Non-alcoholic beer — but for spirits? Help replace my gin.
November 1, 2016 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to reduce my alcohol intake, much of which is made up of either a bottle of beer after work, followed by a later bourbon or gin over ice. I've switched to non-alcoholic beers for post-dinner on weeknights, which seems to satisfy the craving. I'd like to find a similar substitute that can take the place of the spirits. Something herbal, full-flavored and sip-able. Does this magic drink exist?

I've seen that a distilled non-alcoholic drink called Seedlip is available in the UK.

I'm in Canada, but can easily grab things from the states. Thanks!
posted by lukez to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
maybe shrubs? it's basically fruit, sugar and (good) vinegar... nothing stopping you from adding herbal elements to them.
posted by noloveforned at 6:37 PM on November 1, 2016 [16 favorites]

You might want to look into shrubs. There are liquor ones but otherwise they are like vinegar-y syrups you can mix with seltzer. Switchel is also all the rage.
posted by jessamyn at 6:38 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have been drinking tonic water. It scratches that "not water, kind of grown up" itch that alcohol can fill. I have also had club soda/seltzer with a couple of dashes of bitters (if you're not totally rejecting alcohol). Switchel is fun. Tinto de Verano is lower alcohol.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:43 PM on November 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

A few dashes of Angostura bitters in club soda or ginger ale (if you prefer something sweeter) is a classic/old-fashioned way to go. I understand there are all kinds of fancy-pants bitters these days, but I haven't tried them.
posted by she's not there at 6:47 PM on November 1, 2016 [16 favorites]

On nights I want a cocktail but don't want to drink, I will have bitters in water, sometimes with a nice citrus twist. It's not 100% nonalcoholic but close enough.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:48 PM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are juniper flavored dry sodas (or lemongrass, lavender, etc), but bitters and soda also seem good to me.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:56 PM on November 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Claytons - "the drink you have when you're not having a drink".
posted by unliteral at 6:57 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are many great bitters around now. I love them mixed with water or club soda. You could even make your own using neutral spirits and the botanicals you Iike in gin. Sort of like a gin concentrate you can add to water or tonic.
posted by quince at 7:40 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bitters in soda water is excellent.

Cucumber water, which is exactly what it sounds like, cukes in water in the fridge. Add mint or basil or dill to really push up the flavour.

Switchel, which can be almost any herbal infusion in vinegar. We make one with shiso in the summer that's really fantastic.

If you grow your own herbs, pots are great, this is really easy. But you can buy em too.
posted by bonehead at 7:51 PM on November 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Chinotto is tasty if you like the bitters flavour. It's a bitter Italian pop- tastes kind of like Coke, but less sweet and with a ton of bitters in it. San Pellegrino and Brio make good versions that come in single-serving cans or bottles for about $2-3 each. A chinotto on ice is absolutely divine with any salty or greasy Italian food like pizza. It's an acquired taste, I guess, but it's real good!
To find it- large grocery stores or authentic Italian pizza joints will usually have it with the other sodas.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:09 PM on November 1, 2016 [7 favorites]

Dry sodas like these?
Or maybe St Croix?
posted by fiercekitten at 9:06 PM on November 1, 2016

We have approximately eleventy thousand kinds of bitters - orange, blood orange, cardamom, chocolate-mole, several different hot-pepper kinds, lime-coriander, black pepper - in addition to standards like Peychaud's and Angostura. They're all delicious (and different from each other) in sparkling water.
posted by rtha at 9:12 PM on November 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I like San Bitter, a bright red Italian sofa that is bitter and a bit sweet. Comes in tiny bottles and is best served over ice with an orange slice. Kind of like a non alcoholic Campari.
posted by ohio at 10:41 PM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like Elderflower cordial - its got that fruit/herbal/perfume aroma that gin often has. I mix a little (not the recommended serve - much much less) with sparkling water. Throw in a lime twist and you're done. This is the one I get, but you're sure to have similar ones wherever you are.
posted by ninazer0 at 11:33 PM on November 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you like 'herbal,' you'd probably really dig stuff that is "waldmeister" flavoured -- aka woodruff. Apparently very popular in Germany; Haribo even makes a waldmeister gummy. Quite delicious.

Do you like blackcurrant at all? I find super-strong blackcurrant tea over ice with a shot of Ribena scratches a "I want a strongly flavoured beverage" itch.

If a modest amount of alcohol would still be a step in the desired direction, it doesn't take very much Campari at all to do really neat things to good fresh orange juice.

Googling "herbal squash drink" got me this interesting 'kairi herbal squash' recipe. (Apparently 'tulsi' is 'holy basil'?)

+1 on elderflower; it's like white grape juice's sophisticated globe-trotting aunt flew in for the weekend.

Fentimans has a rose lemonade, along with other interesting flavours.
posted by kmennie at 12:23 AM on November 2, 2016

I drank an entire bottle of Fentiman's cherry bitters in a month as someone who Used to Drink Every Day But Doesn't So Much Anymore. They're that good. Throw a real maraschino liqueur cherry in there and you're balling. Got a lime on hand? Time for a cherry lime rickey.

Possibly worth noting, those particular cherry bitters have zero calories & no alcohol in them, so you really can go wild with them.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:09 AM on November 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

If your goal is alcohol reduction, rather than elimination, I'd go for an alcoholic bitter liqueuer and soda. Campari and Soda is my go-to drink when I want a drink without getting drunk. It's only ~25% alcohol and you only use a half ounce, so it's a very small amount of alcohol. Other options to try include Cynar, Fernet Branca, Chartreuse, Suze.
posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

posted by at at 8:07 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Further to some great comments above-

A half-shot of Campari mixed into something else is definitely a good way to have some, but less, alcohol- it's strong and not really something you'd want to gulp. A little Campari with an ice cube in a tumbler of pink grapefruit juice- bittersweet and surprisingly delightful, especially in hot weather.

Elderflower is delicious (kind of tastes like pears and mangoes together), and instead of buying $50 St Germain elderflower liquer (which is divine but pricey), you can buy the $6 Ikea NonAlcoholic Elderflower Syrup called Dryk Flader, which you'll find in Ikea's grocery area near the cash lanes. Mix a tablespoon or two of that into lemonade, soda water, iced tea, or cocktails. It's sweet, so for me personally it wouldn't really feel like it replaces alcohol because it's gulp-able, but maybe you have more self-control than I do when faced with a sweet drink. Anyway, it sure is yummy, and it's an easy way to make lemonade feel fancy for guests.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:17 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

> A little Campari with an ice cube in a tumbler of pink grapefruit juice- bittersweet and surprisingly delightful, especially in hot weather.

Add some sparkling water and you've got what we call a Bitter Queen!
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

If low-alcohol drinks are possibilities, there's a book called The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level that might have some useful suggestions.
posted by Lexica at 4:53 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to pitch Strega, Yellow Chartruese, and Aperol as great, complex liqueurs to put a few drops into soda water to liven it up. Herbal and fruit shrubs, for sure (pro-tip: substitute red wine vinegar for a mellower, deeper taste, like mulled wine), and Ribena, IKEA's rhubarb, lingonberry, and elderberry syrups, Swedish bitters, homemade mugwort-infused vermouth, and Tessiere's syrups are all my drink cart staples to add to sparkling water.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 9:08 PM on November 2, 2016

Thanks everyone!

Switchel and shrubs are of particular interest now (I'd never heard of either), and I'm going to raid my bitters cupboard (I think I have enough now to call it that?) and see what I can mix up that's strong and flavorful.
posted by lukez at 2:33 PM on November 3, 2016

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