Conscious Consumption

Low- and no-abv drinks have gone mainstream.

As co-founder and director of operations for Focus on Health, Alex Jump creates no-alcohol cocktails like the River Fool (pictured) for events and training.
As co-founder and director of operations for Focus on Health, Alex Jump creates no-alcohol cocktails like the River Fool (pictured) for events and training. (Photo by Shawn Campbell)

Denver-based mixologist and beverage consultant Alex Jump was instrumental in building Death & Co.’s Denver location in 2018 as part of the opening bar team, and the first drink she contributed to the menu was actually a non-alcoholic one. It’s safe to say Jump was ahead of her time—in just the few years since then, no-abv drinks, along with low-abv ones, have skyrocketed in popularity. “While that was a huge catalyst to finding my passion for the no- and low-abv category, the whole sector began to take off as consumers started to put more value toward health, wellness, and quality ingredients, especially after the pandemic,” says Jump, who is now the co-founder and director of operations for Focus on Health, which provides low- and no-abv cocktail programming and training for the hospitality industry. 

Ashley Christensen, owner of Fox Liquor Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina, no longer drinks alcohol, so the emergence of high quality non-alcoholic “spirits” has been exciting for her. “It gives me something great to have in my hand on all occasions where I previously would have alcohol. I also love that in the hospitality business, it’s an opportunity to extend beverage offerings to a whole audience of folks previously overlooked in the creative process of menu development,” she says. “Ideally, everyone at the table feels considered and ultimately satisfied by the experience you offer at your venue.”

Indeed, providing drinks for guests who don’t drink or don’t enjoy spirits-heavy cocktails is ultimately just good hospitality. “Every person has a place in a bar and restaurant—whether you drink often, once a month, or never at all, there should always be options for all types of guests,” Jump says. “Our industry has learned the value of creating experiences for every type of guest, and guests have appreciated the variety of options that make them feel welcome, no matter how they show up that day.”

At Fox Liquor Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina, owner Ashley Christensen notes that no-abv drinks like the Tart-y For The Party (pictured) extend beverage offerings to a whole new audience.
At Fox Liquor Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina, owner Ashley Christensen notes that no-abv drinks like the Tart-y For The Party (pictured) extend beverage offerings to a whole new audience. (Photo by Kurt Meyer)

Natural Evolution

Josh Harris, founder of Bon Vivants Hospitality and its San Francisco cocktail bar Trick Dog, attributes the current success of low-abv cocktails to the rise in popularity of Spritzes and bitter liqueurs. “The work the bar industry has done to introduce guests to bitter flavors and aperitivo culture has been awesome,” he says. “People recognize that these drinks have a lower proof than an Old Fashioned or Martini, for example, and it’s a great option for guests who choose not to drink this way all the time.” As for non-alcoholic drinks, Harris notes that they started to gain a lot of steam around 2020, along with wellness and balance trends, emotional well-being, and self-care. “These topics have really made a positive impact on the acceptance of and excitement about non-alcohol drinks,” he adds. Trick Dog’s latest themed cocktail menu is called Tantrick Dog and is yoga-inspired, which ties into current wellness trends. The menu includes several low-abv and no-abv options, including the Half Monkey ($14), comprising a blend of Montenegro, Dilei, St. Agrestis, and Averna amari, lime juice, and sugar, and the Puppy Pose ($16), which has been clarified with vanilla probiotic yogurt and features Seedlip Garden 108 and Wilderton Lustre non-alcoholic spirits, plus lemon juice and house-made wheatgrass syrup.

“The popularity of seltzer has skyrocketed in recent years, driving a trend toward Spritzes and bubbly non-alcohol and low-abv beverages,” notes Ricardo Garrido, director of food and beverage for the Santa Monica Proper Hotel in California. “Low-abv beverages have gained popularity particularly among those new to the world of cocktails, offering a gentler introduction to the flavors and complexities of mixed drinks.” At the hotel’s Palma bar and lounge, bar manager Vinny Pimienta’s Limonta Rossa ($22) is a low-abv Spritz blending Aperol aperitif, Villa Massa limoncello, lemon juice, house-made ginger syrup, and Gambino Prosecco.

Kira Collings, bar manager at Hearth and Hill in Park City, Utah, has seen heavier drinking declining among younger legal drinking age consumers, but she stresses that even people seeking non-alcoholic beverages want an enjoyable experience. “Everyone wants a cute drink to celebrate with, but people realize you don’t have to be intoxicated to have that experience,” she says. “Post-Covid, the trend has really taken off—so many of us understandably fell into unhealthy habits during such a time of uncertainty, so there has been a resurgence of focus on health and wellness, and I think that goes hand in hand with low- and no-abv cocktail popularity.” Her Black Diamond ($9) mixes Seedlip Spice 94, fresh lemon juice, house-made lavender syrup, and Fee Brothers elderflower water. “The time and attention given to low- and no-abv drinks has changed so much in recent years,” Collings adds. “For quite some time, these were throw-away items, typically chock-full of sugar and sweet juices—now, some of the most complex drinks on menus are low- or no-abv.”

Echoing this, Harris notes that non-alcoholic drinks have come a long way from mint lemonades, as bartenders are now offering more sophisticated combinations of ingredients. “And even the people who were creating more advanced no-alcohol cocktails a while back were still so limited by the extent of their culinary prowess and finding obscure and specialty ingredients,” he says. “Today, we’re so fortunate that the tool chest is full of spectacular non-alcoholic spirits and cocktail ingredients that help create fantastic results.”

