13 best alcohol-free spirits for mocktails, shots and sipping on the rocks

Things have moved on leaps and bounds when it comes to flavour   (iStock/The Independent)
Things have moved on leaps and bounds when it comes to flavour (iStock/The Independent)

“Alcohol-free” and “spirit” feels almost like an incongruous string of words. Spirits are traditionally associated with being the booziest of booze, more alcoholic than beer and wine. Hitting the spirits in the bar was the signal for taking the night to the next level – and usually spelled misery for the next day.

But as people take part in campaigns such as Sober October and Dry January, or are cutting down on their drinking more generally, they’ll be glad to know hundreds of alcohol-free spirits are available. This enormous range means they can continue to enjoy tipples that taste similar – or better – than their usual poison.

Tom Ward, the founder of Wise Bartender, says the market has been boosted by big names in the spirits world adding alcohol-free drinks to their lines, alongside a boom in craft manufacturers upping the options for people. “There was a count [of the number of alcohol-free spirits], and there was about 300 available,” he says.

There are some challenges, though, including cost. “People don’t mind chancing it on an alcohol-free beer or wine for a few pounds,” says Ward, “But spirits are a bit more expensive.” This can make consumers a little reluctant to shell out on a £20-odd bottle they’ve not yet tried or been recommended.

We hope our round-up can help here. We’ve tested more than a dozen popular alcohol-free spirits, including rum, vodka, and gin alternatives, to take any guesswork out of finding the right one for you. And some of the drinks we’ve tried cost little more than a good bottle of wine. So, give it a go and take part in Sober October.

How we tested

We found a vast range of alcohol-free spirits with various flavours and uses, including alternatives to gin, tequila, rum and other liquors. Some of the drinks we taste-tested came with recipe cards or recommended serves on the bottle, so we gave those suggestions a whirl. But we also tried some of the spirits neat on the rocks, others with standard mixers like soda, tonic and cola, and some in cocktails.

The best alcohol-free spirits for 2022 are:

Crossip dandy smoke

You might think it would take years for a challenger brand to perfect its drinks and rival the big guns, but Crossip has already nailed it since launching in 2020. Dandy smoke is smooth, warm with clove, ginger and cayenne, and intensely smoky. With a bold aroma, the flavours come in layers that build for an astonishingly well-rounded drink. We tried this macerated spirit in a ginger dandy, with ginger ale and a lime wedge, and as a smoky cokey, with added cola, lime juice and lime wedge – both were sensational. It would also make a fantastic alcohol-free smoky old fashioned.

We also love that the brand takes social responsibility seriously and donates 5 per cent of its profits to several charities, including Alcohol Change UK, Papyrus, Calm and Centrepoint.

Buy now £22.00, Crossipdrinks.com

CleanCo clean T

If you ever watched Made in Chelsea in the early days, you might be surprised to learn that this brand was founded by the show’s party boy Spencer Matthews, unless you followed his journey to teetotalism. What you won’t be surprised by, knowing Spenny’s taste for the finer things, is that the alcohol-free drinks from the brand are incredibly close to the real thing.

Clean T is the company’s tequila alternative, made with fresh green agave and hints of olive. The oaky aroma is convincing, without the nose burn, and the flavour is pretty bang on too, with a peppery finish. We tried it as a shot (we couldn’t help ourselves) but also as the recommended “triple T” – 50ml Clean T over ice, topped with tonic and a dash of Tabasco – which was superb. Its clean credentials are rather good too: the drink contains no sugar, is suitable for vegans and is lactose and gluten-free. And the elegant bottle would look right at home in any of the MiC cast’s haunts.

Buy now £19.00, Clean.co

Crossip pure hibiscus

From the same brand as our best buy is this fruity, floral number. This aperitif-style drink is sweet with hibiscus, cubeb and rhubarb notes, and bitter warmth from wormwood and cayenne undertones for a captivating flavour experience. Crossip suggests using pure to craft an alcohol-free negroni or spritz, so we taste-tasted the incredible bucha spritz, which is 35ml pure and 125ml kombucha, with a grapefruit slice garnish. It gets a big thumbs up from us.

Buy now £22.00, Crossipdrinks.com

Sea Arch coastal juniper

Taking inspiration from the magnificent Devon coastline, this drink captures the spirit of the sea. It is made using traditional distillation techniques and ingredients such as hand-harvested sea kelp, samphire, blood orange, and cardamom, with no sugar, sweeteners, or allergens, all inside the most beautiful pale turquoise bottle. The result is a fresh and vibrant tipple that makes an exceptional alternative to gin. We taste-tested it with a naturally light tonic, plenty of ice, and a slice of grapefruit and loved the aroma, herbal notes, and that it is not too sweet – something which is sometimes elusive in the alcohol-free drinks world.

Buy now £24.95, Seaarchdrinks.com

Everleaf forest

Everleaf was created by conservation biologist Paul Mathew, so it’s no wonder that the brand’s drinks are drawn from nature. Forest is an enchanting blend of 14 sustainably sourced natural botanicals, including saffron, Madagascan vanilla, orange blossom, cassia bark and vetiver. The flavour is layered and bittersweet, with syrupiness and spice, but what we noticed most is its luxuriously silky smoothness. It tastes out of this world on the rocks and makes an outstanding spritz simply by mixing it with soda, a blood orange slice and plenty of ice.

