As much as you may not like it, there are times when booze just isn’t possible at the tailgate or inside the stadium. So, what do you drink when a cold beer or a Moscow Mule just aren’t an option? You could reach for a syrupy can of cola or, heaven forbid, a bottle of water. But, if you’re in the mood for something different or just want a fresh, alcohol-free take on a classic cocktail, consider these no-alcohol drink choices at your next tailgate.
In recent years, a handful of startups have come on the scene with some pretty good alcohol-free alternatives to whiskey, tequila, gin, and other spirits. While it’s doubtful you’ll ever drink any of these neat, they excel in creating booze-free versions of classic cocktails. Ritual, one of the leaders in the alcohol-free spirits category, offers four liquor alternatives – gin, tequila, whiskey, and rum – and their tequila is currently the world’s highest-rated alcohol-free spirit with a score of 94 points from the Beverage Testing Institute. It also makes a pretty good hooch-free margarita.
Kentucky 74, one of the newest entries into the non-alcoholic spirit market, is a take on the official beverage of the Blue Grass State – bourbon. Crafted by a female-led company called Spiritless that recently relocated its headquarters from Louisville to Austin, Texas, Kentucky 74 doesn’t quite have that burn you get with real bourbon, but it retains the oak and vanilla notes bourbon drinkers are accustomed to, without the hangover.
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when the first mass-marketed alcohol-free beer became available and, to say these tasted horrible is to be more than kind. Non-alcoholic beer has come a long way since the late 1980s-early 1990s. Even the hip, small-batch craft breweries are getting into game, which means now is a great time to give booze-free beer another shot.
The experts at Liquor.com currently rank Brooklyn Special Effects Hoppy Amber as its top non-alcoholic beer. Using a special fermentation method that develops the flavors, aromas, and character of real beer, Brooklyn Special Effects Hoppy Amber has a citrus-forward flavor with just the right amount of hoppy bitterness.
The Athletic Brewing Company is a craft brewer based in Stratford, Connecticut, that only makes alcohol-free beer with dozens of varieties offered all year long and specialty brews available seasonally, IPAs to stouts, and everything in between.
If you’re more interested in a more well-known brand, give Heineken 0.0 a try. For the most part, Heineken’s non-alcoholic beer retains that classic “skunkiness” and mouthfeel and even some blind taste tests have shown Heineken 0.0 and the classic lager to be indistinguishable.
Of course, on those occasions where booze isn’t possible, you can always reach for a mass-market cola. However, if you’re in the mood for something different, the craft soda market is exploding with new beverages to tickle any set of taste buds. One of the first specialty soda companies on the scene is Jones Soda Co., perhaps best known for some whacked-out seasonal varieties such as the Turkey & Gravy soda, sold each year during Thanksgiving.
Also, thanks to the wonderful world of online shopping and quick and easy shipping, great regional soda brands can be purchased and enjoyed anywhere. Some well-respected regional bottlers and products include Yacht Club Bottling Words from Rhode Island, Cheerwine Cherry Soda from North Carolina, and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale from Birmingham, Alabama.