Indeed, there’s been a major influx of craft non-alcoholic products hitting the U.S. market in recent years. “Non-alcoholic wine, beer, and spirits have flooded the market and really garnered solid footing in the industry,” says Kiahna Bacot, manager at Enswell in Philadelphia. “Coupled with this, several cocktail bars specializing in low- and no-abv cocktails have surfaced over the past few years and found an audience that has made them more than just a novelty.”

Fox Liquor Bar has several spirit-free cocktail options on its menu, including the Lyre To The Core ($12), comprising Lyre’s non-alcoholic Italian Spritz, house-made apple syrup, lemon juice, and soda water, and the Tart-y For The Party ($12), featuring Seedlip Garden 108, tart cherry juice, house-made cinnamon syrup, and lemon juice. Both drinks were created by former bar manager-turned-consultant Sarah McCabe.

“As consumers become more curious and educated about cocktails in general the desire for no- and low-abv alternatives is a natural evolution,” Focus on Health’s Jump says. “The category is becoming increasingly popular year after year as the cocktails themselves, and the bartenders who craft them, are constantly improving in quality.” Her low-abv Toward The Sea cocktail, which she frequently offers at pop-up events and at national cocktail conferences, features equal parts Lustau Manzanilla Sherry and Pentire Seaward non-alcoholic spirit, plus lemon juice, house-made Greek yogurt and August Uncommon Far Afield tea syrup, and seltzer water. 

Apertivo- and Spritz-style drinks, such as Child’s Pose from Trick Dog in San Francisco (pictured), are popular.
Apertivo- and Spritz-style drinks, such as Child’s Pose from Trick Dog in San Francisco (pictured), are popular.

Fun Challenge

This past November, Palma at the Santa Monica Proper Hotel launched its “Conscious Consumption” beverage program, highlighting a range of non-alcoholic cocktails featuring such brands as Seedlip, Lyre’s, Optimist Fresh, and French Bloom. “Crafting intricate and flavorful cocktails without alcohol presents a unique challenge, necessitating the exploration and utilization of diverse ingredients,” Garrido says. “The gratification lies in crafting drinks that guests can savor without the adverse effects of alcohol.” From the newly launched beverage program, his No-jito ($16) mixes Lyre’s Dark Cane, fresh mint, lime juice, house-made mint syrup, and Fever-Tree club soda, while the Café de España ($16)—which he created with Pimienta—blends Lyre’s Coffee Originale, espresso, simple syrup, Liquid Alchemist orgeat, and orange blossom water.

“It’s become a fun challenge for bartenders and brands to create thoughtful low- and no-abv cocktails and products that can substitute traditional offerings,” says Simon Sebbah, beverage director at Saint Theo’s in New York City. “The fact that we can create a cool and thoughtful low- and no-abv program for non-drinkers is what makes this exciting for us.” His Dirty Spritz ($20) falls into the low-abv category, featuring an ounce each of Body vodka and Lustau Papirusa Manzanilla Sherry, plus The Bitter Truth Olive bitters, Scrappy’s Lemon bitters, and Fever-Tree tonic water, while some of his no-abv offerings include the Jablonski Spritz ($15), comprising Martini Vibrante non-alcoholic red vermouth, French Bloom Le Blanc non-alcoholic sparkling wine, and Fever-Tree club soda, and the Delicato Americano ($15), blending Seedlip Spice 94, Martini Vibrante, and Fever-Tree club soda.

“Non-alcoholic drinks stretch your creativity because you’re forced to look beyond the traditional and explore different ingredients and techniques to achieve a sensation that’s unique to cocktails,” Enswell’s Bacot says. “There’s a fine line between a fully realized and mature non-alcoholic cocktail and a cup of juice. Those opting for low- or no-abv cocktails are looking for the balance and layering of flavors that you get when drinking traditional cocktails, so it’s important to remember that what differentiates cocktails from juice is the nuance of flavors and textures.” Bacot prefers creating a base in her non-alcoholic cocktails with herbs, teas, and house-made shrubs and syrups over non-alcoholic spirits brands. Her Kyoto Fog ($8) is a non-alcoholic play on the London Fog cocktail blending house-made Earl Grey tea syrup, tart cherry and lemon juices, and egg white, while her Lemon Tree ($8) mixes house-made bitter lemon and coriander shrub with soda water. Hearth and Hill’s Collings similarly looks to house-made shrubs and tea infusions for many of her no-abv drinks. Her Chai Blossom ($6) comprises house-made Tea Zaanti Coconut Chai tea syrup, fresh lemon juice, orange blossom water, and soda water.

Trick Dog’s Harris notes that in both the low-abv and no-abv categories, people are very excited about aperitivo-style and bitter-flavored cocktails. “Low-abv drinks have strong roots in aperitivo culture, but with no-abv drinks, the flavors you get in aperitivo cocktails are the least prevalent and last to enter the scene in terms of non-alcohol ingredients,” he says. “Martini Floreale is a favorite non-alcohol product of ours—it’s the most sophisticated aperitivo flavor that we’ve been able to get our hands on. The bitter flavors you get in aperitivos translate to me as the most adult and sophisticated especially when contrasted with a simple mint lemonade mocktail. People are excited about these flavors especially when used in Negroni-style no-alcohol drinks.” At Trick Dog, the no-abv cocktails are as complex as any full-proof cocktail on the menu: The Child’s Pose ($16) features Martini Floreale, Seedlip Grove 42, Wilderton Earthen botanical non-alcoholic spirit, ginseng tea, house-made chrysanthemum honey syrup, grapefruit and lemon juices, and Fee Brothers Fee Foam, topped with a drop of Ceybon Trick D mushroom elixir. Meanwhile, the Happy Baby ($16) comprises Lyre’s Coffee Originale, