Whether you want to scale back on drinking, you’ve been sober for a while, or you want to be a more inclusive host, the new year is a great time to refresh your home bar with non-alcoholic drinks—and we don’t mean juice and soda. As more people explore sobriety, it’s easier than ever to whip up a virgin cocktail at the ready or swap out wine or beer for an equally exciting NA option.
Think of outfitting a non-alcoholic bar just like you would stocking up a full-proof setup. Keep a few standards on hand for regular consumption, and incorporate some mixers, flavor enhancers, and garnishes to add new flair to old favorites. If you’re hosting a gathering, tweak your supply accordingly. “It really comes down to what you like and what you think will be awe-inspiring, showing your friends and guests that you’re above the curve,” says Josh Gandee, host of No Proof: A Service Industry Podcast About Sobriety.
From no-proof booze alternatives and mixers to extra touches that make non-alcoholic drinks feel special, here are 9 items to keep stocked in your non-alcoholic bar, as recommended by sober bartenders.
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The backbone of any non-alcoholic cocktail is soda water. “You can mix it with pretty much anything in place of spirits,” says Jan Warren, co-owner of Best Burger in New York. While your standard LaCroix can definitely do the trick, the sparklier the water, the more lively the cocktail. Chris Cardone, owner of Continuous Beverage Solutions, says Topo Chico is the most carbonated club soda out there. He also likes San Pellegrino club soda for introducing a bit of subtle flavor to an NA cocktail without adding more sugar.
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Citrus and simple syrup
Along with a sparkling ingredient, Cardone says all great mocktails need acidity and sweetness, which usually come from citrus and simple syrup. But keep in mind, since sparkling water is standing in for spirits, you’ll need to up your drink’s citrus and simple syrup ratios. Lemon and lime are solid staples, but Cardone suggests experimenting with blood oranges or grapefruit. You can also make your own simple syrup with orange juice and spices instead of water for more flavor and complexity. “Without these things as focal points, the drink just doesn’t have life,” he explains.
03 of 09
If you’re not in the mood for mixing an entire cocktail, keep a few bottles of bitters on hand to add to your soda water. Joshua Gonzales, owner of Jailbird and Thunderbird in Indianapolis likes the cucumber, lemon, and celery options by The Bitter Truth. “Keep in mind most bitters do have alcohol in them, but if you’re putting in a few drops you probably won’t be affected,” he says.If you’d rather not have any alcohol, Warren says he likes Sanbitter, a bitters-alternative manufactured by San Pellegrino, for a Campari-type drink.
Gonzales also suggests Fee Brothers’ bitters, which are more like flavor enhancers. Grab a bottle of rhubarb, plum, or chocolate, then add a few drops to soda, Coca Cola, or even a cup of coffee. “I like richer flavor enhancers because they bring all kinds of new subtleties to the beverage,” he says.
04 of 09
If you’re hosting a special occasion but don’t want to imbibe in champagne, you don’t have to resort to syrupy sweet sparkling grape juice. Quia Querisma, a former craft bartender who now bartends private events in the Dallas area, swears by FRE Alcohol-Removed Sparkling Brut, which she says “actually has the profile of real champagne.”
As for other types of wine, Querisma says you can find some great-tasting alternatives at Better Rhodes, which carries an assortment of alcohol-free reds, whites, and rosés—they even sell vintage NA wines and wine in cans. Gandee often buys non-alcoholic wine at Boisson, a New York-based non-alcoholic drink shop. He particularly enjoys Eins Zwei Zero Sparking Rosé. “This rosé is so delicious that I checked the label three times over to see if it were alcohol-free,” he says.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Creating a balanced Non-alcoholic cocktail from scratch can take some work, and NA-spirit stand-ins can make it easier to match your alcoholic favorites one-to-one. Querisma recommends stocking up on your go-to spirits and cordials from the online retailer Lyre’s. You can keep NA tequila, gin, vodka, rum, or bourbon on hand, then experiment with different mixers and garnishes at home until you find something you love. “Not everything has to be a variation of lemonade,” she says. “Think about the flavors you like and try to bring those into play when you’re experimenting.”
06 of 09
If craft beer is more your vibe, finding an authentic-tasting NA option can be tough. “Forever, it’s been beer that was non-alcoholic but not delicious,” says Warren. “But over the past couple of years, there are people who are trying to make tasty NA beers.” One of his go-tos is Drink’in The Sun, a summer ale manufactured by the Danish craft brewery Mikkeller. Along with its fruity notes, Warren says the drink has more body than traditional NA options, like a wheat beer. Mikkeller also sells alcoholic beer, but you can also stock up on NA beer from non-alcoholic craft breweries—Warren says he likes Wellbeing Brewing. Gandee says Heinekin 0.0 is also surprisingly tasty, especially when you or your guests prefer familiar flavors.
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Fancy “adult soda”
Warren suggests keeping an “adult soda” on hand—something that feels more elevated than, say, a can of Coke, but doesn’t contain alcohol. Canned adaptogenic drinks, pre- and probiotic sodas, and CBD sparkling water are rising in popularity and easy to find; Warren likes Alta by Casamara, which he compares to an Amaro, an Italian after-dinner herbal liqueur.
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Don’t ditch your glassware just because you’re not drinking. Gandee says stocking nice glasses is a vital part of an inclusive NA bar, because how a drink is served is just as important as what’s in it. Incorporating stemware, champagne flutes, beer mugs, and cocktail glasses are an easy way to be stylish and mindful—keep in mind people who aren’t drinking don’t always want to advertise it.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Garnishes play a big role in making both cocktails and mocktails more appealing. “People can actually taste the flavor of a cocktail when they bring the garnish up to their nose,” Cardone says. The garnishes you keep on hand depend on the style of drinks you’ll make. Gandee usually suggests Luxardo Cherries, Castelvetrano Olives, dried or fresh citrus, and citrus peels. You can also incorporate herbs and spices, such as cinnamon sticks, rosemary sprigs, and mint leaves.
It may take some time to find NA flavors you like—think of it as an opportunity to experiment and expand your palate. “This is a new way to expand your creative muscles,” Cardone says. “Between all the non-alcoholic distilled spirits, the wines and beers starting to come out, and the citrus and syrups you can make, you can have a really impressive non-alcoholic bar at your home.”