Health

14 tasty pre-bottled non-alcoholic drinks and spirits for celebrating on sober nights

  Summary List PlacementTable of Contents: Masthead Sticky  During the pandemic, a lot of us started drinking more. This coping strategy for anxiety, stress, and boredom was understandable — but for many of us, it wasn't healthy. Don't get me wrong: As long as you have a healthy relationship with alcohol and don't have an addiction issue, drinking alcohol in moderation can be safe and appropriate, Dr. Abe Malkin, MD, board-certified family medicine and addiction medicine doctor and advisor for alcohol treatment program monument, told Insider. But the catch here is "in moderation." Drinking every day and/or knocking back upwards of two to three...

 

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Summary List PlacementTable of Contents: Masthead Sticky

 

During the pandemic, a lot of us started drinking more. This coping strategy for anxiety, stress, and boredom was understandable — but for many of us, it wasn’t healthy.

Don’t get me wrong: As long as you have a healthy relationship with alcohol and don’t have an addiction issue, drinking alcohol in moderation can be safe and appropriate, Dr. Abe Malkin, MD, board-certified family medicine and addiction medicine doctor and advisor for alcohol treatment program monument, told Insider.

But the catch here is “in moderation.” Drinking every day and/or knocking back upwards of two to three drinks begins to interfere with your body functioning in a healthy manner.

But as restrictions start to loosen and life finds a new normal, many of us are trying to get our healthy habits back. If you’re looking to reign in your drinking habits or cut them out altogether, it can help to have a tasty, alcohol-free beverage to make sober nights easier and more exciting. This is especially helpful when you start socializing again: “For many people, we like to have something to hold or do with our hands in a social situation and a drink that helps us relax and enjoy a social situation more,” said Marysa Cardwell, RDN, a nutrition therapist, and contributing dietitian to Lose It!

But there are a lot of non-alcoholic options out there. In an effort to find which N/A drinks are actually worth your money, I tested over 35 zero-alcohol spirits and bottled cocktails alongside my partner who’s a chef and friends who own a cocktail bar (read: people who have a more sophisticated palette than me). These 14 made the cut.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included insight into how I tested the mixers and mocktails, what to look for in a “healthy” mixer, and input from experts on when drinking becomes unhealthy.  

Read on to see the best zero-alcohol spirits, cocktails, and sodas:

Casamara Club

These bottles look like beer but they’re actually filled with sparkling, non-alcoholic amaro club sodas. As a fan of Topo Chico and bitters, the subtle bite and effervescence in these bottles were right up my alley. Casamara Club makes four interesting and unique flavors, from Onda’s earthy citrus (my personal favorite) to Capo’s honey-and-mint notes; I recommend opting for a variety pack to test them all.

All four flavors are very subtle. They’re so subtle, in fact, that the first time I opened a bottle after a long day, I was a little underwhelmed. The flavor of Casamara Club doesn’t come on strong and, with just 4 grams of sugar, isn’t anything you’d really crave after a long day or for a celebration.

But I brought these along to my first sober social event, and not only was I happy to have a bottle in hand just like everyone else but, because these look just like beer bottles, I don’t think anyone even noticed I wasn’t drinking. What’s more, the mild flavor was ideal for a long night of drinking in the way a light beer might be, and pairs quite nicely with food.

These will be a permanent staple in my drink fridge for nights, and they’d be great to add to the cooler as in-person parties start up again.

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TÖST

TÖST is a sparkling non-alcoholic drink made from white tea, cranberry, and ginger. It’s somewhat akin to a cider or a spritzer, and has the celebratory feel of a bottle of bubbly. 

The brand’s intent was to make a drink that’s as sophisticated and meaningful as an alcoholic beverage for a dinner party but without the booze. TÖST does indeed feel elegant and celebratory with its summery sweetness and lovely light fizz — like something I’d happily drink at a garden party or a baby shower. I love that the large bottle has the presence of wine or champagne so it makes for a great gift or dinner party addition (though it’s worth noting, TÖST also makes 12 oz singles if you want to enjoy one on your own).

