If you’re hosting a party this year, you should probably think about providing some tasty non-alcoholic drinks in addition to champagne and a signature cocktail. At least 1 in 5 people say they’re cutting back on drinking, so there’s a good chance one of your guests might want a booze-free beverage. For some, that means a permanent change to a sober lifestyle. In other peoples’ lives, sober curiosity plays out as sometimes avoiding alcohol when they go out, simply to be healthier or avoid a hangover the next day.
Drinking less alcohol does not mean wanting to skip celebrations and the festive libations that bring a special quality to the night. Dozens of non-alcoholic drink brands have been creative enough to give people an alternative option that’s every bit as intriguing, unique, and flavorful as their spiked counterparts, but without the intoxicants. I tried 17 of the most popular non-alcoholic cocktails out there. Most of them were duds, but two—Pentire Adrift and De Soi Golden Hour—emerged as great contenders for your next sober-friendly gathering.
Read on to find out why, along with the non-alcoholic drinks you should avoid. (The worst one tastes like rotting roses.)
The best non-alcoholic cocktails, ranked:
- Pentire Adrift (Best For Sharing)
- De Soi Golden Hour (Best Single-Serve)
- Three Spirit Livener
- Casamara Club Onda
- Curious Elixir No. 2
- Kin High Rhode
- Seedlip Garden 108
- Rasasvada Rose Bergamot
The Best Non-Alcoholic Cocktails
Top shareable non-alcoholic spirit
- Botanical non-alcoholic spirit
- Distilled from coastal plants native to Cornwall, U.K.
- Closest in taste to gin
- Distinctive briny flavor
- Can be sipped straight or mixed into a mocktail
- Low calorie
- Safe for pregnancy
- Might not have universal appeal
Pentire Adrift is like a cool, breezy day on the North Atlantic coast. The clear spirit is made in the U.K. out of a mix of ingredients from the North Cornwall seaside (and evocative of it). It includes rock samphire (a.k.a. sea fennel), sage, lemon, and sea salt. Its intriguing flavor, subtly luxe bottle, and overall uniqueness earned it the top spot in our list of the best non-alcoholic cocktails.
When I pulled the bottle of Pentire Adrift out of the shipping box, I was immediately impressed by its pretty, yet understated design. The label’s soft blue and white colors set the perfect vibe for consuming the bottle’s contents. The bright gold accents on the twist top and behind the logo turn this otherwise low-key bottle into something that would look glam in a vintage bar cart.
Poured on the rocks, Pentire Adrift has a fragrance and flavor of ocean spray (not to be confused with the cranberry juice brand—I’m talking about the real spitz of salty water from crashing waves on a rocky coast). It’s pleasantly briny and crisp with a hint of lemon. Every subsequent sip brought out new, interesting flavors—this is a drink that’s as compelling as a complicated gin. Given that, it’s unsurprising that Pentire Adrift was delicious mixed with tonic and garnished with a slice of lime. The mocktail version proves that this drink can somehow be both a great blank canvas for other flavors, or a sophisticated sipper on its own.
Pentire Adrift’s 3.8-star rating on Amazon shows that its slightly salty, delicate herby flavor isn’t a hit with everyone. But after trying so many other options, I feel it’s your best bet for a non-alcoholic cocktail that’s fancy, well-rounded, and imaginative. It’s a day on the coast in a bottle.
Top single-serve non-alcoholic spirit
De Soi Golden Hour
- Ready-to-serve non-alcoholic aperitif in an 8 oz. can
- Brand co-founded by Katy Perry
- Tastes like a shandy
- Great dupe for a shandy
- Artsy packaging
- Recognizable ingredients
- Contains caffeine
De Soi sells three flavors: Champignon, Purple Lune, and my personal favorite, Golden Hour. If a spiked lemonade got a PhD, it would taste like De Soi Golden Hour. It’s the only single-serve non-alcoholic drink my partner and I savored until the last drop.
The squat, pale yellow can with a squiggly-sided rectangle design looks like something you’d have in your hand at an art opening.
