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No Proof

Raise a glass and say cheers to not-so-hard drinks


No Proof

Over the past few years, there’s been a notable shift in the alcoholic beverage industry, one that has seen a significant rise in the popularity of nonalcoholic drinks. Why the new breed of buzz-free drinks?


What’s causing the buzz-free buzz?

There’s a growing cultural shift toward mindful drinking as more people become aware of the potential negative physical and psychological effects of alcohol, and they’re choosing to limit their intake.

After analyzing data from more than 400,000 people, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that consuming one to two alcoholic drinks (the equivalent of one to two 12 oz/350 mL beers) four or more times per week increases the risk of premature death by 20 percent, compared with drinking three times a week or less.

To minimize the risk associated with drinking, the most recent Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction guidelines recommend consuming no more than two alcoholic drinks per week, and zero drinks for pregnant or breastfeeding women.


How much alcohol is allowed?

To qualify as “alcohol-free” or nonalcoholic, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires a drink to have an alcohol level that has been reduced to a level less than 0.05 percent by volume.


More options—more choice

Oxymorons aside, nonalcoholic (NA) spirits, beer, and other beverages are increasingly being crafted to mimic the taste and texture of their alcoholic versions, providing a satisfying answer to all of your booze-free sipping needs. More restaurants now offer mocktails and other NA drinks that give the feel of booze, without any of its effects.


Pleasure without the proof

NA beverages include many genres, including beer, coolers and cider, spirits, and mixed drinks.


NA beer

For years, NA beer, or as some say, “near beer,” had a reputation as something largely unpalatable. No more.

Production process

Thanks to newer methods of alcohol extraction, including vacuum evaporation and reverse osmosis, which removes ethanol at lower temperatures to preserve much of the desirable beer flavour, NA beer has improved by leaps and bounds.

Plenty of choices 

NA smooth ambers, punchy IPAs, puckery sours, and robust stouts that look like beer, waft like beer, and—most importantly—taste like the real deal satisfy the pickiest palates. NA beer options are as varied and inventive as their alcohol-containing counterparts—with half the calories and the same healthy antioxidant compounds, including phenolic acids.


NA spirits

As with beer, NA distillers have dialed in the taste of alcohol-free “spirits.” The best NA spirits either taste remarkably like traditional spirits or exist in a category all their own.

Production process 

Although they can vary by brand, NA spirits almost universally rely on juniper, coriander, agave, citrus peels, and other botanicals to provide the essential aromas and flavours that mimic traditional spirits such as rum, gin, or whisky. The botanicals are macerated, distilled, or extracted using techniques such as steam distillation or cold infusion that ensure the NA spirit captures the essence of its alcoholic counterpart.

The methods used to remove alcohol from the spirits are similar to those used in beer: using a semipermeable membrane to separate alcohol from the liquid or heating the alcoholic liquid under reduced pressure, which lowers the boiling point of alcohol so it can then be evaporated and removed.

Plenty of choices 

Top-shelf zero-proof whisky, gin, tequila, rum, and more are available, all perfect for making zero-proof spirit-infused cocktails that taste much like their traditional counterparts.


DIY NA craft cocktails

Replicate the experience of drinking a craft cocktail by simply substituting spirits with NA counterparts in your favourite recipe, or use the following pairings:

·         Hot toddy—NA rum and apple cider

·         G&T—NA gin and tonic

·         Mojito—NA white rum, soda water, fresh lime juice, and mint

·         Paloma cocktail—NA tequila, fresh lime and grapefruit juice, and club soda

·         Whisky sour—NA bourbon or whisky and a generous amount of lemon juice


NA cider

Cider has been a beloved beverage for centuries, offering a refreshing alternative to beers and spirits. And now teetotallers can be part of the cider revolution. NA cider offers a unique blend of tradition and innovation. While you might think cider without alcohol is just apple juice, don’t be misled.

Production process 

Boozeless cider is a beverage made primarily from the juice of apples, similar to its alcoholic counterpart. The key difference is that no fermentation occurs during production or, more commonly, the alcohol is removed post-fermentation in the same manner as with NA beer. This results in a drink with a light fizz that captures the essence of hard cider while being inclusive to those who avoid alcohol. NA ciders also offer a gluten-free alternative to beer.

Plenty of choices 

Some of the NA ciders include flavours other than apple, such as lemon and berry, but ideally, you want a drink that is made with no added sugar. NA cider is also perfect for cooking and cocktails.


Ready-made NA drinks

No longer do you need a mixologist to concoct a good mocktail. Now that we’re in a golden age of zero-proof bevs, ready-to-sip mocktails in cans or bottles are readily available, made with a range of ingredients including dealcoholized spirits, fruit juices, soda water, and flavour-boosting botanicals.

Plenty of choices 

These ready-made NA bevs are every bit as balanced and complex as their boozy counterparts; there’s something to whet your whistle for every occasion:

·         sparkling aperitifs

·         fruity gin and tonics

·         limey margaritas

·         coolers

·         vodka sodas

·         easy-drinking tropical pina coladas

While offering a fun drink without the effort, these premade NA cocktails can contain high amounts of added sugar, some as much as soda. Get the benefits without the downsides by looking for brands that contain less added sweetness.


Low sugar, plenty of flavour

Many mocktails suffer from a sugar beatdown. You can keep the syrups and other added sugars to a minimum while still making each sip taste sweet and flavourful enough by using these items in your no-proof mocktail production:

·         kombucha

·         flavoured seltzer water

·         puréed fruits

·         citrus zest

·         fresh herbs

·         freshly squeezed fruit juice

·         drinking vinegar


Nonalcoholic drinks with extra credit

These days, drink mixes are being jazzed up with everything from electrolytes and probiotics to a range of adaptogens. They might include ingredients such as ashwagandha, mushrooms, L-theanine, GABA, and/or ginseng. These additions can provide a noticeable impact, such as promoting relaxation, in the absence of alcohol. Just keep in mind that these should only be considered supplements to a well-balanced diet and may also contain high amounts of added sugar.

If you’re pregnant or have other medical concerns, it’s best to consult your health care practitioner before consuming these enhanced drinks.


Silence the buzz

Being “sober curious” is nothing new, but recently it’s seen a surge in popularity. Sober curious is not the same thing as total sobriety, meaning it does not require completely cutting alcohol out of your life.

Instead, it refers to being more critical of your drinking. It calls you to reflect on why and under what circumstances you drink alcohol-containing beverages to help you notice trends that could indicate concerning drinking habits affecting your health and relationships.

It invites the idea that you might want to embrace teetotalism more often. Luckily, the new generation of better-made nonalcoholic beverages means being sober curious isn’t about sacrifice.


This article was originally published in the June 2024 issue of alive magazine.



No Proof

No Proof

Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD