Bold Drinks without the Buzz

By Shelby Rowe Moyer | Photography and Styling by Sunny Frantz

There’s something that feels intrinsically special about popping open a beer, a bottle of wine or sharing cocktails with friends. Forgoing alcohol used to feel more sacrificial, but many restaurants and beverage companies have saved the day with nonalcoholic options that feel just as special as the real thing. Luckily for us, several options in this list are even made locally. So, whether you’re nixing the buzz for Dry January or because of your health or lifestyle, there’s still plenty of options.


Made with pure cane sugar, these simple syrups crafted by Madison-based Quince & Apple are something special, and they make for a delectable base in any mocktail. So, what are you in the mood for? Craving a dash of summer? Go for the Rhubarb Hops! Add a heavy pour of seltzer to a festive glass and top with a fruity garnish. The husband-and-wife duo behind Quince & Apple pride themselves on their handcrafted products, and you can certainly taste the love. $10.49, Willy Street Co-op.


When Danielle Goss was pregnant, she wanted to be able to send her husband to the store for a six-pack of beer for himself and something tasty and nonalcoholic for her. At the time, that option didn’t really exist. Sure, there were zero-proof liquors, but nothing ready-made you could throw in a cooler and enjoy with friends. The couple started doing research and realized there was a real demand for mocktails that were ready to go and tasted like the real thing. Not long after their daughter was born, so was KUL MOCKS, in three flavors: Mock Mule, Strawberry Mock-arita and Blackberry Mock-jito. As a registered dietician, Goss ensured KUL MOCKS were manufactured with zero artificial sweeteners and infused with natural flavors that are non-GMO. The newly formed Wisconsin-based company is already in several stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota, making a mocktail easier to grab than ever. $6.99 for a four-pack, Woodman’s.


Mad Maiden owner and creator Janet Chen says, “Infusing vinegar is like making tinctures and salves with wildcrafted fruit and herbs.” This practice of drinking shrub, also known as drinking vinegar, has long been venerated for its health properties and was also a precursor, of sorts, to the modern-day soda. Madison-based Mad Maiden shrubs have an electrifying taste with fizzy and tart flavors, including cranberry and honey ginger, and some of the ingredients are sourced right
here in the Badger State. Its website has a handful of drink recipes (which can be converted to nonalcoholic), like mixing the Honey Ginger Shrub with orange juice, seltzer and orange zest for garnish. $19.95 for a three-pack, Orange Tree Imports.


The journey that brought these beautifully bottled, zero-proof liquors from concept to creation involved a long process of taste-testing ingredients from all over the world and consulting world-class chefs and bartenders. The creators note on their website: “We weren’t interested in a glass of ‘something.’ We’re not interested in new-age goop that defies explanation or fancy spa water that bears no resemblance to liquor.” The result? Tequila, whiskey and gin alternatives that look and taste like the real deal. $24.99, Total Wine & More.


The story behind Seedlip has ancient roots, dating back to a 17th-century physician using copper stills and herbs to create liquid tonics. Ben Branson came across these recipes and began his own experiment. Not long after that he created Seedlip, which married his farming heritage and “need for a sophisticated nonalcoholic option.” The product names offer a nod to their flavor profiles, like Seedlip Spice 94, which is warm and citrusy with a bitter finish, or Seedlip Garden 108 (shown), a floral blend of hand-picked peas and homegrown hay from Branson’s farm. $31.99, Total Wine & More.


Just two weeks after Milwaukee-based Top Note Tonic launched in 2017, founders Mary Pellettieri and Noah Swanson received word that they’d won a Sofi award from the Specialty Food Association — the equivalent of a “food Oscar.” For them, it affirmed all the years they’d spent researching the origin of soft drinks, back when they were handcrafted by pharmacists. The flavors pack a punch, because they’re made with real ingredients, like grapefruit juice and date sugar. Plus, we love that their site is chock-full of drink recipes. $6.79, Willy Street Co-op.


Fruits, spices and herbs were gathered from around the globe and brought to the Rishi Herb Lab with the intention of creating a pure, sparkling beverage using only raw ingredients. The result is a light, refreshing and functional drink with zero added sugars, powdered extracts or flavor additives. Encased in a stunningly designed can, each of the six flavors — like Dandelion Ginger, Grapefruit Quince and Patagonia Maqui — is crafted with a short list of ingredients you can actually pronounce. Fun fact: Rishi’s corporate headquarters are in Milwaukee! $2.99, Willy Street Co-op.


Two Minnesota friends who ditched drinking but still enjoyed having a cold one created this flavor-forward, 0% ABV craft beer. The sleek cans are emblazoned with names that sound pretty typical to any beer-drinker: Citra Lager, IPA, Black Ale and Coffee Stout. We’ll cheers to that. $8.99- $9.49 for a six-pack, Total Wine & More.

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