The buttercup yellow drink fizzes with a light carbonation. It tastes like a musky lemon spritz, but rather than a punch of tartness, you get a mild, deep citrus flavor, thanks to the lemon balm and lemongrass. Its flavor seems to intensify as you continue sipping, building to a balanced, herby finish. The maple syrup adds a barely-there sweetness and the hop extract turns the drink into a perfect dupe for a shandy. Drink it on a boat, at the beach, or when you’re grilling in the backyard.
De Soi infuses this drink with adaptogens—herbs that Cleveland Clinic “Adaptogens” View Source —in an effort to create a generally calming drink. However, it contains trace amounts of caffeine from extracts of Earl Grey and green tea, so you might want to go easy on it later in the day if you need a good night’s sleep.
Out of 91 reviews on Amazon, slightly fewer than half gave De Soi Golden Hour a five-star rating. But most of the lost stars seem to come from the product’s high price, not its flavor. If you’re looking for a just-sweet-enough non-alcoholic cocktail that will give you a new perspective on the potential of citrus (and you’re OK spending more than $6 a can), you might love this drink.
As for other drinks from De Soi, Champignon Dreams is worth trying. The reishi mushroom-infused, lightly carbonated aperitif tastes like the offspring of a grown-up root beer and a juicy cordial, courtesy of the sherry vinegar and apricot-strawberry-black currant juice blend. The end result wasn’t quite as appealing as Golden Hour, but it was much better than De Soi Purple Lune—a tart cherry-infused drink that looks like Guinness but tastes overwhelmingly of overripe berries. Rather than going for a variety pack from De Soi, stick to cans or bottles of Golden Hour and/or Champignon Dreams to appreciate the best this brand has to offer.
Are Non-Alcoholic Cocktails Worth It?
After trying 17 different non-alcoholic drinks and zero-proof spirits, I feel that most non-alcoholic drinks aren’t worth buying. Only two were legitimately tasty—and even then, I would have preferred to drink something traditionally booze-free, like hibiscus iced tea or a can of my favorite healthy(ish) soda brand, Spindrift. The vast majority of options I tasted didn’t live up to my expectations, and quite a few were downright revolting. It was a chore to sample one bad beverage after the next. Plus, they’re pretty expensive, usually coming to about $40 for a bottle of mixable spirits or $5-6 per single-serving drink (not including shipping costs!). And some of these drinks contain ingredients that won’t work for people who are avoiding alcohol for health reasons, like those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
That’s not to say you should avoid non-alcoholic drinks altogether, though. Having booze-free options available at a party or gathering helps all guests feel included and avoids any potential awkwardness someone might feel not holding a drink in their hand. Likewise, keeping tasty alcohol-free beverages stocked in your fridge can be a nice alternative to alcohol, regardless of your reasons for avoiding it on any given night or for the long-term. But you might find you prefer a traditional cocktail made without the alcohol, or a can of trendy soda from a fancy grocery store, over many of the aggressively bitter and expensive non-alcoholic spirits I tested for this review.
Are Non-Alcoholic Cocktails Just Juice or Soda?
Not necessarily! Many non-alcoholic drinks contain a carefully crafted mix of fruit juices, herbs, botanicals, and extracts for a more mature sip.
Some also contain ingredients that may affect your health and/or mood, like Cleveland Clinic “Adaptogens” View Source (plants and mushrooms believed to promote stress reduction and overall wellness) and AMA confronts the rise of nootropics “American Medical Association” View Source (substances that are intended to improve cognitive function). Most of the time, adaptogens and nootropics have not been tested in large-scale clinical trials for safety or efficacy. They also may not be safe for everyone, so read up on any ingredients you’re thinking of trying and talk it over with your doctor.
Why You Can Trust Us
Meet Your Guinea Pig
I’m Joni Sweet, and I’ve been covering health and wellness as a writer and editor for major publications for more than 10 years. My work is in SELF, Health, Prevention, Forbes, Healthline, mindbodygreen, Greatist, and dozens of other publications. I once served as a bar and nightlife columnist for a New York City-focused magazine, so I know a thing or two about what makes a great cocktail.
