Now that I’ve opened up the can of non-tequila drinking worms, I figured I’d talk a little bit about how I am getting through the early parts of sobriety. I am fortunate that I wasn’t so far down the path that I couldn’t take nights off and my days and my professional life were never impacted. Last fall, I took almost a month off completely. I’ve been trying NA options in between days that included alcohol. So the idea of giving it up has been brewing for a while.
My drinking habits were really just that: very habitual and impacted by stress. And I also love to cook and eat, so a good glass of wine with my meal was basically required. My normal drinks were Sauvignon Blanc for the “go-to” wine, lots of bubbles, or a Gin and Tonic for cocktails. In the beginning, I just didn’t know what to do with myself at cocktail time (to my family: I should have stuck with 5 to 5:15 as the grandparents did), so I wanted to find some good substitutes that felt special. I don’t drink soda and water gets so boring. And I know there are people who feel like alcohol substitutes (which are similar to the real thing) are dangerous for those forgoing alcohol, but for me, they are fine and really helped in the first few weeks.
So I’ve been trying a bunch of stuff and this is what I’ve figured out. Bad news first: I haven’t found anything like gin that doesn’t taste like cleaning fluid. And whiskey substitutes will never have the burn, even if you can approximate a slightly similar flavor. Most of the wine doesn’t work for me, but they have improved TREMENDOUSLY since I was last pregnant and really interested in NA beverages.
Now the good news: there are really GOOD options for bubbles. The NA beer category is exploding and I’m really amazed at how good they are. And I have found one cocktail substitute that I really like and one wine that feels a *little bit* like the real thing. And so many bars and restaurants are doing great NA cocktails and really expanding their NA offerings. There are also lots of fun options with shrubs and ginger beer and things like that that are great. The experiments will continue! (And I’m an old-school blogger with no ads or sponsors, so these are my honest opinions.)
Here are my favorites:
Thomas and Scott Noughty Dealcoholized Sparkling Chardonnay
This is a great bubbly alternative! It is best served really chilled and when the bubbles are fresh. I find myself sipping on it a lot and it’s only 100 calories in the whole bottle. It definitely feels most like the real thing to me, but that comes at a cost — about $22-25 a bottle most places. But you can get it on Amazon! (Also, this brand has NA wine which I haven’t tried yet, so I’ll report back.)
Thomas and Scott Noughty Dealcoholized Sparkling Rosé
See above. It’s also very good, but the same price point. And it’s considerably sweeter with 125 calories per bottle and about twice as much sugar. That’s why I do the sparkling chardonnay most of the time, but it’s also a great option if you care less about sugar and are feeling pink.
Giesen Dealcoholized Sauvignon Blanc
The first time I tried this upon someone’s recommendation, I thought it was horrible, but when I had a glass that was adequately chilled, it was much better. It’s not perfect, but if you aren’t into bubbles and lean to SB, it’s a good option. It’s also about 100 calories per bottle and has considerably less sugar than either option above (13 g per bottle). I’ve seen this both online and in some of my local grocery stores.
Ritual Tequila Alternative
This makes a great Spicy Margarita-like cocktail substitute mixed with some lime and/or fresh squeezed orange juice and sparkling water. Would be great in any tequila-based recipe if you like the spice, which I do! And it’s a great option based on calories/sugar: Zero calories per 1.5 oz. and less than 1 g of sugar. $29.99 per bottle.
Athletic Brewing Beer
I haven’t tried a variety of Athletic that I don’t like! The IPAs are really solid and the light version is a perfect option for a refreshing cold “beer” after yard work. Calories vary, but the light version is 25 calories per can and the others I’ve tried are about 40. Athletic is killing the NA category! When I think about the four TOTAL (?) O’Doul’s I tried to get down while pregnant, I weep a little bit that I didn’t have better options. Lots of our local restaurants are starting to carry Athletic, which is great to see! Most are about $15 per six pack.
Let me know your favorites if you are embarking on an NA life!
One thought on “The Best Alcohol Substitutes — From a Talented Former Semi-Professional Drinker (TFSPD)”
My favorites are BrewDog Hazy AF and Elvis AF. https://www.brewdog.com/usa/non-alcoholic?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=&gad=1&gclid=CjwKCAjw67ajBhAVEiwA2g_jEC5JFdanzXno_XNnuTct3A2n2khaqme0itgWoR5f19_Jq7ND3cpZYRoCvtkQAvD_BwE