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Spirit-Free Drinks for Free Spirits

Spirit-Free Drinks for Free Spirits

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Non-alcoholic cocktails that are getting buzz, without giving buzz

Non-alcoholic. Spirit-free. Dry. Zero-proof. Mocktail. Whatever you want to call it, there’s a new breed of low- and no-alcohol beverages that challenges the notion that a drink must be alcoholic to belong at special occasions and in toasts—and to taste delicious. The Hills Market Downtown is now hosting a monthly Zero-Proof Happy Hour to allow customers to try a variety of alcohol-free drinks that imitate classic cocktails (Gin & Tonics and Manhattans, for example) or embrace a new flavor profile altogether (Raspberry Limeade with raspberry CBD oil).

Photo by Brian Kaiser

“It’s nice to have alternatives if you don’t want to or can’t drink alcohol,” says Amanda Anderson, wine and cheese director for The Hills Market, who oversees the recurring event. “We are using products that are not exactly made like gin or whiskey, but they are made to taste like those products. […] They have a bit of heat to them that they create with spices, so you get a little burn like you do with alcohol, and many of them have a little more viscosity than water, like a traditional spirit.”

The January Zero-Proof Happy Hour hosted around 30 people and featured 11 different spirit-free cocktails and a handful of Casamara Club Amaro Sodas, made from bitters and sparkling water. The $3 sodas come in some very interesting flavors, with names like Onda (mandarin, peppermint and chamomile); Alta (citrus peel, juniper and clove); Capo (lemon, rhubarb and sage) and Sera (orange-blossom honey, grapefruit and cinnamon). In fact, there are plenty of newly emerging alcohol alternatives that create delicious drinks without the buzz. The Hills is mixing up Dry Negronis made with Monday Gin, a gin-flavored product emerging from a successful Kickstarter campaign; Kentucky Mules made with Ritual Whiskey Alternative, which is said to have the flavor, smell and burn of traditional spirits without the alcohol or calories; and Yuzu Spritzes with Seedlip brand Grove spirits, which bills itself as “the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits” made from botanicals.

As more people embrace the “sober curious” movement, which challenges people to step back and appraise their relationship with alcohol by drinking less or not at all, the popularity of zeroproof beverages is skyrocketing, as is their availability. According to a recent report by Bon Appetit, the market for low- and nonalcoholic beverages will likely grow by about 32 percent by 2022.

The Hills is embracing the trend and wants to provide the community an opportunity to try these liquor alternatives in drinks that cost around $5. “This way, people can try these products without buying a whole bottle,” Anderson says. “And it’s also great for people who want to go out and not drink alcohol.”

She says the market sells a “fair amount” of the bottled alcohol alternatives, but “there are people of course who don’t want that kind of product and don’t understand why you would spend $30 on something that does not get you drunk. […] But that’s exactly why people buy it—because it tastes great and it doesn’t get you drunk.”

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