Our Testing Process
Narrowing down the list of drinks to test took several hours. After all, any beverage that doesn’t contain alcohol can technically be a non-alcoholic drink, but I didn’t want to turn it into a soda and juice review. So I decided to focus our testing exclusively on drinks that were specifically promoted as non-alcoholic and had qualities and/or ingredients that made them feel special, like something you’d serve at a party or drink as a nightcap. I also wanted to avoid drinks that were trying to simply mimic traditional spirits (like vodka or rum) without the alcohol, as these seemed to fall into a different category and didn’t quite have that specialness I was looking for.
After reading roughly 10 reviews of non-alcoholic drinks in other publications, I noted which ones were frequently recommended and met my criteria for this review. That left us with six shareable bottles of non-alcoholic spirits, and single-serve variety packs from four brands. I ended up with 17 different drinks to try, which The Nessie ordered for testing.
To get ready, I chilled all the drinks and made sure my freezer was stocked with ice. Testing took place over about 5 days. I would start by reading each bottle or can and jotting down notes about the branding—extra points were awarded to drinks that would look cool on a bar cart or like something you couldn’t resist grabbing from a cooler or fridge.
For testing, I tried the drinks myself. But I also wanted to get a second opinion, so I recruited my partner. He’s mostly a non-drinker, save for a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve or a cocktail on his birthday, whereas I love wine and fancy cocktails, so I expected this to give an interesting diversity of perspectives.
For single-serve drinks, I opened each bottle or can and poured it in a glass over ice, and took many sniffs and sips. I followed a similar process for the shareable spirits, typically pouring about 2 oz. of each one over ice. I also made a mocktail out of each one, using the simplest recipe I could find listed on the bottle or on the brand’s website. This typically meant mixing the non-alcoholic spirit with something bubbly (like soda water or tonic), and garnishing with citrus or herbs. I took detailed notes about my opinions and interviewed my partner about each drink to form the basis for the ratings.
The Non-Alcoholic Cocktails Buying Guide
Non-alcoholic drinks used to be designed primarily for people who can’t consume alcohol for medical reasons, such as a substance use disorder, pregnancy, or another condition. But the target audience has changed in recent years in response to the growing sober-curious movement and greater interest in health and wellness. Tons of new non-alcoholic brands are on the market today, and they’re putting as much care in making creative concoctions as winemakers put into their vinos and distillers put into their spirits.
You might consider buying a non-alcoholic spirit if you are exploring your relationship with alcohol on a long-term basis, trying out a sober month (like “Dry January” or “Sober October”), or simply taking the night off from drinking, with no plans to make long-term changes. These products can also be nice to have on hand if you’re hosting a party and want to provide a tasty, non-alcoholic option to guests. Non-alcoholic drinks give people the chance to enjoy a special, festive drink, without the hangover or other negative effects of alcohol.
Is There Alcohol in Non-Alcoholic Cocktails?
Many non-alcoholic drinks contain no alcohol. With that said, Legal Information Institute “27 CFR § 7.71 - Alcoholic content.” View Source allows the term “non-alcoholic” to be used on malt drinks that contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. This will be listed on the packaging, so if you’re trying to avoid alcohol completely, read the label carefully. You can also look for the term “alcohol free,” which is only allowed to be used on drinks with no alcohol whatsoever. (This applies to all the drinks we tested.)
Are Non-Alcoholic Cocktails Safe for Everyone?
Many non-alcoholic drinks don’t contain anything known to cause harm in most people, barring any specific allergies. However, some brands (like Kin Euphorics) say that people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking certain medications shouldn’t drink its products. Some non-alcoholic drinks also have warnings against over-consumption, perhaps due to the inclusion of those “active” ingredients, like adaptogens and nootropics. Again, talk with your doctor if you have concerns, or consider only consuming non-alcoholic drinks made with benign, recognizable ingredients.
