After months of pandemic-induced alcohol consumption, some of us are looking to give the liver a break. Boost the immune system and all. Maybe we need a refreshing and flavorful drink for times when we don’t necessarily want an alcoholic beverage. According to a recent Nielsen report, 66% of millennials are trying to reduce alcohol consumption. And with soda consumption also on the decline, the market for alternative beverages is booming.
These are a few that I’ve enjoyed in recent months.
Most people are familiar with nitro coffee cans, but nitro cacao? Founded in Austin, Texas by the husband and wife team of Curtis and Claudia Bomgaars, Upriver Cacao seeks to introduce the many benefits of cacao-based beverages. Although Claudia grew up in Colombia in a family of coffee producers, she found that cacao provided her with a more gentle, steady source of energy without the jitters, caffeine crash or upset stomach that commonly occur when consuming coffee. Best of all, they are incredibly delicious.
“Our nitro cacao drinks make the perfect afternoon pick-me-up,” says Claudia of the five current flavors – Dark Wild, Chocolate Chai, Matcha Mama, Strawberry Hibiscus and Vanilla Cream. “They’re full of brain-boosting antioxidants and relaxing magnesium too.” They are light yet creamy, with a small dose of caffeine naturally occurring in cacao beans.
Right now, everyone is looking for healthier ways to relax without impairing their immune system, while easing added stress and pressures. Enter Bimble, an all-natural, CBD infused sparkling beverage containing 25mg of THC-free, broad spectrum hemp extract.
These fizzy bevvys comes in two light and delicious flavors, Blueberry Lemon Ginger and Grapefruit Mint Basil, made with a touch of sustainably sourced Vermont honey – cofounder Jay Moskowitz left his 30-year gig on Wall Street to become a beekeeper, so supporting other beekeepers was important. These chill, drink and chill sodas are great on their own right out of the bottle, served on ice, or as a base to make a calming zero-proof cocktail. At about $6 for each 12 oz glass bottle they may seem dear, but that’s still less than the price of a cocktail in most bars. Bimble is available at select retailers, but you can get it safely delivered straight to your door.
Bimble on The Beach
6 oz Bimble Grapefruit Basil Mint, chilled
2 ounces pomegranate or cranberry juice
2 large mint leaves
1 teaspoon grenadine
Fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lemon quarter with the mint leaves. Add ice, pomegranate juice and grenadine. Shake well. Strain into a glass and add Bimble. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit or lemon.
Austin-based Mayawell was developed by Texan Oliver Shuttlesworth and his partner in Oaxaca, mezcal guru Vicente Reyes. With a name that plays off the famed agave goddess Mayahuel, these healthy, bubbly tonics are made with organic, hand-harvested agave that helps improve digestion and boost immunity due to its rich prebiotic properties. The current flavors include Pineapple Mango Turmeric, Pear Lime Green Tea and Strawberry Hibiscus Ginger, all incredibly refreshing since they’re not too sweet, and are suitable for mixing in cocktails since they’re low in sugar and use all-natural ingredients.
Shuttlesworth founded Esperos, a bag company that had a strong community support component. He then decided he wanted to be in the health and wellness space and coincidentally met Reyes, an early mezcal pioneer in Oaxaca who has spent years studying how agave plays a role in immunity and health. His proprietary agave ingredient, called PREGAVE, is the hero of the drink, providing all the positive prebiotic benefits.
“PREGAVE is our proprietary formula of prebiotic agavin and agave nectar, which allows us to deliver a meaningful amount of prebiotic fiber with a very low amount of sugar,” says Shuttlesworth. “We use a unique blend of agave species with a clinically validated prebiotic benefit. PREGAVE is clinically proven to retain up to 60% of healthy gut bacteria, which helps fortify the immune system, improve digestive health, and elevate cognitive function. The gut is the body’s second brain, so ensuring it operates at peak function is critical to one’s holistic health and wellness.”
In addition, Mayawell provides jobs, fair wages for local workers and education on how to sustainably take care of the land and source agave properly in Oaxaca. Mayawell is currently sold in select retailers in Los Angeles, New York City and Austin, Texas, as well as online.
Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits
Named after the lyrebird, an Australian species known for its ability to replicate any sound, Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits offer a toolkit of flavors to expand your zero-proof game. Lyre’s range draws from over 12,500 extracts, all-natural essences and distillates to recreate the flavors of bourbon, gin, vermouth, and more. The collection includes an American Malt, Dry London Spirit, Coffee Originale, Amaretti, Orange Sec, Aperitif Rosso, Aperitif Dry, and a Dark, White, and Spiced Cane Spirit.
Each flavor comprises a proprietary mix of fruits, spices, and botanicals, with no artificial sweeteners. When mixed or stirred with sodas, tonics, and other easy-to-source ingredients, each product serves as a building block to replace some of the alcohol in a drink. Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso and Dark Cane Spirit earned gold medals from the 2020 San Francisco Wine & Spirits Competition, while Aperitif Dry, Coffee Originale, and Spiced Cane Spirit were recognized with silver. Lyre’s launched its US online store in April.
This recently launched non-alcoholic aperitif, inspired by Mediterranean aperitivo culture and formulated with pure extracts of various botanicals, is one of the best zero-proof aperitifs currently in the market. Ghia contains ingredients found in traditional amari, without any added sugars. All are sourced mindfully and as close to their elemental form as possible, most within the Mediterranean region.
Founder Melanie Masarin is from Lyon, France, but spent summers with her family in the Mediterranean. “My grandmother always served low ABV aperitifs before dinner to prepare the palate and open the conversation,” she says. “The memories I have from that time entertaining friends, cooking together and having conversations that lasted until dawn inspired me to create a non-alcoholic beverage that similarly connects people over shared experiences and creates moments to remember.”
When it came to formulating, Masarin was set on using gentian root since it provides the same signature bitter profile that classic Italian aperitifs have. “We went through 55 weeks of R&D -and 1001 pours to friends & family for feedback- until we landed on the bright and clean flavor we wanted,” she says. Ghia can be enjoyed on ice, topped with sparkling water, spiked with a favorite spirit or straight from the bottle. Each order includes an adorable cocktail book with signature recipes by Alison St. Pierre, Bartender at acclaimed restaurant King in NYC.
Award-winning tea designer, Caroline MacDougall, dreamed of creating an alternative drink that delivered a rich, bold flavor to satisfy both coffee and tea drinkers, but without the effects of caffeine and acidity. In 1995 she launched a line of blends she named Teeccino, made from roasted herbs, roots, fruits and nuts that are ground to brew like coffee or steep like tea. All are made from high quality, non-GMO, organic ingredients and prebiotics without any artificial flavors, preservatives, chemicals or stimulants. They are surprisingly tasty, calming and comforting served hot with or without milk, and very refreshing over ice.
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Teeccino recently launched two unique wellness lines featuring adaptogenic mushrooms and botanicals and prebiotic herbs plus extracts: Mushroom Adaptogen Herbal Coffees & Teas and Prebiotic Superboost™ Herbal Coffees & Teas with flavors of dark chocolate, macadamia nut, toasted maple and more. The Dark Chocolate Prebiotic SuperBoost tea with a splash of coconut milk is a nice after dinner treat with hints of sweetness, but with no sugar or sweeteners. A variety of their blends can be found on their website, select Whole Foods and via Amazon.
GT’s Synergy Kombucha
Kombucha as an alternative to alcoholic beverages is not new, but I made a recent discovery worth noting: the tropical flavors from GT’s Kombucha make fantastic bases for creating zero-proof cocktails. Their newest flavor, Golden Pineapple, is made with pineapple, lemon juice and sage, and tastes like a seaside vacation. GT’s website offers recipes to get you started with the new flavor and the rest of the tropical line including Watermelon Wonder, Mystic Mango, and Guava Goddess, with the optional addition of your favorite spirit. To boot, they provide 9 billion living probiotics that aid in digestion and gut health.
Fill a tall Collins glass with crushed ice. Pour 4oz. GT’s Synergy Golden Pineapple Kombucha and 1oz. coconut cream. Stir until combined. Garnish with pineapple frond & grated nutmeg *Optional: add 2oz. aged dark rum
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