I found the flavor to be very well-balanced and enjoyable but there is a catch: Each 12 oz bottle has a whopping 16 grams of sugar. That’s mostly from blue agave and cranberry concentrate but considering you’d likely drink this at an event where you’ll be nibbling on other treats, it’s worth noting for anyone trying to minimize their sugar intake.

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Jukes 6

Jukes 6 is easily one of the best non-alcoholic drinks I tested. Granted, as a wine lover, I’m biased — but also a hard critic of a mimic, so that’s saying a lot.

Jukes Cordiality was created by British award-winning wine writer and wine taster, Matthew Jukes, who wanted to craft a drink that mirrored the depth, taste, and ability to enhance the flavor of food as wine, but without the alcohol.

He launched two flavors in the US in November 2020 — Jukes 1 (white) and Jukes 6 (red). Both are intended to be mixed with soda or water to a dilution of your liking. The white, Jukes 1, was quite a peachy wine for my taste. But Juke 6 has become a staple on my bar cart and at my dinner table.

The red wine mimic has a deep, slightly fruity, mostly spicy taste with a subtle earthiness that gives it that true wine feel. When mixed with soda water, it’s like having a lovely, slightly chilled red with just enough effervescence to perk the drink up and really make the flavors pop around your mouth.

Made from apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and a bunch of berries (11g sugar per bottle), this cordiality is certainly tasty enough to drink solo; But it’s formulated to be paired with food, and it does indeed play off the culinary flavors of wine-pairing favorites like steak and homemade meatballs.

The drink is a bit of an investment — one box will run you $48.50 plus $6.50 shipping — but you’re actually getting 9 small bottles (30ml) in a box. Since each is individually (and beautifully) packaged, you can truly just have one glass with dinner without feeling the pressure that comes with opening a bottle of traditional wine and needing to finish it. I also love that there are so many bottles in a box so you can gift a sober-curious friend one without sharing your whole supply.

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Curious Elixirs

Made with fresh juice, spices, and herbs to create a more complex and layered flavor profile, Curious Elixirs are one of the best bottled mocktails I tried, and taste as fresh as a just-made cocktail.

I tested a variety pack of four elixirs, No. 1 through No. 4. Each was highly unique but very well balanced. As a gin fan, I loved the juniper cucumber flavor (billed as a French 75 meets a Cucumber Collins), which tastes just like a summery gin cocktail without the booze. The blood orange ginseng was also delicious, like a more complex Emergen-C (which, yes, is a compliment).

All four flavors felt very intentional, and someone clearly put a lot of time into crafting each one. They’re all exciting enough that I’d go so far as to just pour one of these over ice in a cocktail glass to enjoy. Meanwhile, the recipes are primed to have two ounces of liquor added to them for a delicious cocktail if home bartending isn’t your thing. 

Aside from tasting great, the bottles are quite cute with minimalist branding and the flavor notes printed on the paper seal over the cap for quick reference. Each bottle has no added sugar and is infused with adaptogens and herbs aimed at helping with stress (although, in my opinion, these have enough going for them that this selling point feels more like an afterthought).

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Athletic Brewing Co. Run Wild

Non-alcoholic beers are another staple for anyone sober-curious looking for helpful tricks to stay booze-free at a party without feeling like they’re missing out. 

I was first introduced to this beer by a friend of mine who was pregnant and runs a cocktail bar, as she had tasted more than a dozen NA beers and deemed ABC’s Run Wild the best. She’s not the only one who thinks so: Run Wild also won the 2020 World Beer Award gold medal and USA’s Best Non-Alcoholic Beer in the World Beer Awards.

Any IPA fan will approve of this brew’s taste, too, which is a blend of five kinds of hops and delivers a balance of bitterness and maltiness. At just 70 calories and less than .5% ABV, it’s a great sub for the real thing when you’re watching the game or at a virtual gathering.

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Rasāsvāda

These zero-proof spirits are uniquely crafted with tea, herbs, and adaptogens based on the intersection of eastern medicine and mixology. With no preservatives, sugars, extracts, or artificial ingredients, the nutrition label is quite clean.

