Ten Alcohol-Free Drinks to enjoy with Pride
(a condensed version of this article appeared on pg 38-39 of the 2023 Vancouver Pride Guide)
Happy Pride, everyone!
It’s that time of year again and many of us are gearing up for parties, BBQs, picnics, and festive patio hangs. Earlier this year, Health Canada released new guidelines around alcohol and risk for illness, which has many of us evaluating our relationship with what’s in our glass. I really think that alcohol as the main event is becoming a thing of the past and that mindful decision-making around drinking will soon be the norm. As the non-alc movement continues to gain momentum, many new options are appearing on the market and we seem to have more choice than ever. Last year, I shared a cocktail recipe but this year I decided to highlight 10 of my favorite non-alc products to help you in your search for the perfect food pairing or lovely sipper for the sober folks. All of these are vegan and available at The Drive Canteen (1111 Commercial Drive, Vancouver) unless otherwise mentioned.
Whether you’re hosting a gathering or attending a BYOB affair, I hope this list has something for everybody. Cheers!
ALCOHOL-FREE BEER & WINE
Note: Many non-alcoholic or dealcoholized beverages contain trace amounts of alcohol, but usually less than 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), and are labelled as such. For context, the same ABV (or higher) is often present in fermented foods, sauces, overripe fruits and juices and won’t necessarily cause intoxication. That said, the familiarity combined with trace levels of alcohol present in non-alc wine & beer can sometimes be triggering for folks in recovery, so please exercise caution.
Gruvi Juicy IPA
Prior to my shift away from alcohol, the trend of making IPAs that are so overwhelmingly hoppy and bitter they almost make your mouth turn inside-out completely missed me. As beautiful as hops can be, I prefer a love-tap to a face-punch when it comes to their presence. Much to my delight, Gruvi’s Juicy IPA brings smoothness and the balance that helps me enjoy the nuances of the flavor palate. With bright tropical notes of pineapple and citrus, a hint of floral and a present-and-proud hoppy finish, this is the perfect midday patio beer. Juicy IPA is a part of Gruvi’s discovery series, which means that you can scan a QR code on the can and give feedback to inform their next releases.
Pairs with: Baja-style fish tacos (for a plant-based version, use heart of palm)
This is a long time favorite of mine and I am happy to recommend it again and again… and again. This Bavarian brewery has produced world-renowned wheat beers since 1886 and pride themselves on stewarding Bavaria’s cultural heritage through their craft. Introduced in 2001, Erdinger Alkoholfrei has been a market leader in the alcohol free space, and for good reason – it’s delish. Bitter hops and malt with gently sweet notes of spice and caramel and a full mouth feel, this the beer that holds its own. Suggested Food Pairing: Grilled sausage and potatoes (for a plant-based version, use vegan sausage)
Edenvale Cabernet Sauvignon
Let’s be real – many non-alcoholic wine options of the past have come up short and could be described as glorified grape juice (which, to be fair, is technically what wine is, but I digress). Luckily, things have come a long way. Edenvale is a multiple award-winning Australian winery whose sole focus is in the non-alcoholic space, leading the way in quality and innovation. Their patented process involves removing and re-introducing the wine’s bouquet, allowing the finished product to retain much of its original character. Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic “big red”, and Edenvale’s dealcoholized offering is characterized by aromas of cassis, blackberry, cedar and blueberry. Although distinct from a traditional Cab, if you’re looking for a full-bodied, juicy “fruit bomb” wine, this one is it. Suggested food pairing: BBQ Burgers (for a plant-based version, swap out the beef patty for a marinated and grilled portobello mushroom cap)
I honestly can’t say enough glowing things about Oddbird Sparkling Rosé… you could even say I’m looking at it through rose-coloured glasses (you’re welcome for that horrible pun). I have been a devout fan since I first tried their Spumante two years ago and have been consistently impressed with every one of their offerings I’ve had since. Crafted with a blend of Syrrah and Chardonnay from the Languedoc-Rousillion region of France, this wine is characterized by a gently rosy hue and notes of apple, citrus and summer berries. Beautiful in a glass as is, excellent with mimosas or sparkling cocktails, this perfectly pink sparkling wine is “liberated from alcohol” so you can start with brunch and enjoy all the way through dinner without getting sloppy. In other words, rosé all day… and still slay. Suggested food pairing: an assortment of fresh fruits and cheeses (for a plant-based version, try almond and cashew cheeses)
BSA is an Quebec-based company whose name cuts right to the chase. BSA stands for Bière Sans Alcool or, in English, Beer Without Alcohol. No guesswork needed. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the name or the hipster-meets-minimalist tall can design that is reminiscent of NoName branding. These beers defy expectation and have truly made their mark in the non-alc space. Their orange white craft beer, simply named “White”, is a Belgian-style wheat ale with aromas of orange and cardamom and light bitterness. According to their website, “a top quality white beer for top-quality times.” How succinct. I’m inclined to agree. Suggested food pairing: Dim sum dumplings, grilled asparagus with lemon butter and fresh tarragon
BEAUTIFUL ALCOHOL-FREE BLENDS
The beverages in this category are true originals; not trying to emulate anything in particular, and built from the ground up.
