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Alcohol-free liquor and cocktails: Everything you need to know

Zero-alcohol beverages that are so much better than just drinking a Coke.

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Skip the hangover, but not the fun.

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Dry January, Sober October, No-Booze November… sober months -- and complete sobriety, as a matter of fact -- are all the rage as the sober-curious movement grows. People are beginning to understand the profound health benefits of giving up alcohol, and companies are supporting the public's efforts with alcohol-free liquor, beer and wine. 

The sober-curious movement has picked up a lot of steam in the last couple of years, with nearly 50% of US adults attempting to cut back on drinking, according to Nielsen. The problem for many people is that giving up alcohol is hard, even in the absence of alcohol addiction. Drinking is a social activity ingrained into the lives of most, so giving it up doesn't always feel like a viable option. 

Zero-alcohol spirits, beer and wine can help -- and yes, these beverages are, in fact, different than just drinking a soda. In this article, I'll cover the many brands that have cropped up as part of sober curiosity and how their drinks can make alcohol-free socializing easier.

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Why alcohol-free drinks?

The answer to this question is different for everyone, but a big reason that people drink alcohol-free beverages stems from the fact that drinking is a social activity. 

Some people feel left out when they don't drink with friends. Avoiding alcohol can lead to isolation and feelings of inferiority, so alcohol-free "booze" allows you to enjoy a drink that looks like the ones your friends are holding. 

It's a win-win scenario for many: You get to have fun with your friends, but you won't subject yourself to a hangover or, if you tend to act out on alcohol, drunken shenanigans. 

But I could just drink juice or soda… 

True, you could. But most of the founders behind nonalcoholic beverage companies have been there, done that and felt that it really isn't the same. 

For instance, Sharelle Kraus, the founder and CEO of Dry Soda Co., says she created her company because she wanted a "more interesting nonalcoholic option," according to the company's website -- one that would allow her to enjoy the unique flavors of cocktails while caring for four children.

And the founders of Ritual Zero Proof, self-proclaimed whiskey lovers, wanted "a new way to make an old favorite" without the booze.

When you go to a fancy bar or restaurant, the cocktails are aesthetically pleasing and sophisticated. You just won't get the same level of care put into a plain Pepsi or orange juice.  

Plus, placebo effects are real. You may find that a mocktail makes you feel light-hearted and giddy solely because it looks -- and maybe even tastes -- like a real cocktail. A soda in a plastic cup might not offer the same placebo that you might get with an herb-topped mixed drink in a pretty glass. 

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Just because you're not drinking alcohol, that doesn't mean you can't have a good-looking drink in hand.

Dry Soda Company

Mocktails, 'liquor' and mixers

By definition, liquor can't be nonalcoholic, but several brands have concocted beverages that will certainly make a mocktail taste, feel and smell like a real cocktail. These health-oriented brands develop their beverages with ingredients that supposedly induce feelings of relaxation and euphoria -- much like a real alcoholic drink.

Kin Euphorics: Kin blends botanics, nootropics and adaptogens to create drinks for different social circumstances. There's High Rhode for dinners and happy hours, Dream Light for nightcaps and the Kin Spritz seltzer for taking along to parties or to the beach. Kin's products have an earthy, herbaceous taste -- the website describes High Rode as floral and light, while Dream Light is smoky and Kin Spritz tastes of citrus and ginger.  

Dry Soda: Dry makes bubbly botanical sodas with interesting flavors such as lavender, cucumber and rainier cherry. These dry sodas come in glass bottles and have a more sophisticated feel than drinking a Mountain Dew. 

Seedlip: Seedlip drinks are the (self-proclaimed) first nonalcoholic distilled spirits. Grove 42, Spice 94 and Garden 108 offer the bite and burn of alcohol without the physiological effects of alcohol. Blend with mixers of your choice for a true cocktail doppelganger. 

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Seedlip's three "liquors."

Seedlip

Ritual Zero Proof: If your go-to spirit is whiskey or gin, you'll love Ritual for an alcohol-free option of either. According to the company's website, Ritual has captured the essence of both gin and whiskey with nothing but plant ingredients. 

Three Spirit: For more nonalcoholic "liquor," check out Three Spirit, which crafts distilled spirits out of ingredients such as ginseng, guava, lion's mane, molasses and apple cider vinegar.

MeMento: MeMento uses herbs, spices and adaptogens used in ancient eastern medicine practices: rosemary, lemon beebrush and curry plant. Blended and distilled, these herbs create a taste and aroma much like that of clear alcohol. 

Curious Elixirs: One of the more popular alcohol-free beverage brands, Curious Elixirs makes blended craft cocktails using only organic juices, spices, herbs, roots and barks.

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You can make a mean non-groni with Curious Elixirs No. 1.

Curious Elixirs

CBD- and hemp-infused beverages

Another category of alcohol-free beverages wants you to use CBD to unwind: The naturally occurring compound from hemp is said to help you relax and focus. Kaló, Recess, Beam and Queen City Hemp are just a handful of names selling CBD-infused beverages, both as party drinks and nightcaps. Kaló, Recess and Queen City Hemp make a hemp-infused seltzer, while Beam makes a powder-based relaxation aid called Dream.

Full disclaimer about CBD drinks: The US Food and Drug Administration has voiced concern over the rise in CBD-infused foods and drinks because the compound does not yet have FDA approval as an additive. So far, the only FDA-approved CBD product is a prescription drug for epilepsy. If you like CBD and want to continue using it, you may want to stick to topical products until the FDA approves CBD as a safe food additive. 

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Sobriety is becoming more and more stylish, thanks to snazzy alcohol-free beverages.

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Alcohol-free beer and wine

Low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers are nothing new, but with the sober-curious wave making its mark on social media, at events, and even in the bar and restaurant industries, well-known brands and new startups alike are pushing out more and more options. 

Anheuser-Busch, Heineken and other household names have beers with 0.5% ABV or less. And newer companies such as Athletic Brewing Company, Sufferfest Beer Company and Fitbeer have centered their entire brand around nonalcoholic brews.

Wine seems to be lagging in the alcohol-free arena, but you can still find zero-alcohol lines from some major brands. Sutter Home, Echo Falls and St. Regis all have alcohol-free lines. Fre Wines is a brand that sells only alcohol-free, dubbed "alcohol-removed," wines.

No matter what type of beverage you like to sip on, there's probably a nonalcoholic version out there for you. Happy sipping sans hangover!

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.