Ingredient’s Guide to Zero-Proof Spirits & Cocktails
In the past year, we’ve been creating tons of nonalcoholic drink content for our clients — everything from bright booze-free green Micheladas to tart cranberry and green tea mocktails. Why? Zero- and low-proof drinks are the biggest trend in the beverage industry right now: between 2020 and 2021, both nonalcoholic and low-alcoholic products saw a 315% increase in e-commerce sales.
Millennials and Gen Z are definitely leading the “sober-curious” charge: they’re drinking a lot less than past generations. But in general, consumers no longer feel like they have to choose between drinking or not drinking. Instead, people have begun to embrace mindful drinking with regard to their overall wellness — in part because alcohol consumption increased among adult Americans during the pandemic. Also, let’s be honest, some people are more into marijuana these days.
An ever-expanding selection of zero- and low-proof wine, beer, and spirits has made it easier to imbibe without the buzz — brands like Ghia, Haus, and Proxies by Acid League have practically taken over our Instagram feeds, so you don’t have to go far to find them. But they’re not exactly cheap and can get pretty complex. Some try to be a proxy for the stuff that’s already in your liquor cabinet; others are a completely unique distillation. Some just need a splash of soda water; others require layering with other ingredients. If consumers have a bad experience with them the first time, they might not want to buy again.
Enter: this guide to zero-proof spirits from the Ingredient culinary team, in which you’ll find some of our favorite zero-proof spirits and a cocktail recipe for each.
Want to experiment with your own zero-proof cocktails? Here are a few general tips from or culinary team:
- Zero-proof spirits tend to be quite dry, so you might need to add a little more simple syrup than usual.
- Zero-proof spirits don’t have a lot of body, so play around with adding ingredients that do. Think: egg white, pulpy juices, and demerara gum syrup.
- Feeling lazy? You can totally just add tonic or soda water to zero-proof spirits — but we recommend also using bitters to enhance the flavor. (P.S. They make nonalcoholic bitters now, too.)
Southside with Seedlip Garden 108
Founded in 2014 by Ben Branson, Seedlip has more or less paved the way for the now-booming alternative spirit market. Branson drew inspiration from John French’sThe Art of Distillation, a 1651 physician’s guide to distilling herbal remedies in copper stills, to create a trio of botanical zero-proof spirits: the citrusy Grove 42, the warm Spice 94, and the herbaceous Garden 108.
We’re particularly fond of Seedlip Garden 108, with its English pea, hay, spearmint, and thyme. Though not technically a gin replacement (it doesn’t have any juniper), it does have a similar floral-meets-vegetal flavor profile to, say, Hendrick’s. Here, we let Garden 108 shine in a chic Southside cocktail. It creates a sophisticated, balanced sip in combination with lime juice, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and fresh mint — herby, sweet-tart, and bright.
5 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
¾ oz simple syrup
2 oz Seedlip Garden 108
¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup.
2. Fill the shaker halfway with ice, and add the Seedlip Garden 108, freshly squeezed lime juice, and a dash of Angostura bitters.
3. Shake until chilled through and double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a mint leaf and enjoy!
Wisconsin-Style Old Fashioned with Spiritless Kentucky 74
Take a whiff of Spiritless Kentucky 74, and you’ll find it smells just like bourbon. In fact, it’s almost uncanny. Flavor-wise, you get some subtle oak, caramel, and vanilla notes — plus a gentle, peppery tingle that’s reminiscent of whiskey’s ubiquitous heat. Kentucky 74 is considered the best bourbon whiskey replacement on the market, and go figure, it took home the gold at the 2021 L.A. Spirit Awards for best nonalcoholic spirit.
Kentucky 74 is great in a Wisconsin-style Old Fashioned. What makes an Old Fashioned a Wisconsinite, you ask? Squirt soda (and brandy, technically … but hey, we’re booze-free here!). We also muddle an orange wheel in a brown sugar simple syrup to add a touch of tangy sweetness to the cocktail and bring out the maple-like flavors of the alt-bourbon. The finishing touch: a couple cocktail cherries.
Wisconsin Old Fashioned
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup water
1 orange wheel
2 oz Spiritless Kentucky 74
2 cocktail cherries
Squirt, for topping
1. To make the brown sugar simple syrup: In a small saucepan combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the syrup into a jar and refrigerate until chilled through, about 1 hour.