I wasn’t sure whether to put this under the “beer and wine” or “ready-to-drink” category because this unique and critically acclaimed beverage walks between two worlds. Truth be told, I was skeptical before diving in, but now I’m completely sold. Don’t be fooled by the bottle – this is not a wine, doesn’t taste like one and isn’t meant to resemble one. That said, Proxies are crafted with the juice from wine grapes and layered with blends of teas, spices, and aromatics to create artful and complex offerings specifically for food-pairing. So, where a wine would complete a dining experience, Proxies is a beautiful and naturally alcohol-free alternative. Blanc Slate layers sauvignon blanc grapes, grapefruit and kiwi with white tea and a unique blend of spices and herbs to create a crisp, lively beverage. Characteristics are hints of stonefruit and lemon on the nose, off-dry and zesty on the palate and finishes with just a hint of heat. If you’re looking to serve something refreshing and innovative at a dinner party or to offer as a host gift, this is an excellent choice. Suggested food pairing: Grilled prawns or Mediterranean-style veggie kebabs
Conversations about the benefits of mushrooms seem to be popping up everywhere these days, pun intended. They’ve been popping up on dinner plates, in medicine cabinets, and now in cocktails. Solbrü was founded by athlete and entrepreneur, Leanne Kisil, as a part of her own healing journey away from alcohol and towards a more authentic and healthier lifestyle. With names like Focus+Inspire, Elevate+Perform, Relax+Restore, and Balance+Connect, these alcohol free “spirits” combine botanical extracts with adaptogenic mushrooms to help manage stress, aid the immune system and support brain function. Solbrü is like nothing I’ve had before and for me it was love at first sip. As someone who is a non-alc passionate and a mushroom evangelist, I I’ve been having so much fun playing around with different ways to enjoy these blends. There are endless possibilities, including over ice as an apertif, with soda, or in iced tea with a squeeze of citrus. What will you create? PRIDE BONUS: As an LGBTQ-founded local company, Solbrü is offering 20% off online purchases (https://solbru.com) throughout July and August by using the code SOLVANPRIDE
READY-TO-DRINK AND READY TO IMPRESS
These RTDs need nothing added and are perfect poured in a glass or right from the can or bottle. If you’re feeling creative, you can use them as main characters (mixers) in impressive zero-proof cocktails.
1642 Elderflower Tonic
Gin and tonic is a classic summer highball that is only as good as its ingredients. While some may focus on seeking out the perfect gin, a well-crafted tonic can stand on its own. I was recently introduced to 1642 tonic and am a convert. This Montreal-based producer boasts a catalogue of premium, expertly-crafted mixers including flavours like grapefruit, cucumber, yuzu and gingerbeer; of all the offerings, elderflower is easily my favorite. I think I let out an audible “wow!” after my first sip. This is perfect chilled straight from the bottle or, if you’re feeling fancy (as we are apt to from time-to-time), try serving with a splash of rosewater, sliced cucumber and a sprig of fresh-cut lemon balm for a refreshing floral cocktail.
If you know me even a little bit, you’ll know how much I love sorrel. A pan-African favorite, this drink made from the roselle hibiscus goes by several names including zobo, agua de Jamaica and bissap. Although it’s traditionally enjoyed during the winter holiday season, its tart and refreshing character is amazing any time of year and is high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Vancouver company Hibisbrands has created Hibisberry, a sorrel/zobo-based ready to drink beverage in 2 flavours; ginger and pineapple. Enjoy as is, or over ice with half soda for a refreshing summer spritzer.
If you like kombucha, or if you are kombucha-ed out but want to experience similar health benefits, have you tried water kefir? Like the ‘booch, water kefir is a fermented beverage with live probiotics to support gut health, but unlike Kombucha is less acidic, uncarbonated and caffeine-free. Kindred Cultures is a Richmond-based, women-owned-and-operated company that produces fruit-infused kefir beverages in four amazing flavours; Cranberry-Turmeric, Lemon-Turmeric, Power Green, and Strawberry-Rosehip. They recently transitioned from glass bottles to aluminum cans, so they’re lightweight and great for picnics, camping, bike rides, or carrying several in your tote on the skytrain without the telltale “clinking” sound. I absolutely love how refreshing these are and they make unique bases for creative zero-proof cocktails too. I tried the Strawberry-Rosehip with a shot of Solbrü Focus + Inspire poured over frozen berries instead of ice cubes and it was delish. Where you can find it: Kindred Cultures can be ordered directly from their website (https://kindredculures.com) where they also list their local stockists.