The Washington Post Includes Noughty in Top Alcohol-Free Drinks List

The Washington Post Includes Noughty in Top Alcohol-Free Drinks List

The Washington Post, one of America's pre-eminent newspapers, has featured Noughty in its latest article on alcohol-free options that are not just for Dry January!

Read the full article here:


M. Carrie Allan

JANUARY, 9 2021

When I started writing about drinks, the products geared toward consumers who wanted a cocktail without the booze were virtually nonexistent. Such drinks had to be ordered from creative bartenders or mixed at home with juices and tea and soda and spices and herbs.

Then about six years ago, Seedlip, which bills itself as the world’s first nonalcoholic distilled spirit, crashed onto the scene, providing an option for bars to expand sophisticated mixed-drink options for those not consuming alcohol.
Have it both ways for Dry January with these cocktails that shine with or without the booze.

Now it seems every week brings a new contender in the zero-proof spirit and cocktail world, some bottles promising booze-less stand-ins for gin, bourbon and tequila, others offering whole new frontiers of mysterious brews. Many of these offerings are cloaked in marketing verbiage that mixes the branding of health food (Natural! Organic! Vegan! Gluten-free! Farm-to-bottle!) with that of the booze industry (sexy relaxed party-time feelings!) in fascinating ways.

Some of these drinks are also coming closer to the ready-to-drink experience people like in wine and beer. As the author of the terrific “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason,” Julia Bainbridge has spent a lot of hours testing recipes for booze-free concoctions, but “for people who don’t want to roll up their sleeves and steep a bunch of citrus peels with tea and various spices to get a base ingredient that they then mix with something else, it’s great to have more products that you can really lean on,” she says.

And sometimes, even the mixology-inclined need a break. People ask for Bainbridge’s favorite way to drink particular nonalcoholic products, and “the beauty of these products is that I don’t really have to do anything to it and I still get the bitterness and complexity that I would otherwise have to cook my way toward,” she says.

No alcohol, no problem: How to make complex, balanced zero-proof cocktails
I’ve written before about my ambivalence about Dry January — namely, that sometimes the month may gloss over unhealthy drinking that picks back up in February — but I think bringing more nonalcoholic drinks to the market is an unambiguously good thing. With some caveats, it’s clear that drinking less alcohol is a wise approach for people’s mental and physical health, so I’m down with the proliferation of beverages that provide tasty booze-free options.
I just wish more of them were … you know … tasty.

A while back I cracked open a promising booze-less cocktail that sounded like it would be right up my alley only to find a beverage blasting into my nose and throat like a freight train, all heat and herbal roar and no sweetness whatsoever. It was undrinkable on its own; I ended up cooking it into a syrup to use in rum drinks. Other times I’ve hit the opposite end of the spectrum: bottles that seem to have left their promised flavors on the delivery truck, tasting like water left in a cabinet that, a decade back, might have held a few juniper berries.

Note, this problem is in no way unique to the booze-free category. “Like anything, you’ll have to taste through a bunch of bad bottles to get to the good ones,” says Bainbridge.

No one with sense will try a sip of some weird Frito-dill-pickle whiskey and conclude that all spirits are bad. But the booze-free subgroup is still relatively small, and I worry that a few (sometimes fairly pricey) disappointments could scare people away from the category. It’s a new variation on the dismay I used to experience back in the ’90s over bad vegetarian options. After all, human nature makes the calculus pretty simple: If you want more people to do things that are good for them (or good for the planet or animals or whatever), make doing that thing as pleasurable as possible.

A growing market of pickier plant-based eaters have helped weed out the oat-pea-mash-glue burgers, increasing our odds of buying something vegetarian and delicious. The alcohol-free cocktail world, by comparison, is still in its relative infancy, and consumer choices haven’t had as much time to thin the herd.

Forget Dry January. We need better nonalcoholic cocktails every month of the year.

Derek Brown, creator of the much-lauded Columbia Room in D.C. and author of “Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World,” has just finished writing his new book, “Mindful Mixology,” covering low- and no-alcohol drinks (it should be out in time for next Dry January). He suggests that skeptical explorers need some perspective as they taste into this new-ish category.

Humans were exploring putting juniper into wine for centuries before they figured out how to make gin, and “when gin first came out … it wasn’t good,” Brown says. “I think with a lot of these nonalcoholic spirits, some of them need time to develop the procedures to do it. They’re learning, and they’re just going to get better and better. And some of them are pretty good already.”

One challenge, I think, for booze-free producers is going to be deciding on what market of drinker they want to appeal to. People abstain from alcohol for all sorts of reasons — pregnancy, a desire for sobriety, a dislike of the taste, religion — but for the growing number of consumers who are opting out for health reasons, it’s unlikely that a nonalcoholic drink loaded with sugar will have much appeal. And yet, for me, some of the less successful nonalcoholic drinks have failed primarily because they don’t provide the contrapuntal sweetness that makes, say, a Negroni work.

The ones I’ve tended to like best thus far (and yes, there are some exceptions, as you’ll see in my list below) have tended to be the products that didn’t present themselves as a booze-free version of something that already exists. It’s tough to taste a bottle that slyly hints at being a rum without comparing it to the original. Which is not to say the original is inherently better, it’s just what set my expectations. With the drinks presenting themselves as their own thing, I’m more able to stop fretting about what’s missing and focus on what’s actually there.

Bottles I liked (some with caveats)

This is, by no means, a comprehensive list. Other bottles I’ve seen praise of include Kentucky 74 (billed as a nonalcoholic whiskey) and Sacré (a maple-syrup and herbal brew). I’m also looking forward to mixing with Lyre’s Dry Aperitif and playing with Noughty, a de-alcoholized bubbly chardonnay that I hear avoids the overly sweetened issue dogging many nonalcoholic wines.