2021? Never heard of her. [siiiiiiigh] OK, fine, we can talk about last year one more time. As we tried to stay on top of vax orders, then had to Matrix-bullet-dodge Delta (or try, anyway), and now, as we shake our damn heads at Omicron, it’s been a time for, well, many modes of self-reflection, including a closer look at whether we had been partying a liiiiitttle harder than even Andrew WK himself would condone. Once many of us took a break from drinking way back in the Original Quarantine™, we realized that hey—this whole kinda or fully sober thing isn’t so bad at all. No pounding headaches, regrettable Instagram stories, or late-night texts that you’ll cringe over for the rest of your life? Hmm…
But even if you’re dodging hangovers and enjoying la vida booze-free, you may still want to “entertain,” as they say, or pour a fully garnishable beverage during winding-down hours.
Blessedly, we are in a full-blown renaissance of non-alcoholic bevs, from an alcohol-free facsimile for tequila to adaptogenic seltzers that will make you just the right level of laid-back. Naturally, a cocktail always tastes best consumed out of a jazzy glass while you stand around an impressive collection of aesthetically pleasing bottles and mid-century furniture—and these are all things you can still enjoy as a teetotaler. Here’s everything you need to stock an impressive, morning-after-guilt-free home bar.
A botanical apéritif for fans of amaro
The bitter, complex flavor of amaros, fernets, and other apéritifs is an acquired taste, but one that certainly leaves a lasting impression—and you may wanna revisit it even if you no longer drink. “Inspired by Mediterranean aperitivo culture,” because there really is nothing quite like lounging with a spritz on a summer’s day, Ghia is made with riesling grapes, yuzu juice, gentian root, elderflower, fig, lemon balm, and other botanical ingredients that combine to create a nuanced, highly drinkable tonic. Plus, the bottle’s a beaut, worthy of display—and speaking from experience, everyone who spots it will want to try it.
A sexy swap for mezcal or vodka
Optimist makes distilled non-alcoholic spirits that are perfect for enjoying on the rocks or mixed with tonic or seltz, with three distinct flavors ranging from Smokey (a perfect sub for tequila or mezcal) to Fresh (an herbaceous choice that’s similar to gin) to Bright (a citrusy spirit that would make a killer virgin Cosmo). All contain complex combinations of herbs, florals, and fruit extracts, and none are even close to being “sweet.” We love that.
If you just want something that’s, well, exactly like tequila
Ritual Zero Proof has one goal: to mimic the flavor of traditional liquor. We’re talking water and impressively on-point flavoring. Want a booze-free, calorie-free margarita? This is probably what you’re looking for. And the reviews are surprisingly good, with an average rating of 4.7/5 stars, and plenty of happy customers saying Ritual is great in margaritas, Bloody Marias, and palomas.
The OG of gin subs
MUNCHIES first covered Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit, back in 2016 when it first launched. While it was lauded as an amazing “non-alcoholic gin,” Seedlip’s founder Ben Branson says it’s best not to compare—just think of it as a whole new world of sophisticated drinking. Made in copper stills with many of the same ingredients as gin, and meant to be served with tonic, surely he can understand the comparison. But now, five years in, it’s still a smash—and has expanded to a whole line of flavors.
A booze-free Old Fashioned? Yeah, man, it’s 2021
Non-alcoholic whiskey is kind of a mindfuck, but we’re livin’ in the future, baby. Spiritless uses oak extract to mimic the flavor of bourbon sans alcohol. Enjoy its notes of oak, smoke, and vanilla as a 1:1 substitute for your favorite whiskey.
As easy to drink as White Claw, but for people with good taste
Curious Elixirs thinks of its herbaceous, effervescent drinks as “booze-free cocktails,” ready to pour on the rocks (or even drink out of the bottle). They’re mercifully un-sugary, on par with a signature drink at a high-end cocktail bar. Miss negronis? Try Elixir No. 1, with gentian root for bitterness, lemon peel and bitter orange for acidity, and pomegranate juice for a fruit finish. Garnish with an orange slice, and you’re good to go.
Scots do it better
Scots know their spirits, and that seems to include the non-alcoholic kinds. A unique, sugar-free spirit, Feragaia is “made with land and sea botanicals,” starting with a base of Scottish water (duh) and integrating seaweed, herbs, green tea, black currant, makrut lime, and even Ancho chile. The BBC describes the result as having “a winey, vermouth-type quality with refreshing citrus notes and a fiery finish,” and the MUNCHIES team loves this stuff for its earthy flavor. As an added bonus, the company is environmentally friendly, practicing local sourcing and composting, and all of its packaging is recyclable—even the bottle cap.
