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OPINION | BOTTLE SHOTS: Nonalcoholic concoctions for adventurous sipping

by Seth Eli Barlow | August 4, 2021 at 1:53 a.m.

Every rare once in a while, I decide to take a week off from drinking. I've never been a big believer in the fads like "Dry January" and "Sober October" (which only seem to lead to extra wet Februaries and Novembers ...), but I still understand the desire to reacquaint oneself with sobriety. Unfortunately, during these times, I find myself longing not for alcohol and its effects but for the depth of flavor and the ritual that alcohol offers.

Don't get me wrong, water is great, I'm all aboard the flavored sparkling water trend, and I'll even admit that Dr Pepper ranks up there with Grand Cru Champagne on my list of favorite beverages. But neither of those quite replace the material satisfaction of unwinding with a glass of wine or a freshly made cocktail.

I'm not the only one with a dilemma, however, as the nonalcoholic drinks industry, already a $20 billion business in 2018, is set to balloon to more than $30 billion by 2025 according to a 2019 Global Market Insights, Inc. report. And even local restaurants, like Little Rock's pizza powerhouse Raduno, have developed strong nonalcoholic mixed drinks programs (Sorry, the word "mocktail" is a bit like nails on a chalkboard to me.)

If you're looking for the booze-less experience at home, a wide range of companies have sprung up to meet the need. One of my favorites, Seedlip, sells "nonalcoholic spirits," a term that coyly explains their not-a-gin, not-a-vodka, but still-great-in-mixed-drinks products. The company offers three different spirits, each crafted from a unique blend of various herbs, citrus fruits and spices. My most frequent purchase from them is Grove 42 ($32), a mixture of orange, lemon, and ginger that makes for a mean gin and tonic substitute when mixed with tonic water. During my year of working from home, adding a splash to my ginger ale was a daily lunchtime treat.

For something decidedly more wine-like, Acid League, a company that blends food science with millennial chic marketing, has an innovative line of wine "Proxies" that deliver the feeling of wine without, well, actually being wine. These are unique blends of juice mixed with tea, bitters, vinegars, and more to create a drink that is as ritualistic as wine without the alcohol. Acid League sells Proxies in monthly shipments ($70), with each month featuring three new recipes. Greener Grass, a proxy from earlier in the summer, combined riesling grape juice with apple, cucumber, lime vinegar, and sencha (whole leaf) green tea for an experience that any fan of natural wine, sour beer, or interesting flavor adventures will appreciate.

While these products are not available at your local wine shop, they're alcohol-free, which means you can buy them online and get them shipped directly to your home.

As always, you can see what I'm drinking on Instagram at @sethebarlow and send your wine questions and quibbles to sethebarlowwine@gmail.com

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