Non-alcoholic drinks might not be safe for people in recovery from an alcohol use disorder, but that’s up for debate. Some rehabilitation centers warn that non-alcoholic versions of things like beer and wine could be a trigger for a relapse. Yet some people say that alcohol substitutes are a helpful component of their recovery plan. If you’re in recovery, try to be honest about what might be risky for you and lean on your support network and/or a mental health professional for guidance.
Other Non-Alcoholic Cocktails To Consider
Three Spirit Livener
- Zero-proof elixir made with active plants, adaptogens, and nootropics
- Tastes slightly like black cherry liqueur mixed with Tabasco
- Delivers a delightfully fiery flavor
- Ethically sourced ingredients
- Sustainable packaging
- Too syrupy when served straight
- New Age bottle design may have limited appeal
If you’re looking for a virgin drink that gives the same burn as alcohol, you might want to try Three Spirit Livener. The New Age-inspired black-and-pink bottle releases an enchanting cucumber-watermelon scent the moment you open it. But the initial impression it makes as a potentially candy-flavored concoction goes out the window when you sip it. The reddish-brown drink starts off bittersweet, delivers notes of black cherry and currants, then heats up the back of your tongue and throat as it goes down. It also contains nootropics, or supplements intended to help mental acuity.
The drink feels a bit too intense and syrupy to enjoy on the rocks. But I liked it well enough when mixed with tonic and served with a slice of grapefruit, as recommended by Three Spirits. Its 3.9-star rating on Amazon is just slightly higher than some other non-alcoholic drinks we tested. If you buy this one, I recommend getting a bunch of bubbly mixers and fruits, and experimenting to see how you can highlight Three Spirits Livener’s interesting flavors and burn, while masking its slight bitterness.
Casamara Club Onda
- Lemon-flavored botanical soft drink
- Tastes a little like a Limoncello spritz
- Herby lemon flavor
- Ready to drink out of the bottle
- Flavor may be overwhelming to some
Out of all four flavors in the variety pack from the “original leisure soda” brand Casamara Club, Onda was the only one I could see myself potentially reaching for. Its color and consistency mimic champagne. The woodsy beverage hits the drinker with a super herby, almost spinach-like flavor and slight bitter-lemon finish with a hint of licorice. I also appreciated how easy it was to serve—just twist off the top and take a sip.
Even though Casamara Club’s cool bottles with high-style, nature-inspired designs would be a cheerful way to fill a cooler at the beach, I didn’t like the other flavors from the brand enough to recommend a variety pack. Sera made me feel like I ate a mouthful of leaves from an herb garden and Alta left a bad bitter aftertaste. I liked the approachable citrus flavor of Como, but it ultimately felt boring.
There’s no way I would finish a bottle of any of the sodas in this case, other than Onda, so consider sticking to just that flavor and rounding out your beach cooler with single-serve options from other non-alcoholic cocktail brands.
Curious Elixir No. 2
- Booze-free cocktail in a single-serve container
- Tastes like a dark and stormy
- Great heat from chili peppers and ginger
- Unclear whether you’ll get cans or bottles
Curious Elixir sells eight different flavors, from cucumber lemon to pomegranate. While most concoctions didn’t do it for me, Curious No. 2 ultimately earned the brand my halfhearted recommendation. The brown bottle with a mysterious label emblazoned with a large “2” contains a sunshiny yellow drink that reminds me of a ginger ale. It’s like a dark and stormy, but without tons of sugar. (It’s sweetened with fruit juice, not cane sugar.) Pineapple juice adds a tropical tang, while extracts of jalapeño and ancho chili give it a zest that’s just hot enough. It feels mature and dynamic.
Curious Elixir’s other drinks were either forgettable or completely gross. In terms of the former, Curious No. 1 has a licorice scent, berry red color, and milky consistency that almost hinted at mulled wine, but felt too bitter. Likewise, Curious No. 4 (which arrived intact, but with a slight crack in the bottle) felt like a non-alcoholic version of a mimosa infused with herbs. I didn’t like the vegetal flavor that seemed to linger after I swallowed, though. And you can skip Curious No. 3 entirely. It smelled overwhelmingly like cut grass, had too much going on flavor-wise, and didn’t leave me interested in sipping anything more than what I needed for testing. It was just odd.
