Living an alcohol-free, or “dry life,” is the norm for many people, including Muslims, Mormons and anyone who has earned a sobriety chip. But it’s also becoming a growing trend, at least during the month of January, for as much as 15% of the U.S. population, according to recent surveys. “Dry January” began as a public health campaign in the United Kingdom almost a decade ago, and the one-month sobriety challenge has gained traction with Americans, too, who are interested in starting the year in a healthier way.
With a nod to the industry that helps drive our region, Bay Area makers have found ways to craft ABV-free spirits, wine and cocktails for those seeking lively alternatives to alcoholic drinks. Here are a few to look for on the shelves at local supermarkets and liquor shops, plus an alcohol-free, soul-warming winter refresher recipe from San Rafael’s California Gold bar owner Isaac Shumway.
Crafted in San Francisco by Master Distiller and creator Eric Knight to resemble real cocktails, this line of tea-based, nonalcoholic cocktails launched in 2020. Fermented and aged pu’er tea adds bitterness and complexity to the Mindful Negroni, minus Campari’s cloying sweetness. Mindful Margarita, Mindful Mule and Mindful Apricot Sour round out the refreshing offerings.
Sovi Wine Co
Packaged in perky 8-ounce cans, a nonalcoholic wine from two Napa sommeliers was born from an idea of inclusivity for all, a way for everyone to enjoy wine. Available in Sparkling Rosé and Red Blend, the beverages boasts real, dealcoholized wine and no added sugars, plus a mouthfeel that is familiar to the grape style — light and refreshing rosé and a fuller-bodied, richly textured red.
Confidently billing themselves as “the world’s first distilled nonalcoholic spirits,” this brand, built on the practices of ancient alchemy and European copper-distilled herbal remedies, first found a foothold among Bay Area bartenders, who found the savory profiles exhilarating to work with. Aromatic Spice 94, herbal Garden 108, and citrusy Grove 42 can seem bitter when sampled solo, but blend beautifully with other elixirs for quaffable, palate-refreshing nonalcoholic drinks for any season.
Colombian Cooler Recipe
San Rafael’s California Gold Bar proprietor Isaac Shumway riffed on a classic refresher to create this updated nonalcoholic cocktail recipe. Cloves add surprising warmth to a drink that is refreshing on a cool winter day. Shumway recommends using Topo Chico sparkling mineral water for the brand’s round, juicy bubbles with “incomparable mouthfeel,” but any bubbly water will do.
- 1 oz homemade clove syrup
- 1½ oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
- 4 oz chilled soda water
- 3-inch piece of ripe banana
- Whole cloves
- Lime peel
- 1½ cups evaporated natural cane sugar
- 1 cup water
- 30 cloves
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Immediately turn off heat and let cool overnight. Strain off syrup as needed.
- Combine the clove syrup and banana in a cocktail shaker. Muddle the banana into the syrup, and then add the fresh lime juice and ice; shake until ice cold.
- Add the soda water to the shaker. Use both a Hawthorne strainer and a cocktail/tea strainer to double-strain the drink while pouring it into a tall glass over ice.
- Stud a lime peel with cloves, and add the garnish to the drink.
For more on Better:
- Santa Barbara’s Unexpected Hospitality History — Plus, Where to Stay on America’s Riviera
- Napa and Sonoma Are Open Again: The Top New Destinations for Tastings, Dining and Wellness
- Chilling Out on The Central Coast: Resorts Offering a Much Needed Reset
Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.