But it’s also unique: The Rasāsvāda elixirs are made with items not often found in a cocktail, like artichoke leaf, Pu’er tea, maqui berry, ginseng, bergamot, burdock root, and rishi mushroom. They’re also intended to act like a digestive aid, libido boost, or even as a hangover helper (although I never felt any different after drinking any of these).

I really enjoyed the complex and unique flavor profile of each Rasāsvāda blend. The brand’s website offers 18 cocktail recipes and while some call for niche home bar ingredients like fermented Korean plum sauce or wormwood tinctures, others call for something as simple as sparkling water or a lemon twist. I found these spirits to be complex enough on their own that they made for an interesting cocktail without a lot of effort or added ingredients.

The brand offers these drinks in three flavors: A tangy, floral, and citrusy option called Ruby Artemisia; a classic Italian bitter called Rose Bergamont; and Black Ginger, an earthy and biting flavor that was my personal favorite for its complexity.

The downside to this brand is that the bottles are quite pricey, coming in at $108 for 12.6 oz of all three flavors or $67 for a 750ml.

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Topo Chico

It’s easy to write off Topo Chicos as over-priced sparkling water, particularly since it’s the uber-cool thing to order at a bar or restaurant if you’re sober-curious or on a detox. But its unique carbonation and earthy balance of flavor (which is drawn from a limestone spring) are much more akin to a cocktail than other sparkling waters which often feel like healthy soda. For this reason, I think it makes one of the best sober substitutes. 

I personally pour it over ice in a fancy glass (specifically, these, which add to the celebratory nature of a drink) and add lemon and cardamom bitters. But it also makes for the ideal sugar-free mixer for anything listed here. I also love that if you don’t use a whole bottle, it stays carbonated for a few days.

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Monday Gin

Monday Gin is one of, if not the, best non-alcoholic gins on the market. For starters, it smells the most like gin when you open the bottle (which is also why I wouldn’t recommend it for recovering alcoholics as this might be triggering). It has the kick and crisp of a classic London Dry but the personality of a New American-style with strong spices and botanicals. 

Mixed with tonic, I certainly wouldn’t mistake it for a real G+T and I don’t think it quite fills that craving if you’re sober-curious and missing your favorite happy hour cocktail. But the flavor is well-balanced enough that even with just tonic, or soda water and lemon, this is an enjoyable drink on its own — and I love that you don’t need bartender skills to make a nice beverage with it. There’s also no sugar in the formula, which is a nice added touch. 

Monday Gin’s beautiful art deco branding makes this bottle a worthy addition to any bar cart, too. However, as is the case with most gorgeous bottles and classy formulas, you’ll pay slightly more for the aesthetic, as a 750ml bottle runs roughly $40.

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Ritual Zero-Proof Gin

If you’re looking for a low-cost way to foray into the zero-alcohol spirits market, Ritual’s gin alternative makes for a stiff mocktail. With a lean to the juniper, piney side, Ritual’s elixir is bright, crisp, and citrusy. Personally, I like my spirits a little more complex, so I preferred Ritual’s gin mixed with a few more flavors. Other taste testers in my cohort, however, named this as their favorite gin and tonic replacement, so there’s a lot to say here about personal palate.

Ritual’s gin has no added sugar, which is a definite plus but you may find the need to add some sweetness to any cocktail you make via muddle fruit or simple syrup. The formula does include xanthan gum in a low dose, which may fuss with anyone who has a sensitive stomach.

The packaging is sleek and clean and at just $27 a bottle, it’s well worth the try.

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SipClean

If you’re yearning for a girly sip sans alcohol, SipClean is a tasty alcohol-free rosé. It’s actually made similar to the boozy version: The winemaker (a woman, which we love) pulls Californian grapes, puts the wine through the traditional fermentation process, and then uses technology to remove the alcohol from the close-to-final product. That’s why the final product tastes remarkably like rosé. 

I will say, SipClean is certainly not The Best rosé I’ve ever had; it leans a bit on the sweet side my taste. But it is certainly not too sweet to drink, and overall comes across quite balanced and cheery. What’s more, considering many of us reach for a rosé mostly for an occasion — a warm afternoon, a porch-side catch-up with a friend, or for a girls’ night — and SipClean offers an N/A substitute for such events. I cracked my taste-test can of SipClean on a sober Monday as I was settling in to watch “The Bachelor,” and it delivered the air of imbibement I was craving while still being able to stay alcohol-free.

