Not love but delicious drinks (without caffeine or alcohol)
March 13, 2013 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me find tasty beverages that don't have caffeine, alcohol, or loads of corn syrup.

When I go to a coffee shop, my heart sinks a little at the endless array of... coffee. Just variations on coffee. When I go to a restaurant, I flip through the giant beverage menu to discover only Coca-Cola products listed under the "non-alcoholic" section. I want more! I know it's out there!

What I don't want:
- alcohol
- coffee/espresso
- decaffeinated coffee/espresso
- black or green tea
- stevia, aspartame, etc.
- commercial sodas
- grape, apple, or pear juice, and blends thereof
- anything where the dominant flavor can be described as "high fructose corn syrup"

What I do want:
drinks like:
- chanh muoi
- bandung
- red bean ice
- aguas frescas
- milk, soymilk, almond milk, etc.
- anything naturally sweet or unsweet
- savory, salty, or spicy drinks

I realize this is a broad question, and that's fine. I'm casting a wide net; I'd just like to think more creatively. This AskMe covers tisanes and teas well, and this one covers bar drinks, and this one covers infused water, so suggestions outside these areas are especially welcome. (Also, first question, so please be kind if I've screwed something up.)
posted by thetortoise to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I love the sparkling mineral water from Whole Foods. I really like the lemon-raspberry flavor :) It's about 1.69 per bottle and there's no sugar or artificial sweetners. When I'm in the mood for something sweeter I get the strawberry flavor.
posted by fr0zen at 11:47 AM on March 13, 2013

Go to a Latin American restaurant and order horchata!
posted by googly at 11:48 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

ITALIAN CREAM SODA. It is one of my favorite things, and comes in as many flavors as the coffeeshop has on hand.

The ingredients are simple: a bit of flavor syrup (the good ones are made with cane juice, not corn syrup--it's not weird to ask to see the ingredients label) and a bit of half and half in a base of club soda.

My favorite is probably almond, but the magic is that you can drink one every day and never have the same thing. YES.
posted by phunniemee at 11:49 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I know you saw that thread, but I just want to point out Good Earth Tea! It is so surprisingly naturally sweet, without sugar or any other sweetener, that sometimes I have it instead of dessert, or when I crave something sweet. Also makes a FABULOUS iced tea.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:49 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hansen's ginger ale is amazingly spicy and delicious.
posted by Addlepated at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2013

Hansen's ginger ale is amazingly spicy and delicious.

Reed's is better. (You can find it at Trader Joe's.)

If you have a World Market near you, go peruse their drink section. They have a lot of specialty sodas and juices, and you may find something you love that fits all of your requirements.
posted by phunniemee at 11:59 AM on March 13, 2013

Tamarindo and cebado are also tasty Latin American drinks, I'm not crazy about the maranon but try it anyway. Lassis will also be your friend. Take a visit to nearest Korean grocery store, they tend to have all sorts of fun drinks, like with aloe or basil seeds.
posted by florencetnoa at 12:02 PM on March 13, 2013

Does tonic water count as a commercial soda? Fever-Tree's tonic and their Bitter Lemon are both fantastic. If you like bitter flavors, that might work for you.

I also love Sanpellegrino's Chinotto.

I can find all these at our local liquor store.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2013

Yerba Matte!

And do you drink chai? Even if you don't like tea, you might still like chai. Maaaybe try milk tea or flavoured green teas at bubble tea places. The variety of flavours is nice, and depending on the shop, sometimes they will let you choose unsweetened.
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:19 PM on March 13, 2013

My go to non-alcoholic beverage is to make sparkling tea. I load up on sparkling mineral water from TJs, brew a pot of a good red or white or sometimes green tea, chill it, mix it with the sparkling water, maybe add a little lemon or even a bit of fruit juice. It's delicious and cheap.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:21 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tomato Juice (weirdly enough ShopRite Brand tastes way better then anything else I've tried).
posted by pyro979 at 12:26 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you like the taste of coffee but don't want the caffeine try Dandy Blend. It has a nutty almost coca flavor too and I LOVE it!
posted by TRUELOTUS at 12:26 PM on March 13, 2013

posted by oceano at 12:33 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, Good Earth tea is the bomb.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:36 PM on March 13, 2013

Agua de Flor de Jamaica is tangy and refreshing.
posted by fontophilic at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2013

One of the best ways to discover new drinks is to go to the drink cooler at Whole Foods or your local fancy-pants specialty grocery if you have one nearby.

Here are my personal favorites:
-Jasmine Tea Fresh Ginger Ginger Ale is best ginger ale.
-Fentimans Rose Lemonade. Their other drinks look pretty good, too.
-Seconding Sanpellegrino; I haven't plucked up the courage to try Chinotto yet, but their grapefruit soda is delicious.
-If you can find it, Kristall makes a pear soda that is wonderful.

All of the above contain sugar but not HFCS. None are particularly syrupy-tasting.

I also really want to try Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray. However, it does contain HFCS.

For tea, licorice and rooibos are my two go-tos. Both are delicious plain and neither contain caffeine.

