitter lemon with quinine (can be hard to find. Maybe you can replicate it.

There are a billion previous threads with similar questions - mine them for other suggestions. Here's one thread asking for non-sweet non-alcoholic beverages.

posted by barnone at 5:05 PM on September 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

re: hot cocoa

you can reduce the sugar substantially (maybe even totally, although that makes my teeth curl to contemplate) if you make it with cocoa powder instead of the presweetened mixes.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:12 PM on September 7, 2011

I'd avoid caffeine if this is for evening. Since your beer/wine has a decent amount of natural sugar/calories, maybe you won't mind a fruit-based drink?

Have you ever tried a mango lassi at an indian restaurant? It can be served with ice, but often isn't. The ice-free version is great for sipping over a longish period of time, because you don't have to worry about melting. It doesn't have to be cold. It's fairly thick, and rather delicious. You could experiment with adding cardamom. It shouldn't be too difficult to make your own and/or acquire some at an Indian grocery.

Alternatively, you could try making your own Italian sodas. If you get the fizzy water and the syrup yourself, you can control how much sweetness is in your drink, and I think these can be quite nice, particularly if you get into flavors like blackberry or kiwi. Again, no need to add ice (they wouldn't in most countries).

Finally, have you ever tried almond milk? It's fairly easy to find in the US now, and although it's kind of marketed as a milk substitute now, it's pretty yummy and tastes like almond. Might be good with a sprinkle of freshly-grated nutmeg or cinnamon.
posted by amtho at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2011

My own answer for this recently has been either lots of seltzer with a tiny hit of gin for flavor, seltzer plus ginger syrup or juice, or Mayan hot chocolate, made with cayenne, cinnamon, and only barely sweet. (cure what ails your sinuses, too!)
posted by instamatic at 5:30 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: Your flavor profile is my flavor profile: big, dark, strong. I don't care for most soda, but still water with bitters works, as do herbal teas steeped for hours and hours. I also found one non-alcoholic beer that I didn't mind, but promptly forgot the name of it.

And when someone invents decent n-a wine, I am SO there.
posted by cyndigo at 5:38 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: There are different flavors of bitters out there; you can combine these with tonic or club soda.

I like the Dry sodas too. Not really sweet at all and low calorie. I like the cucumber and the lavender one.

My SO likes Bragg's vinegar drinks. (I am on the fence myself.)
posted by medeine at 5:45 PM on September 7, 2011

find a russian store around you and get some Kvas.
Or if you can find around, some kava kava.
posted by pyro979 at 6:33 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You mentioned big, dark, strong flavors - how do you feel about smoky? If you like a good smoky whiskey, try a Lapsang Souchong tea. It's a whole different world of tea!
posted by platinum at 6:46 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Gosling's ginger ale is pretty strong and quite tasty. Not cheap, but good for sipping because you wouldn't chug it. I've only found it at liquor stores. Drinks like a can of hefty beer.
posted by powpow at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: clamato with lots of lime, maggi sauce, tabasco and ice. YUM
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:58 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing spiced apple cider or gingerbeer (which is dead easy to make, and I don't bother carbonating it.)
posted by desuetude at 9:05 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: Holy effing moly. There are so many things here I can't wait to try!

Contraption, my taste buds thank you in advance. Mayan hot chocolate is not at all what I have in mind, but wow oh wow am I going to LOVE that on a cold winter night.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:17 PM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: Hhhmmmmm... I wonder if I've been wrong about rootbeer/birchbeer. I thought those were just soda/pop. Are there kinds that aren't just sugar water?
posted by 2oh1 at 10:27 PM on September 7, 2011

Best answer: I am a big fan of kvas. It does have a very low alcohol content. It is easily made at home. There are some excellent recipes on the Internet. Go with the ones made from rye bread. My mother made this in winter. It has a lot of vitamins and has a taste just a little like beer.
In Russia, even children drink it.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:31 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could get good at making your own sodas which still has a vaguely alcohol-fancy feel to it as you make simple syrup the way you would for cocktails. You can one up the anticipation by steeping exotic ingredients in the syrup and then straining before you keep it in the fridge. Then just add carbonated water and something tart like fresh citrus juice and voila. Change up the flavors, add fruit garnishes or fruit juie ice cubes to keep from getting bored.
posted by ifjuly at 5:00 AM on September 8, 2011

Best answer: Mayan hot chocolate is not at all what I have in mind, but wow oh wow am I going to LOVE that on a cold winter night.

It's not non-alcoholic, but you might also be interested in my other favorite cocoa drink which is:
unsweetened chocolate (I like the Droste brand unsweetened cocoa powder,) milk and peppermint schnapps to taste.
posted by contraption at 10:06 AM on September 8, 2011

Have you tried real Concord grape juice?
posted by Cygnet at 10:22 AM on September 8, 2011

Best answer: Switchel if you like an acidic bite
Lapsang Souchong (smoky smoky!)
Kobuk Tea's samovar blend tea. Very spicy
If you like dark beers, perhaps you could brew a grain tea from toasted grain intended for making porter wort. Or you could just make some wort, although it will taste rather sweet if made to the recipe.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:31 AM on September 8, 2011

Reed's Extra Ginger Brew (stronger then the reg) and if you can find strong chai. Not the milky watered down crap they serve in most chain stores, but spicy with a bite strong chai. Here in Seattle there is a small brewery that sells to some local cafe's. Unfortunately I've yet to find a store bought version.
posted by ljesse at 1:13 PM on September 8, 2011

Best answer: I have the same problem. I take herbal teas and put them in a empty juice container with water and shake. Great for nicely flavored instant ice tea w/out sugar.

Boil some real ginger in water for about 10 minutes, then strain and cool. Real ginger is pretty great. Added pineapple juice is pretty great as well, but I try not to drink too much fruit juice, since that's pretty much sugar water.
posted by xammerboy at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2011

You could try some chocolate tea from Tisano (I think if you've got Amazon Prime, the shipping's cheaper on Amazon).

You might have to experiment a little bit with it until you find the right way to make it, but that's still fun, right? I've been making it in an Aeropress, a little weaker than the directions say.
posted by cybertaur1 at 4:56 PM on September 8, 2011

I found a strange thing in a Richmond VA grocery store once, and you might enjoy it - it was Pappys Sassafras Tea concentrate, and tastes like unsweetened root beer (ie delicious). It was good both hot and cold with some water, sometimes lemon or honey, etc.
posted by sepviva at 5:25 PM on September 9, 2011

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