SipClean only has 30 calories and 5 grams of sugar per 12 oz can, which would technically be two glasses of wine. The brand also makes a CBD-infused version, SipCozy, which is equally tasty and celebratory. 

I love that SipClean comes in a can, too, so you can take it on picnics or to the beach when you want to celebrate the day without any impairment. 

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Seedlip Grove 42

Seedlip is a great staple for any sober bar cart, and one of the most popular mocktail ingredients in restaurants, because the spirits offer the botanical notes you’d otherwise get from booze.

It’s able to do this since it’s made much like gin, by combining herbs and other botanicals and distilling them using alcohol. With Seedlip, however, the alcohol is removed before bottling.

Though the company offers three favors, Grove 42 is the one worth mentioning (I’ve included notes on its Spice 94 and Garden 108 in the section on what else we tried). Grove 42 is a blend of citrus, lemongrass, and ginger which does well to deliver an overall summer vibe. Because these flavors are so bright to start, it’s easy to turn this spirit into a craft cocktail by just adding ginger ale or tonic water. The formula is also entirely sugar-free.

In addition to having really beautiful and unique naturalist branding, I also liked that Seedlip is committed to sustainable packaging and net zero emissions by 2022.

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Proteau Ludlow Red

Proteau’s Ludlow Red is a viscous, deep ruby elixir that gives off the impression of a perfectly decanted Cab or Malbec. But it’s not really a wine replacement: The formula was specifically crafted by the founder, a mixologist and hospitality expert, to be an accompaniment to food. These features, along with the sophisticated bottle shape and beautiful label, all make the Ludlow Red ideal to sit on the table of any dinner party.

When it comes to taste, the Ludlow Red falls more into a complex, botanical juice, which makes sense considering its top ingredients are blackberry juice and fig vinegar. Though the flavor is lovely, it’s certainly not wine. This is certainly a bummer for oenophiles trying to cut back on their alcohol intake, but a real boon for anyone actually sober who’s looking for a cultured refreshment to enjoy alongside a meal.

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Kin Euphorics Dream Light

Kin Euphorics is the social media darling of zero-alcohol drinks intended to alter your mind in other ways — that is, it’s enhanced with nootropics and adaptogens, which are herbs intended to alter your cognitive function and body chemistry. Because of this, Kin Euphorics is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding.

The brand has two offerings: Dream Light and High Rhode (the latter of which you can find in the section on what else we tried). Dream Light is intended to help you relax and better fall asleep — truly a nightcap.

The drink is intended to be mixed with oat milk, either cold or hot. I made myself a cup with warm almond milk and it tasted similar to a warm chai, albeit a bit smokier thanks to notes of clove, ginger, cinnamon, and chili.

Personally, I didn’t find that the drink made me feel any more relaxed or sleepy but I did quite enjoy the warm milk-before-bed feeling of the drink, particularly since it has no added sugar (unlike a real chai).

At $40, the Dream Light is a bit steep, especially since you can’t really use it for an array of cocktails or occasions. If you live for a bedtime routine, particularly with a focus on better self-care habits, this drink would be a nice companion to nightly journaling or any kind of unwinding process.

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Ghia

I got many a targeted ad for Ghia and was seriously drawn in by the witchy-retro 70s branding. This spirits-free aperitif is made with a base of Riesling grape juice (though it’s not sweet whatsoever) and enhanced with ingredients like gentian root, yuzu juice, lemon balm, fig, elderflower, and orange peel — all with no added sugar.

The drink definitely has bright and herbal accents to it, but there’s one huge caveat for me: Once I tried it, I didn’t like the taste at all.

Over ice, I found it incredibly astringent and undrinkable. I made five different brand-suggested mocktails and found that the formula needs acid or tartness, as well as sugar, to balance it. Mixed with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, it was a nice drink but the recipes with just fruit juice or ginger beer didn’t balance (read: mask) the bitterness of the Ghia itself.