You might also like sparkling water/seltzer. Supermarkets tend to have them in a ton of flavors (some artificial, I'm sure), but they're not sweetened. Or you can get plain and mix it with whatever you want - juices, tea, flavored syrups, go nuts.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:41 PM on March 13, 2013

Response by poster: A couple quick clarifications, then I'll get out of here. For "commercial sodas," just think stuff that gets mixed in a soft drink machine; anything else is fair game. I do love tea of all kinds, but I have to be careful of my caffeine intake to avoid migraines, so varieties that are lower in caffeine are ideal.
posted by thetortoise at 12:43 PM on March 13, 2013

My usual non-alcoholic beverage is to ask for a pint of soda water with a shot of lime juice in it. Pretty much every bar and restaurant can accommodate that. It's refreshing and delicious.
posted by IanMorr at 1:01 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

I love seltzer water with pineapple juice. Naturally sweet, no sugar required and I'm a sugar addict. Trader Joes has blood orange and grapefruit italian sodas that I also like to add to seltzer water. Carbonated limeade - you add the sugar to your liking. Oh and pomegranate juice is a nice addition as well.
posted by mokeydraws at 1:20 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

For hot beverages in a spicy vein, jahe wangi (Indonesian ginger tea) and serbat wangi (Indonesian multispice tea) are great; you can get instant Intra-brand jahe at some Asian markets and serbat through eFoodDepot; you can also make your own jahe wangi with fresh ginger. There's a recipe for fresh serbat which, when run through Google Translate, seems a bit plausible but calls for a few unusual spices ("cabai jawa", or long pepper, and "kemukus", or cubeb).
posted by jackbishop at 1:23 PM on March 13, 2013

A childhood favourite of mine: grass jelly drink. It should be fairly easily obtainable if there's a good-sized Asian (Vietnamese or Filipino instead of Japanese or Korean) supermarket near you. If you're not keen on buying canned drinks, you can easily make your own with a block of grass jelly with a simple syrup (the pandan in this recipe is really optional), or add soymilk for a richer version.

Also, I love these Pok Pok Som fruit vinegar syrups with sparkling mineral water.
posted by peripathetic at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2013

Forgot to add this: Victoria's Kitchen almond water, the original version.
posted by peripathetic at 1:33 PM on March 13, 2013

How about old fashioned lemonade? It's usually made with sugar and it's becoming more and more prevalent even in junk food places. I like mine diluted with unsweetened tea (Arnold Palmer!) but you can use white, red or herbal teas just as easily. Or ask for it with half lemonade and half club soda.

Fresh bloody mary mix might be the thing, tomato juice, horseradish, salt, pepper, celery/celery seeds, worchestershire sauce, lemon juice and tobasco.

My mom loves tomato juice with salt and lemon juice.

Jamaican Carrot Juice is a total thing! You can substitute the condensed milk, for Coconut Cream.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:45 PM on March 13, 2013

There are coffee-like beverages made from chocolate, such as CrioBru and Choffy.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 1:51 PM on March 13, 2013

Barley tea's good cold if you're looking for cold beverages, and even available pre-made in some Asian grocery stores.

I drink a lot of teas and tisanes. (For convenience at home, see the recent electric kettle thread.) For herbal tea the two main ingredients you'll want to look out for are rosehips (they're what give those "Zinger" teas their zing) -- they're pretty overpowering, so you may wish to avoid them for variety's sake, and licorice -- it's actually sweeter than sugar, so if you want a tea that tastes sweet without being sugary, it's something you might like to seek out.
posted by asperity at 2:00 PM on March 13, 2013

I like to add jam to hot water. It's delicious.
posted by aniola at 4:30 PM on March 13, 2013

You could buy a Sodastream or similar gadget and experiment to your heart's content.
posted by Wretch729 at 4:49 PM on March 13, 2013

Lemon and barley water is a childhood staple that is especially refreshing in summer.
posted by lollusc at 2:23 AM on March 14, 2013

This is for home rather than bars, but: squeeze one orange into a cup and top it up with boiling water. My girlfriend calls this a "hot orange" and I'm amazed it's not more commonly done. Refreshing, slightly sweet, warm and comforting.
posted by distorte at 4:03 AM on March 14, 2013

Get yourself to an Asian grocer and try-
Coconut juice. Chrysanthemum tea. Lemon barley drink. Lychee juice. Longan juice. Soya bean milk (sweetened). Winter melon tea. Grass jelly drink. Sugar cane juice. Red date tea. Soursop juice. Guava juice. H20. Calpis water. Calpis soda. Aloe Vera juice. Tamarind juice. Mangosteen juice. Dragon fruit juice. Vitasoy. Calamansi (lime juice).

I credit the above drinks to my sincere lack of interest in sodas.

Other noteworthy drinks that are not Asian - chinotto, San Pellegrino's blood orange drink.
posted by shazzam! at 5:26 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seltzer water mixed with light cranberry cocktail. About 40 calories for 16-20 oz. You could also add a wee bit of lime juice.

Mint tea, hot or cold.

I also love Perrier, which comes in lemon-lime and grapefruit flavors. If there isn't any to be had, flavored sparkling waters are also perfectly fine--their caloric content is negligible.
posted by tully_monster at 5:34 AM on March 14, 2013

Chicha morada, cold over ice.
posted by lalochezia at 7:53 AM on March 14, 2013

I love a good egg cream. Seltzer + chocolate milk = heaven.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:27 AM on March 14, 2013

Response by poster: These are all great! Some are drinks I've had and forgotten to make at home and others I've never heard of. Thank you!
posted by thetortoise at 1:22 PM on March 14, 2013

snorkmaiden: Yerba Matte!

And do you drink chai? Even if you don't like tea, you might still like chai. Maaaybe try milk tea or flavoured green teas at bubble tea places. The variety of flavours is nice, and depending on the shop, sometimes they will let you choose unsweetened.
Yerba Matte, chai, milk teas, green teas, and most bubble teas all contain caffeine, which the OP stated as off-limits.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:47 PM on March 14, 2013

savory salty turkish drinks:

fermented turnip and carrot juice

salty yogurt drink, surprisingly refreshing
posted by beckish at 7:07 PM on March 14, 2013

Barley tea. Brew it, then chill it for a few hours. Delightful in the summer. Available at your friendly neighborhood Japanese grocery store. And yes, caffeine-free.
posted by chicainthecity at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2013

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