They might be healthier, but can they taste just as good as the real thing?
No-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks are turning the beverage industry on its head, proving to be more than just a passing fad. Touted simply as NoLow drinks, this trendy collection of low alcohol and alcohol-free beer, wine, and spirits are desirable alternatives to their alcoholic-laden counterparts, and they’re forever changing what a night of drinking looks and feels like.
The question isn’t whether beverage artists can create a suite of drinks for the sober (and sober curious). The real musing is how they do it and whether the resulting drinks can stack up to traditional libations in terms of taste and quality.
Here’s a quick look at what goes into making NoLow drinks that ensure flavor and quality can be every bit as good as the labels you’re used to.
How Alcohol-Free and Low-Alcohol Spirits are Made
Distilling spirits for an alcohol-free or low alcohol variety looks strikingly similar to the traditional process. NoLow pioneer Ben Branson is the mastermind behind Seedlip, the world’s first manufacturer of alcohol-free spirits, and created the concoction in his kitchen using a copper pot distilling method. The recipe includes a variety of spices, herbs, barks, and peels, with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
The end result is most likened to a non-alcoholic gin, a name that Branson says does the drink a disservice.
Ish, another major NoLow brand and inventor of flagship drinks gin-ish and rum-ish, replicates the ingredients of the spirits, not the process. The company uses fresh botanicals, such as coriander seeds, vanilla, nutmeg, and juniper berry, among others, to recreate the traditional flavors without the alcohol’s signature bite.
How Alcohol-Free and Low-Alcohol Beer are Made
0% beers are making waves across the U.S. and Europe and now accounts for roughly 1 in 15 beers consumed in Germany alone. The stigma surrounding asking for a non-alcoholic beer is dropping, and brewers are capitalizing on the opportunity to take this art form to the next level.
Like traditional beer, alcohol-free beer begins with water, yeast, hops, and malt, and are brewed accordingly. In the fermentation process, beer makers are stopping the process with a cold shock before the alcohol content reaches 0.5%.
In a vacuum distillation, which is the case with German beers Frei and Atlantic, the fermented beer flows through a closed system and evaporates. The ethanol boils off at a lower temperature, and the flavor from the vapor is added back into the beer.
How Alcohol-Free and Low-Alcohol Wines are Made
According to the company, the wines are crafted using the same winemaking process as traditional varieties but undergo a natural reverse osmosis process to remove the alcohol before bottling. The result is a wine that contains less sugar and calories than both traditional wine AND non-alcoholic wine-like products.
For wines that retain some but not all of the alcohol, a number of special practices may contribute to the process, including fermenting grapes that are less ripe or adding fresh grape juice to dilute the wine.
Drinks makers are constantly finding new ways to make great tasting alcohol-free beer, wine and spirit options, we’ll update this article as we discover new ones.