About 105 days ago my city of Toronto shut down. Three weeks prior we had been innocently touring distilleries in Northern Italy. We had kept up with the news of a Global Pandemic but all of it seemed so far away. Upon landing home from Italy, we learned of the outbreak there and then those three weeks later, it had hit Canada. I don’t think that any of us realised how impactful this would be. How much our lives would change.
At first everyone seemed to be fine. Everyone was having fun at home, enjoying this time “off”. The Instagram challenges started: see a shot, do a shot. Drinking became acceptable at all hours of the day. We were in it together! We were doing it from the safety and well-being of our own homes! It was all fine.
I am one of those people who mostly does work from home so not a whole lot was different for my routine, except that now my bartender husband was home all the time and we had nowhere else to go. We would do our own things during the day, working on whatever it was we were doing and then we would reconvene for Cocktail Hour which began at 6pm. Then it was 5pm and then slowly it creeped into 4pm. Everyday Josh would make us a cocktail and we would sit outside and catch up. It was a time to signify the stopping of work and the beginning of play. Then we would make dinner and another cocktail would be had. Then it would be TV time or Zoom time with friends and then, more drinks! And this went on for a solid month before both of us decided that this routine was just not where we wanted to be. We are generally healthy people who cook whole foods and who exercise multiple times a week, this overdoing it with the alcohol started really not feeling good. And we saw it in other people that we loved and cared for. Friends imbibing and over-imbibing at all hours of the day. Documenting shot after shot on Instagram. I worried about their health, physically and mentally. And then I began really worrying about mine.
The thing is, I enjoy drinking. It’s not the buzz of the alcohol that I love the most but the feeling of what it means to share a drink with another. One of my most favourite things is to share a bottle of wine with friends. I enjoy the social aspect. I enjoy the idea of a Cocktail Hour. I love a glass of sparkling to celebrate another day. But having too much was starting to slow me down and I have things that I want to do.
I started looking for non-alcoholic alternatives. Things out there to replace those alcoholic things that I love to drink so much. To me, this drinking is a ritual and if you have the right thing poured in the right glass in the right setting, it really doesn’t matter if it is sin alcohol. The overall vibe and ritual and good feelings are still there. I was amazed by what is now available as non-alcoholic alternatives. I found zero proof Gin, Prosecco, Sparkling Rosé and even an Amaro-esque product. We tested these out, we drank them with friends and we really enjoyed them. We all know that alcohol consumption has a plethora of negative impacts on our health and we can all likely do with less of it. Below are some of my recommendations for non-alcoholic alternatives that can really work to replace the real thing.
Sobrii was my first dive into NA spirits and it was an eye opener. While there are some other NA spirits out there on the market, I found that a lot of them were not actually meant to replace a specific spirit. They are more created as an alternate of what to drink. For me, a drinker wanting to drink less, I really wanted a NA spirit that was meant to be an alcoholic one. Sobrii hits that Gin spot. Throw some tonic on it with ice and garnish with a lemon and you will really not notice the difference. Sobrii is produced in small batches at a craft distillery, starting out as a regular gin with macerated botanicals and the usual distilling process. Once the gin is completed, they remove the alcohol using a proprietary method. Sobrii has the taste and feel of a regular gin, just not the burn of the alcohol. Mixing it with a tonic or something acidic brings that bite in making it a wonderful product for many NA cocktails. Sobrii is available on their website as well as at Cocktail Emporium.
LEITZ EINS-ZWEI-ZERO SPARKLING ROSE
Wine is my kryptonite. The idea of not drinking wine just doesn’t sit well with me. I was both very excited and very hesitant when I saw that Noble Estates was importing this NA Rose. Would it really match up? Would it just taste like sugar water hidden amongst the bubbles? We shared a bottle of it with friends over the weekend and the verdict: this stuff is good! This German “wine” is made from 100% pinot noir grapes that are macerated for 6 hours prior to pressing. It is surprisingly dry and may be my new favourite summer drink! In Ontario, you can find Leitz Eins-Zwei-Zero Sparkling Rose at the LCBO.
I am a big believer that if you put anything in a fancy glass, it will taste great. Gruvi Prosecco is no different. When poured into a flute, you will hardly miss the alcohol. Made with chardonnay grapes and zero added sugar, each bottle has only 50 calories. It’s dry and slightly floral. Plus it comes in a four-pack of bottles which makes it easy to have on-hand and ready for that special (or everyday!) occasion. You can purchase Gruvi from their website as well as from places like Cocktail Emporium.
SOLBRU RESTORE ELIXIR
I was very adamant on finding a NA amaro. I wanted a sipper. Something that you could have in a rocks glass on a cube pre- or post- dinner or anywhere in between. Made in Winnipeg, Solbru was it. Made with reishi mushrooms and herbs, its creation was inspired by ancient herbal remedies for detox and liver health. It was made with health benefits in mind and is delicious. For our purposes of “faking” an amaro, we poured two ounces over a king cube and added a barspoon of simple syrup. Solbru is available from their website in Winnipeg and very soon will be available all across Canada.
While I am not a big beer drinker, I wanted to mention that holy moly, NA beer has come a LONG way! In addition to the NA Prosecco, Gruvi also makes NA beers including an IPA, Lager, Stout and a Weisse. Of them, the Lager was probably our favourite. But they were all fantastic and are a great replacement for the real thing.