Zero and low ABV beer, aka “near beer”, have been around for decades, whether through appeasing prohibitionists or helping fight alcoholism. But for the general public, near beer has generally been a niche category until the 2010s when it caught on as a way to gain back some sales from the homebrew crowd. And most recently, Heineken spent nearly half its US media budget in 2021 on its new 0.0 beer.
But the trend of non-alcoholic beverages is branching out beyond beer and it’s not just the designated drivers of the world who are enjoying non-alcoholic alcohol brands these days. Chalk it up to health trends or a rise in the “sober curious” generation, but whatever it is, zero proof wine and spirits are taking the beverage world by storm.
Let’s dive into this fresh rise of non-alcoholic wine and spirits, then look at how you can incorporate this category into your own beverage program by viewing some of the key brands and bottles catching our attention.
What’s the Difference Between Non-Alcoholic Wine and Grape Juice?
Legally? Nothing — at least in terms of how it’s sold — but the reality of how it’s made isn’t that simple. You’d be forgiven for thinking non-alcoholic wine just forgoes the fermentation process, but then you’d end up with sweet grape juice. While fermentation creates the alcohol, it also creates the flavor, body, texture and aroma of the wine. So instead of leaving out one crucial step (fermentation), the creation of nonalcoholic wine actually adds a step (distillation). The initial process to create the intricate flavors still remains fundamentally the same, allowing for the inherent variety that comes from vinification, but in the final stages, the alcohol is removed while leaving behind those complex flavors.
Non-Alcoholic Spirits Promise More than Mocktails
Mocktails certainly have their place in bartending repertoires and the pantheon of night-out and night-in traditions, but non-alcoholic spirits promise something more. Mocktails take craft and experience to mix well but they are still based on a traditional cocktail recipe, so that missing alcoholic ingredient can fundamentally alter the taste of the finished product. Non-alcoholic spirits are crafted from the bottom up to emulate the flavors, aromas and textures of popular spirits, allowing new drink combinations that aren’t overly sweet or bitter.
Why You Should Add Non-Alcoholic Wines and Spirits to Your Beverage Program
The important thing to note about non-alcoholic wines and spirits is that they don’t have to be considered “substitutes.” This rising category of beverages is catching on in both craft and mainstream circles because they produce something akin to a traditional drink experience just without the alcohol.
When you order a non-alcoholic spirit cocktail or a non-alcoholic glass of wine, not only do you avoid the FOMO feeling of not having a “real” drink or cocktail, but you get a true drink experience built from the ground up. Companies are investing in these categories not just because they serve a niche category of drinkers, but because they are opening up a whole new experience both on- and off-premise.
Easily definable for your specific cocktail recipes, Ritual Zero Proof’s bottles come in Rum Alternative, Tequila Alternative, Whiskey Alternative and Gin Alternative. Like most on this list, their goal isn’t to replace liquor but to become a new tool in your cocktail kit.
The self-proclaimed “world’s first non-alcoholic spirit,” Seedlip offers three fresh drinking flavors. Grove 42 presents a citrus-forward profile with orange and lemon, Spice 94 gives an aromatic blend of allspice and cardamom, while Garden 108 blends herbs like rosemary, thyme and spearmint. All bottles present a premium cocktail substitute and are sugar and calorie-free.
Founded in 2019, Spiritless may be a fresh company with just one bottle in their offering, but it’s been making waves. Their Kentucky 74 bourbon substitute was crafted specifically for bourbon cocktails and rose to the occasion nicely to win Best Non-Alcoholic Spirit and a gold medal at the second annual L.A. Spirits Awards.
Like Spiritless, DamRak VirGin focuses on just one variety. This non-alcoholic version of their Amsterdam gin is the “highest rated zero proof spirit” from Amsterdam. Focusing on great quality without compromising flavor, this could be your next go to for Martinis, Gimlets and Gin and Tonics.
Celebrating one of life’s many milestones? Look no further than this sparkling wine from the world-famous Spanish purveyors of many sparkling varieties. This nonalcoholic Freixenet version sacrifices nothing in terms of taste and quality and has been helping serve nonalcoholic toasts since 2011.
Stella Rosa Wines have crafted a handful of non-alcoholic varietals that can hold up on their own, like the Red or Rose, or mixed into a cocktail recipe, like the Black. Any time of day or any occasion can be right for these fresh alcohol-free wines from the San Antonio winery.
Offering all your favorite varietals from Chardonnay to Cabernet, Fre’s lineup of alcohol-removed wines ticks all the boxes. Silky red blends and fruity aromas abound in these Napa Valley alcohol-free wines, perfect for any experience enhanced by a fine glass of wine.
Toast not just all the moments worthy of a fine champagne, but every meaningful occasion as well. While it can fill in for the tastiest champagne, Töst is technically a sparkling white tea, with ginger and cranberry. Crafted from natural ingredients, the flagship variety is comfortable alone or paired with any meal.
Browse More Non-Alcoholic Products for Your Beverage Program
It's not just the teetotalers and designated drivers who are driving the sales of the non-alcoholic category. Sales are booming because consumers are catching on that this is a new beverage experience that doesn't have to be mutually exclusive from the typical alcohol experience. If you want to make sure your bar or restaurant is covering all its bases, check out these other non-alcoholic beverages on Provi to help build up your beverage program.