Buy now £19.00, Everleafdrinks.com

CleanCo clean G pink

From the same brand as the alcohol-free tequila alternative (£19, Clean.co), this delightful pink drink is a tremendous strawberry gin alternative. It’s fruity and sweet with the irresistible flavours of strawberry and raspberry that are balanced with juniper and pink peppercorn. We wanted to keep things simple to allow us to enjoy the punchy aromas and notes, so we paired this drink with tonic water, plenty of ice, and a fresh strawberry garnish – we’d recommend you try the same.

Buy now £19.00, Clean.co

Endorphin Dealer Institute spirited euphoria

So many of us crack open a bottle and pour ourselves a drink when we get home from a long day at work. If you’re looking to change things up and replace a boozy drink with an alcohol-free alternative for this ritual, especially during sober October, we’d highly recommend switching to EDI’s spirited euphoria. It won’t intoxicate you because there’s no alcohol, but its blend of hemp extracts, CBD, natural nootropics, adaptogens, and botanicals will take the edge off the day and help you to unwind.

The taste is complex and herbaceous, with notes of zesty citrus and peppery spice. We tested spirited euphoria with a dash of orange bitters, blood orange soda, and heaps of ice, which wonderfully complemented the citrus and earthy flavours for a glass of pure elegance. The bottle is also stunning and at once tells you this is high-end, sophisticated alcohol-free drinking.

It’s currently out of stock, but we’d recommend signing up to recieve a notification for when it’s back.

Buy now £40.10, Masterofmalt.com

Strykk not vanilla v*dka

Music, dancing, great chat and alcohol-free vodka are the perfect ingredients for a party night without the hangover the next day. With the launch of its new vanilla v*dka, Strykk is giving us even more options. This British-made drink is 100 per cent natural and sugar-free and infused with buttery Madagascan vanilla beans for a seriously smooth beverage that is as excellent with cola and ice as it is in a cocktail. We taste-tested not vanilla v*dka mixed with the Funkin passionfruit martini shaker (£20, Strykk.com) and garnished with half a passionfruit for a delicious alternative to a porn star martini.

Buy now £16.00, Strykk.com

Eceaux vitalité

Abundant with vibrancy, this drink took us aback with its warmth, just like you get with an alcoholic spirit like whisky. The flavours are herbaceous and earthy with citrus notes for a refreshing finish, while ginseng and spirulina make it an invigorating experience. We tested Vitalité using the perfect serve suggestion of pairing it with a squeeze of fresh lime and grapefruit juice, ginger beer and a grapefruit wedge. This one is also vegan and gluten-free.

Buy now £28.00, Smallspiritscompany.co.uk

Caleño dark and spicy

Rich and warming, this tropical tipple tastes extraordinarily like a spiced rum. It’s full of the aromas of a blend of spices, including ginger, kola nut, peppercorn and cardamom, which are harmonised by fruity, sweet ingredients, such as coconut and cocoa for a velvety smooth drink. We couldn’t resist using it in an alcohol-free rum and cola with a generous squeeze of lime juice and fresh slice garnish – even pirates would agree this is a treasure of an alternative.

Buy now £18.00, Calenodrinks.com

Warner’s juniper double dry

Less mothers’ ruin, more mother’s rejoice. Warner’s has been skilfully making gin on its family farm for almost a decade, so it knows a thing or two about it and the brand has poured its expertise into producing alcohol-free varieties. We tried the brand’s award-winning juniper double dry botanic garden spirit, which is mainly made with water drawn from the farm’s own spring and ingredients grown on the land. These include aromatic lemon thyme and lemon verbena for a revitalising, herby drink. We love the versatility of this spirit and that it can be used to make any gin drink or cocktail your imagination allows, including classics such as the bramble or tom collins.

Buy now £18.00, Warnersdistillery.com

Jomo club

We’re closing our round-up with something a little different – a subscription box full of everything you need to enjoy alcohol-free spirits monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, or you can try a one-off box. The Joy of Missing Out (Jomo) club delivers a full-size bottle of a first-rate spirit, mixers, garnishes, snacks and a bonus bottle of alcohol-free drink, plus a 20-page magazine and a cocktail of the month recipe card, which amazingly contains seeds and is plantable, direct to your door.

Our box came packed with loads of goodies, including Crossip pure, a can of alcohol-free mead, three mixers, dried lime slice garnishes and some delicious sweet and savoury nibbles. This is an excellent subscription service that would also make a brilliant gift.

Buy now £38.00, Jomoclub.co.uk

The verdict: Alcohol-free spirits

We were thrilled to find so many delicious and fun options for those looking for alcohol-free spirits. Our favourite drink, and therefore our best buy, is Crossip’s dandy smoke. The uniquely smoky flavour and aroma make for a moreish beverage that combines exceptionally well with several mixers. We’re also huge fans of Everleaf forest for its unusual ingredients and sublime flavours.

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