Like Beer But Not Beer
July 29, 2015 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to cut down on my alcohol consumption. What are some beverages that satisfy some of the same taste experience as beer or wine?

I've been drinking a lot of de-alcoholized beer lately, but what else can I drink? Preferably nothing too sweet.

Some things that hit the spot:

-water with a dash of apple cider vinegar
-sour flavours of pop (e.g. lemon-lime)

Any other ideas of drinks that are yeasty, sour or vinegary, etc ?
posted by oceanview to Food & Drink (44 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Shrubs, a.k.a. drinking vinegars.
Ginger beer.
posted by BrashTech at 10:41 AM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

My German mother-in-law loves Karamalz.

You might be able to find it at Trader Joe's. There are other malt drinks like this (typically called "Malta"), like Malta Goya (most hispanic groceries will have this for sure).
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2015

Seltzer with lime or tonic water with lime.
posted by plinth at 10:57 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Club soda actually hits that spot for me. It took about a year, but now plain old sparkling water (as long as it is very fizzy, not even starting to go flat) will serve that same function. You can put a little lemon or lime juice in there for flavor.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:57 AM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Cranberry juice (the unsweetened, super puckery kind) cut with seltzer/club soda to taste.

Definitely try Malta, if you haven't already.
posted by superfluousm at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ginger ale
San Pelligrino
posted by ainsley at 11:00 AM on July 29, 2015

Amstel's alcohol-free radler is pretty good.
posted by neushoorn at 11:03 AM on July 29, 2015

Moxie, if you can get it.
posted by General Malaise at 11:06 AM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like soda water with bitters. This sampler is lovely. Also, if you're a tea person, they're nice in hot still water as well.
posted by hollyholly at 11:07 AM on July 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

* Malta India
* Seltzer Water
* Alcohol-free beer from countries like UAE sold at halal Arab-type markets.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:10 AM on July 29, 2015

posted by gemutlichkeit at 11:11 AM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

San Pelligrino

I've noticed a huge influx of the San Pellegrino sodas in the stores near me. Probably because Nestle owns them now. Their Aranciata soda comes damn near close to Orangina, which is very hard to get cheaply in the states. Orange soda is tangy and refreshing, don't compare it to the USA formula of Fanta or Sunkist which are awful sticky sugar bombs.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:12 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pok Pok in Portland has a line of drinking vinegars that are quite tasty.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:14 AM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So many cool beverages to try!
posted by oceanview at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2015

You may know already, but if you didn't know: kombucha contains some alcohol due to its fermentation, up to 0.5% legally for commercial brands in the usa. The government busted some brands a while ago that clocked in over that.

Home brewed kombucha can get up to 2.5% apparently.
posted by TheAdamist at 11:33 AM on July 29, 2015

Plain seltzer with a dash (or several) of bitters is my go-to weekday beer replacement.

A friend swears the mango La Croix sparkling water tastes like an alcohol-free IPA. I don't get it, myself, but.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:41 AM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you are drinking de-alcoholized beer I take it a tiny % of alcohol is kosher? Cocktail bitters are good. Angostura, OJ, soda water...

Bitter lemon is really good, though it did once have the amusing side effect of making a big bearded dude in biker leathers come up to me once while I was sipping a bottle to say "You like to drink, huh!" "Oh, ah, it's just bitter lemon soda," I said, "totally non-alcoholic." "No," he said, "I know that. It's just anybody who would drink that likes to drink. Heh." So, vouched for as compatible with your goals here...
posted by kmennie at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

In my house we have recently discovered switchel, it's delightfully different and truly thirst-quenching. It's bottled by CideRoad or you can make your own.
posted by miaou at 11:51 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

My husband likes barley tea, which seems to hit some overlapping flavor notes with beer.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:56 AM on July 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Mrs. Bastard has been making berry-infused water concoctions and drinking them out of a wine glass, and she swears that it is as satisfying as a glass of white wine.

Here's a recipe that she didn't use: (She just wings it. Often she adds fresh mint from the garden. She never adds sweetener)
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:59 AM on July 29, 2015

Over the weekend I made a shrub (grated ginger juice, apple cider vinegar, sugar) and was looking for recipes to use it in. I noticed one maker of commercial shrubs offered non-alcoholic recipes that you might find inspiring.
posted by mmascolino at 12:18 PM on July 29, 2015

When I want a beer but it's not a good time, I grab an unsweetened, flavored sparkling water like La Croix. The coconut flavor is especially satisfying. Peach Pear is also good. I think it's the fizziness that does it for me.
posted by Huck500 at 12:33 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mineralgua or other Mexican sparkling mineral water! Costs as much as cheap beer, refreshing, but since it's not sweet I find that I don't pound it. A great alternative to booze.
posted by rossination at 12:38 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

+1 for barley tea, you can drink it cold or iced and iced it's a solid substitute for a malt-heavy beer.

There's a company out there that makes hop-flavored soda. I dunno how prevalent it is (I've only ever seen it stocked at one specific bar) but it's super tasty.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:10 PM on July 29, 2015

You may enjoy water kefir. It can be kind of sweet, but you can make it less so.

I like to drink a hoppy IPA mixed half-and-half with my home-brewed kombucha - that way, I get two drinks, but only one serving of alcohol.
posted by acridrabbit at 1:29 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another vinegar to play with: Ume plum. Got some salty going on too.

Other things to throw in water (carbonated or not): cucumber, rose water or orange blossom essence water (check middle eastern markets).
posted by straw at 1:31 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

You're spot-on with kombucha (I am particularly fond of Synergy's Guava Goddess) and drinking vinegars/shrubs. Of the La Croix sparkling waters, I agree that coconut is, indeed, best... it's somehow the least ersatz-seeming.

