Drinks with Pat: Dry-ish January

Pat Evans

Whether you’re in dry January, or perhaps a more modest damp January, there are so many new options out there to try in the world of non- and low-alcohol beverages.

The idea of low- and nonalcoholic cocktails are catching on at Grand Rapids restaurants, like Terra GR and The Sovengard. More and more restaurants likely will feature them on beverage menus in the coming months, but the home bar is an even more likely place for them to show up.

In recent years, there has been a big push in the beer industry to make nonalcoholic options more appealing, and those start with companies like Heineken and Budweiser, both launching new versions of nonalcoholic lagers.

It is Athletic Brewing, however, pushing the industry to new heights. The beers all are, more or less, good when compared to full-booze alternatives. But it’s more the awareness a full-blown company making decent beers of N/A variety that appears to be moving the needle for actual craft brewers also to make nonalcoholic versions of beers.

Recently, venerable craft beer pioneer Deschutes launched a 0% version of its flagship Black Butte Porter. Samuel Adams makes an N/A Northeast IPA called Just the Haze, while Lagunitas makes an aggressive nonalcoholic version of its famous IPA, called IPNA.

There also are a bunch of hop-infused sparkling waters out on the market, including a new line from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. If you love seltzers and the vibrant flavor from hops, try exploring that world.

World of spirits might even be more fun

Mocktails are catching on as well, especially when made with booze stand-ins.

The best tasting one I’ve tried has been Monday Gin, a 0% gin that hits the right notes as a London Dry gin should. In a gin and tonic, or other gin-forward cocktail, the absence of booze is unnoticeable.

Craft distiller WhistlePig, known for its line of rye whiskies, released an alcohol-removed version of a rye aged for six years, called PiggyBack Devil’s Slide. Kentucky 74 is an ample stand-in for whiskey cocktails but not quite ready to drink neat or on the rocks.

The best nonalcoholic alternatives, however, might be the ones that create their own lane. Three Spirit, for example, created a trio of “elixirs” that use botanicals to achieve similar effects to booze. One is meant to brighten senses, another meant to bring out elevated moods and another to calm the body.

Not based on existing spirits, the new beverages allow drinkers to play with mixers and find their own preferences without pre-existing expectations.

A brand called Optimist is taking a very similar approach, but lining up key botanical notes and matching them up with what a vodka, gin or tequila might normally present.

Celebrities are getting into it as well. Pop star Katy Perry recently launched a new line of nonalcoholic aperitifs called De Soi.

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