That said, this bottle has won other taste-test awards, including Esquire’s Drink of the Year and Imbibe’s Drink of the Week, and has sold out twice since its launch in the summer of 2020. So, while it’s not for me, it is for some people — perhaps those with more advanced or intuitive bartending abilities — and therefore worth including.

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What we’re excited about

Three Spirits

This UK-based “functional spirit” brand is another leading addition to the adaptogen, non-alcoholic spirits category. Three Spirits offers three flavors: Livener, which is fortified with euphoric and energizing plants and has a bright, sweet, citrusy flavor; Social Elixir, which is made with green tea, yerba mate, and lion’s mane mushroom for a steady social buzz and bittersweet, earthy taste; and Nightcap, intended to be a nightcap delicious enough to drink over ice and enhanced with relaxing valerian root and lemon balm.

Although each formula flirts with the upper-end of our healthy sugar content, they are delicious enough to be drunk on the rocks or with tonic, so you don’t need to mix any more sugar into them. I particularly enjoyed its witchy branding, too.

Three Spirits just launched in the U.S. in November 2020 and is currently available at a limited number of in-person bars and stores, as well as online for nationwide shipping on one site, No & Low. Once it’s more widely available in the U.S., I look forward to including it in the main list. 

What else we tested

What we recommend

Lyre Italian Orange ($36): This bitter orange aperitif is made to be an alcohol-free Campari. It is quite good and if you’re missing Negronis in your sober life, it may be worth the money. If you’re so inclined, it makes for a nice sober mixer beyond the classic cocktails but anyone other than Campari-obsessed teetotalers can find plenty of cheaper and more accessible mixers to make a bitter orange sober cocktail with.

Lyre Aperitif Rosso ($36): This alcohol-free vermouth captures key flavors like blood orange and vanilla but much like the Italian Orange, it only speaks to such a niche corner of the marketplace — and I can’t justify recommending its $36 price tag to everyone.

What we don’t recommend

Kin Euphorics High Rhode ($39): Fortified with adaptogens and nootropics, this daytime elixir has notes of hibiscus and licorice. I liked the unique flavor, but the bottle and website provided no instructions for how to turn it into a tasty drink. Unless you have balancing and bartending knowledge, I don’t find this bottle to be worth the $40 price tag.

Kin Spritz ($4.50/can): I really wanted to love these cute cans for their Instagrammable packaging, but the elixir inside was so astringent, which isn’t surprising considering its three main ingredients are extracts of orange peel, licorice root, and bitter orange. Neither I nor the other tasters even wanted to finish the can.

Proteau Rivington Spritz ($19.50): While I found the brand’s Ludlow Red to be quite complex and lovely, the Rivington Spritz missed the mark for me and my fellow tasters. If you’re a fan of pickled foods and ACV shots, you might like it, but I found the three main ingredients — water, champagne vinegar, and strawberry juice concentrate — created far too tart and vinegary of a flavor without any real kick, somewhat akin to watered-down kombucha.

Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey ($29): Although we liked other spirits from Ritual, its whiskey-mimic tasted heavy on the smokey without any of that bourbon bite. Similar to all zero-alcohol whiskey I tried, it was too much like a wannabe — when used in classic cocktails, it just made me want a real Old Fashioned instead of this slightly-off sober sibling. To me, it’s not worth buying.

Lyre Dry London Gin ($36): This non-alcoholic take on the classic Dry London gin is pretty agreeable, with light juniper, citrus, and earthy notes. I didn’t have any particular strikes against this spirit but the flavor doesn’t pack a hard punch, especially compared to other gin mimics on the market. I personally don’t find it to be worth the money compared to other options in this round-up.

Lyre American Malt ($36): Lyre’s non-alcoholic bourbon has bourbon’s signature vanilla and toasted nut notes but, as with all the alcohol-free whiskeys we tasted, without that zing of a real whiskey, the drinks were lackluster and tasted a bit watery. I liked it more than Ritual’s whiskey but in my opinion, this is still not worth shelling out $36 for.