2. To make one cocktail: In a rocks glass, muddle the orange wheel and 3 bar spoons of brown sugar simple syrup.
3. Add the Spiritless Kentucky 74, a dash Angostura bitters, and fill the glass with ice, leaving room for the Squirt. Stir until chilled through.
4. Top with Squirt and garnish with the cocktail cherries. Enjoy!
Campari Spritz with Wilfred’s Aperitif & Freixenet Nonalcoholic Sparkling Wine
Spritz Season is almost upon us here in Minnesota, and as any spritz lover knows, the effervescent cocktail is best enjoyed in the heat of the afternoon. But sometimes, we want the carefree feeling of summer day-drinking — without the 5 o’clock I-need-a-nap feeling. Good news! Wilfred’s Aperitif tastes like Aperol and Campari had a booze-free baby: bitter orange meets woody rosemary meets spicy clove.
This spritz is pretty simple, so the Wilfred’s is truly the star of the sip. We add a splash of Freixenet nonalcoholic sparkling wine, which brings some juicy tropical fruit notes to the cocktail — plus a little bit of simple syrup and club soda. Wanna go low-proof instead of zero-proof? You can totally swap in any semi-dry sparkling white wine.
2 oz Wilfred’s Aperitif
½ oz simple syrup
3 oz Freixenet nonalcoholic sparkling wine
1 oz club soda
Orange slice, for garnish
1. In a stemless champagne flute, combine the Wilfred’s, simple syrup, sparkling wine, and club soda.
2. Fill the glass with ice, stir to combine, and garnish with an orange slice.
Cucumber Gimlet with GinISH
Our content producer, Mary Howard, recently took a trip out to NYC with the goal of talking to bartenders and shopkeepers about the growing nonalcoholic drink market and getting their recommendations for zero-proof spirits. Almost unanimously, they all said GinISH is hands-down the best gin replacement. We tend to agree: it has gin’s hallmark piney juniper and hints of citrus — as well as coriander, which gives it the complexity and kick of booze.
That said, GinISH doesn’t have quite the same body of alcoholic gin, which is why we love it in a cucumber gimlet. The muddled cucumber and lime juice give the zero-proof gin some nice texture — and their respective cool and sweet-tart flavors are a lovely, refreshing complement to GinISH’s juniper and coriander.
4 cucumber slices, divided
¾ oz simple syrup
2 oz GinISH
¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1. Chill a coupe glass in the freezer for 30 minutes.
2. In a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 cucumber slices and the simple syrup.
3. Add the GinISH and lime juice. Fill the shaker halfway with ice, and shake until frosty, about 20 seconds.
4. Double strain the gimlet into the chilled coupe, and garnish with a cucumber slice. Enjoy!
Paloma with Ritual Tequila Alternative
While there are a growing number of zero-proof gins and whiskeys these days, there aren’t nearly as many replacements for tequila. The best, in our humble opinion, is Ritual Tequila Alternative. Green bell pepper gives it a grassy, agave-like flavor — and thanks to mesquite and prickly pear ash, it’s got the perfect amount of smoke. There’s also a touch of black pepper, giving it a fiery finish that gently burns on the way down your throat, just like alcoholic tequila.
While Ritual Tequila Alternative is great in a classic margarita, we especially love it in a paloma. The sweet, zippy grapefruit soda complements the faux tequila’s vegetal flavors and provides bright contrast to the spirit’s smoky notes. We add a little splash of lime juice to the paloma to bring out the more puckery side of the grapefruit too, so you get a super refreshing, super balanced drink.
2 oz Ritual Tequila Alternative
½ oz simple syrup
¼ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Lime slice, for garnish
1. Fill a shallow plate with salt. Use a damp paper towel to wet the rim of a Tom Collins glass, and dip the rim in the salt to coat.
2. Add the Ritual, simple syrup, and lime juice, and stir to combine.
3. Fill the glass ¾ of the way with ice, top with grapefruit soda, and garnish with the lime slice. Enjoy!
Wanna learn how your food brand can tap into the zero-proof trend? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll set up some time to chat. You bring the questions — we’ll bring the ideas and the booze-free G&Ts.