In cooler months, I've found that strong herbal teas hit the spot. My go-tos are Tazo's Passion (a hibiscus with extra ascorbic acid) and Celestial Seasonings' Bengal Spice (a tea-free chai-like affair). Both caffeine free, so you can keep throwing 'em back all day long. My MO is to bung a teabag in a mug of water and microwave it to the boiling point for maximum flavor extraction—the instant hot water from the office watercolor is never sufficient to the task, and who's got time to muck about with kettles and such. This probably makes me a bad person of unsubtle tastes, but whatever gets you through the day, hey?
posted by mumkin at 1:37 PM on July 29, 2015

For a wine substitute, I love 100% pomegranate juice. I actually find the stuff in the glass jar on the shelf to be a little more tart and a little drier (you can taste the tannins!) than the POM Wonderful stuff that's refrigerated.

I drink mine in a fancy wine glass.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2015

Kvass. So good.
posted by pravit at 2:37 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Real ginger ale (like Reed's Extra Ginger Brew)
posted by radioamy at 2:49 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Many microbreweries do a classic root beer, which is murkier and more complex than the standard fare, and is a pretty great substitute for a porter IMO.
posted by TheCoug at 4:13 PM on July 29, 2015

You will have to make this yourself, but you can use water kefir to ferment grape juice. There will be some alcohol in the resulting ferment. How much depends on how you make it, but much less than wine.

I let mine ferment for about 2 days, and the result is a complex flavor with a lot of sourness - if you like kombucha you will probably like this. I am addicted to it and drink this every day.

There are two methods - using water kefir grains to ferment the juice directly, or making a sugar solution with the water kefir grains and using that to ferment the juice. A good source for information and grains for water kefir is Cultures for Health.

I think this would work with practically any fruit juice. It might be good with pomegranate juice.

There's a learning curve to get started with home fermentation, but once you get the hang of it it's easy.
posted by Cinnamon Bear at 4:24 PM on July 29, 2015

Nthing La Croix. It is my go to when I'm cutting back on beer. The coconut smells like tanning lotion to me, though. Apricot is probably my favorite. For me it has the benefit of being as easy as beer.
posted by jeoc at 4:32 PM on July 29, 2015

Maybe try Sangria Senorial (tastes pretty sangria-like) or Sidral Mundet apple soda (kind of like a sweet, fizzy cider)? You should be able to find either in almost any Mexican grocery (and many restaurants).
posted by mhum at 4:56 PM on July 29, 2015

You can also use actual fruit (or spices/herbs, but generally fruit is better) instead of juice for the second ferment in making water kefir.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 7:02 PM on July 29, 2015

Their Aranciata soda comes damn near close to Orangina, which is very hard to get cheaply in the states.

The tangerine one is GLORIOUS and is the only soda permitted in my presence aside from the emergency migraine-puke-fixing ginger ale in the crisper.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:16 PM on July 29, 2015

As others have mentioned, club soda and bitters is a great choice. A great summer quencher I make is club soda, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and sweeten to taste with simple syrup or agave. Aside from Angostura, I like to use Regan's Orange Bitters as they have a pronounced spiced (cardamom) note in addition to the orange.

Pellegrino sodas are tasty, but may be a bit sweet for your requirements. I will heartily recommend their Chinotto, though.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 8:39 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nitro cold brew! It even comes on tap.
posted by lettersoflead at 12:20 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Very different class of drink, but I totally nipped my evening craving for a little somethin' somethin' with virgin marys. Tomato juice and a really good bloody mary mix and fresh ground pepper - or whatever suits your fancy. It's not something you can gulp like a soda, you sip and savor and your taste buds are all happy.
posted by oneaday at 5:00 AM on July 30, 2015

I have been pregnant for most of the past year, so am an expert on this:

Elderflower cordial in sparkling water (maybe that's a British thing), unsweetened iced fruit teas (the loose-leaf black teas with chunks of dried fruit in them work really well for this, Whittard does an amazing black tea and mango one), iced green tea with lemon, ginger beer, tamarind soda, Supermalt/Nigerian non-alcoholic stouts, dandelion and burdock (again, might be a British thing). Just go round your local ethnic cornershop and buy some of the weird sodas. Some will be good, some will be foul (Sea Moss is not great).

In a bar, try tonic water with fresh lime, and also most virgin mojitos I've tried have been pretty good.

Chinotto, and the even less customer-friendly Maltese version Kinnie, are very weird and bitter but delicious. They taste sort of like Campari and soda. Irn Bru hits a similar weird-tasting spot, and is the Scottish national drink.
posted by tinkletown at 5:01 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been drinking various Italian "non-alcoholic aperitifs" of late. They taste like Campari and soda as well. Get them at most Italian/Spanish/Portuguese grocery stores.

Many non-alcoholic beers are barely okay, but make good beer cocktails!
posted by sincarne at 9:13 AM on July 30, 2015

For something more bitter I do like tonic water on its own.
posted by Albondiga at 11:54 AM on July 30, 2015

Just squeeze a lemon slice into a glass of mineral water and drop it into the glass.
posted by John Cohen at 2:25 PM on July 30, 2015

For a non-alcoholic morning pick-me-up, I like a Virgin Mary with tomato juice, a few squeezes of lemon juice, loads of Worcestershire sauce (like, several tablespoons) and maybe a dash of hot sauce if I'm feeling frisky.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:44 PM on July 30, 2015

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