Taste Test: Zero-Proof Spirits - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Taste Test: Zero-Proof Spirits

Since the launch of Seedlip in 2015, there’s been an explosion of offerings in the category of alcohol-free “spirits” as both bartenders and drinkers look for more interesting—and delicious—ways to lower or eliminate alcohol from their mixed drinks. From viable spirits imitators to wholly unique concoctions, today’s range of zero-proof spirits offers a creative and inclusive new way to approach cocktail hour.

Lyre’s Italian Orange Offering by far the broadest range of NA spirits, Lyre’s produces everything from gin and whiskey clones to dark rum and amaretto dupes. But the standout is their Italian Orange, a delightfully bright and bitter aperitif doppelgänger that works well both in multi-ingredient cocktails like the Jungle Bird or simply topped with soda to become a dead ringer for Campari. $35.99, lyres.com

Wilderton Earthen Made in the Pacific Northwest, the two Wilderton expressions are botanically driven, with the effective addition of tea leaves to the distillate, which gives the beverage a hint of tannic structure and a more defined backbone. The Earthen expression opens with a complex spiced aroma of cardamom and clove, carried by the gently smoky flavors of Lapsang souchong tea, making for a dry, earthy spirit that opens up beautifully with bubbles or balances the sweetness of a mixer like ginger beer. $33, wildertonfree.com

Damrak Virgin 0.0 Amsterdam-based gin maker Damrak set out to create an alcohol-free spirit that was otherwise identical to their house gin, and last fall they launched Damrak Virgin 0.0. Matching the notes of their citrus-forward gin, the zero-proof formula similarly includes botanicals like Valencia and Curaçao orange peels, lemon peel, lavender, and ginger. The result is tart and fresh, with a hint of salinity and a bitterness that balances nicely with tonic water for a refreshingly believable G&T. $29.99, damrakgin.com

Seedlip Grove 42 The third release from the U.K.-based, spirit-free progenitor Seedlip, Grove 42 is a citrus-forward expression complemented by the earthy spice of ginger. Like Seedlip’s other botanically led flavors—Spice 94 and Garden 108—Grove 42 wouldn’t be mistaken for a spirit on its own, but it is intended to add complexity to mixed drinks, whether simply lifting the aromas of bitter orange and lemongrass with tonic water, or highlighting the ginger’s heat in a Margarita. $32, seedlipdrinks.com

New London Light Launched last fall, the New London Light (NLL) from England’s Salcombe Distilling Co. is an equally intriguing expression among the company’s lineup of stellar gins. The spirit-free base is a distilled blend of juniper, ginger, and habanero accented by more than a dozen other botanicals including orange peel, sage, and cardamom. Citrusy, herbal, and extra crisp, the NLL works best mixed with a quality tonic to highlight its layered complexity. $34.99, us.salcombegin.com

Bonbuz Made in Los Angeles, the cheekily-branded Bonbuz doesn’t aim for a specific spirit category, instead labeling itself as “alcohol-free alchemy,” with ingredients like Rhodiola rosea root (a supposed adaptogen), amino acids, and caffeine from green tea. The flavor is tart and brightly bitter, with earthy spices and a kick of gingery heat that plays well in a variety of applications, from an aperitif-like spritz to a faux Margarita. $39.95, bonbuz.com

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