Adaptogenic mixers that won’t give you a sugar rush
Of course, just like with any spirits, you may not wanna drink booze-free gin straight out of a shot glass. You’re a sophisticate! For a mixer, try Aurora, a “sparkling whole plant infused beverage” that’s available with full-spectrum hemp (25 milligrams per bottle) or with hops extract, which purportedly also has stress-reducing and relaxing effects. Best of all, Aurora has mixology-ready flavors, from its yuzu orange blossom hops drink to its rosemary grapefruit hemp tonic.
The büch is loose
One of the easiest and best swaps for booze—both in terms of its complex, tangy flavor and its instant mood lift—is kombucha, which now comes in a zillion varieties and flavors. The fizzy fermented tea is as refreshing as a spritz and typically contains a small kick of caffeine, perfectly for treating yourself to a beverage at the kickback without getting tipsy. A few of our favorite brands include San Diego-based Babe Kombucha, which makes amazing tropical flavors like Hawaiian POG and Maui Wowie; Better Booch, which makes organic teas in flavor combos like Morning Glory and Golden Bear; and Health-Ade, a fan fave which one stoked reviewer describes thusly: “If I could swim in a vat of this sweet nectar, and float like hobbitses down a river so fair, I should count myself far more favoured from on high than those who dined upon honeydew and drank the milk of paradise in Kublai Khagan’s pleasure dome.” Pure poetry.
CBD seltzer that looks and feels as good as it tastes
If you haven’t spotted Recess on your local corner-store shelves yet—well, we’d be willing to bet it’s coming soon. The hemp- and adaptogen-infused seltzer is a hit, infusing peach ginger, blood orange, and coconut lime flavors with feel-good compounds including broad-spectrum hemp, ginseng, L-theanine, and lemon balm. The result is a drink that’s as good at soothing midday work jitters as it is at winding you down after a day of stressing out in the DMV line. And on top of all that, it makes a great mixer.
And ta-da—Recess has even released a special zero-proof “margarita” for Dry January, for those of us who are taking a breather from our favorite agave cooler.
… And the streetwear version
Mad Tasty is another purveyor in the hemp seltzer game, known for its vibey packaging and unique flavors such as its flagship offering, Unicorn Tears. We like the 90s Fruitopia energy of the branding, but stay for the 20 milligrams of broad-spectrum hemp.
Cocktail glasses that even make tap water feel luxurious
As 311 once iconically said, amber is the color of your energy. But for real, that warm, 70s glassware look is perfect for serving anything from water to Ghia to a CBD seltz hit with lime.
Negroni glasses are apparently a thing?
That rules. Even if you no longer drink gin, vermouth, or Campari, the notion of a negroni glass is très hard to resist. Fill it with pomegranate juice on the rocks, one of those Curious Elixirs, or just a CBD seltz.
Whether for Martinelli’s, seltz, or a full-blown, shaken or stirred non-alcoholic cocktail, chic martini glasses just add a touch of class. You can also serve rice pudding in them, or drink your lover’s spit out of them. We’re vaxxed now, baby.
If you don’t own a bar cart, are you even a millennial?
OK, so you’re too old (and frankly, better off that way) to stop displaying empty bottles of Hpnotiq on top of your fridge for, IDK, the clout that you’ve thrown up on the pedals of the Mario Kart machine of a Dave & Buster’s. But, you still want a sort of gender-neut Breakfast at Tiffany’s energy in your apartment, because, duh, we all do. Even if you don’t drink, the relaxing, aesthetic ritual of grabbing a fancy glass and pouring a drink from a bar cart is simply *chef’s kiss*. Your cart may be stocked with non-alcoholic spirits, but it will still make guests raise their eyebrows and say, “Damn, nice place, dude.”
Or maybe you’re more of the ‘bar cabinet’ type
Many of us embrace maximalism, but not everyone likes visual clutter. If you’re more of the tucked-away type, a bar cabinet is probably the move, with the option of stashing away your spirits and glassware or opening up those doors and showing them off. Go for one with cool mid-century legs, or try a wall-mounted option if you’re low on floor space.
Don’t forget to stock up on sturdy stemware, too. Cheers!
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. VICE may receive a small commission if you buy through the links on our site.