I recommend sticking just to Curious Elixir No. 2. Whether or not you get bottles or cans depends on availability, due to supply chain issues noted on the website. Either way, it’s the flavor I feel is most appealing to discerning drinkers.
Kin High Rhode
- Made-to-mix non-alcoholic spirit infused with nootropics and adaptogens
- Tastes a little like Aperol
- Interesting bitter-orange flavor
- Tasty when mixed with lime and tonic
- Not recommended for people with certain conditions
- Complicated serving suggestions
The overpowering bitterness of Kin High Rhode makes it too harsh to drink straight or on the rocks. But when mixed into a Kin Classic with lime juice and tonic water, it becomes an acceptable alternative to hangover-inducing cocktails at a party. Diluting the orange bitters, hibiscus, and licorice root flavors with soda or tonic mellows them—and that’s just what this drink needs to be palatable.
If you find you like this drink, you won’t mind keeping the bottle out on display. Its soothing, cool vibe conjures images of a guy who wears sunglasses at a party after dark—pretentious, yes, but that can work for a bar cart.
Kin High Rhode fell flat when compared with my top pick, Pentire Adrift. But even if the flavor was as tasty, this option would still be a tough sell as the best non-alcoholic cocktail due to its limitations on who can and can’t drink it. The brand doesn’t recommend its product for people who are under 18, breastfeeding, pregnant (or soon to conceive), or taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, commonly used to treat depression and anxiety). It also says you shouldn’t consume Kin High Rhode if you “have a medical condition,” with no specific details on what that means. All this probably has to do with High Rhode’s adaptogen and nootropic ingredients, but Kin doesn’t offer an explanation.
The product has earned a 3.4 star rating on Amazon, with some reviewers saying it gave them a buzzy feeling similar to alcohol. I didn’t notice that, but I didn’t drink much of it. I think Kin High Rhode could be a decent addition to a non-alcoholic cocktail collection. But between its hard-to-love flavor and its restrictions on who can consume it, the drink shouldn’t be the only non-alcoholic option you offer party guests.
Non-Alcoholic Cocktails You Can Skip
Seedlip Garden 108
- Non-alcoholic distilled spirit flavored with peas and herbs
- Tastes like pea-infused water
- Widely available at stores and bars
- Imaginative bottle art
- Strong vegetal smell
- Overwhelming pea flavor
I really wanted to love Seedlip Garden 108. The non-alcoholic spirit has played a big role in elevating mocktail options at mainstream cocktail bars. And the bottle is gorgeous—the image of a rabbit made out of plants and veggies looks like it would fit right into a Salvador Dalí masterpiece. But its pungent pea flavor and peppery smell was too medicinal for my liking. I could not get more than a sip or two of this drink down when served on the rocks. When I used it to make the Garden Ginger Highball, the ginger ale helped mask the flavors I found foul. However, I still found myself wanting to fill a separate glass with just ginger ale and dumping the Seedlip mocktail down the drain. I don’t see this drink having a wide enough appeal to serve at a party, unless you have a bartender with some serious mixology skills.
Rasasvada Rose Bergamot
- Alcohol-free decoction made with medicinal plants
- Closest in taste to Lillet Rosé
- Bottle would look nice on a bar cart
- Impressively bad flavor
- Medicinal smell
- Complicated recipes
The smell of Rasasvada Rose Bergamot was so medicinal and soapy when I poured it into a glass, my body physically resisted taking a sip. My instincts proved right once I finally got a little bit of this rust-hued drink down. It tasted both chemical and earthy at the same time, kind of like drinking the sludgy water left in the vase after you throw out an old bouquet of flowers.
Mixing the drink with sparkling water and an orange twist didn’t help the situation. It still felt like drinking liquified rotting roses. Do yourself a favor and try any other non-alcoholic cocktail on this list before risking this one.