Seedlip Spice 94 and Garden 108 ($32): While I appreciate the effort and care put into both of these formulas, I found Seedlip’s Spice and Garden flavors to be too one-dimensional to easily make a tasty cocktail. If you have serious home bartending skills, you can certainly craft a delicious drink with either of these. However, unless you really understand how to layer flavors and balance what’s in this bottle, save your $32.

When does drinking become unhealthy?

Even though you’ve likely heard that some drinking is actually good for your health, most doctors argue alcohol, as a toxin, is never really healthy — many of the benefits of moderate drinking are tied more to lifestyle than the alcohol itself. Dr. Malkin added that as long as you’re staying within two drinks per sitting as a female or three as a male some days of the week, and don’t feel dependent on alcohol to fix your feelings, you’re not doing noteworthy damage to your body.

But that limit is truly the catch: It’s rare for most people (myself included) to have just one or two glasses of wine or beers a night.

“The levels at which drinking alcohol is considered unhealthy are more than four drinks per sitting for men and more than three drinks per sitting for women,” Dr. Malkin added.

Upwards of this limit and your sleep patterns are likely to be disrupted (which cascades into a slew of issues). You’ll also feel more irritable, your digestive system may go totally out of whack, and your focus and attention can veer off. There’s even the potential of harming internal organs like your heart and liver, Dr. Malkin said.

For me, personally, I hit a point where I was just tired of feeling tired. Those mild morning hangovers were giving me another excuse to skip my living room workouts. On top of that, my digestion was messed up from exceeding healthy drinking levels basically every single night.

What to look for in a “healthy” mixer or cocktail

This list is comprised of a few separate categories: Non-alcoholic spirits that mimic favorites like gin, whiskey, vodka, and rum (spoiler: almost all are disappointing); pre-bottled zero-alcohol craft cocktails; aperitifs and digestifs that can be drunk over ice or used as a mixer in a mocktail (or cocktail); and beverages with adaptogens or botanicals that enhance your headspace in an alternative, natural way via plants and herbs. 

It’s worth noting that any non-alcoholic spirit may be triggering for recovering alcoholics, and drinks made with adaptogens or nootropics may not be safe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding (and it’s smart to consult with a doctor before consuming).

Additionally, if you’re cutting back on booze to help your health, the nutritional profile of a drink has to be considered — the same goes for if you’re breaking up with alcohol altogether. Ingredient lists of some mixers are full of artificial and hard-to-pronounce chemicals.

Cardwell says that in addition to a short ingredient list, you want to make sure your added sugars are low. She recommends (alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that no more than 10% of your daily calories come from added sugars. This means no more than 50 grams of sugar for a 2,000 calorie diet. Meanwhile, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp (25 grams) for women and 9 tsp (36 grams) for men per day.

I intentionally looked for formulas that had less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving since you may want to mix them with sugary tonic water (or have a second drink), and also because these drinks likely won’t be the only foods in your day with added sugar. I’ve made sure to note which picks had more sugar, as well as those that would likely have more when other mixers are added. 

How we tested

In my quest to find tasty non-alcoholic drinks actually worth buying, I enlisted the help of a few friends with different palates to taste-test over 34 products. Though I found many of the products lacking and not worth the money (especially the non-alcoholic spirits), there were some pleasant surprises in the mix. 

In all cases, I drank the mixers and mocktails how the brand advises, either over ice or following their own brand-endorsed mocktail recipes. 

I considered how good a product tasted, how easy it was to make it taste good, the price, and the nutrition as you would drink the spirit. For instance, if it needed to be mixed with half a cup of simple syrup to taste good, it was out.

The other factor I considered was overall branding because let’s be real: Your bronze-and-glass art deco bar cart in the corner is a look and you’re more inclined to splurge on a bottle that looks good next to your decanter compared to one with an ugly label you have to hide in the back. 

It’s worth saying that palate is entirely personal. I love a big, bold red wine, prefer rye whiskey over bourbon, and adore a botanical gin. To better adjust for my palate, I had friends who prefer different types of drinks, as well as someone who doesn’t like the taste of booze at all, taste-test the contenders for a more well-rounded final opinion.

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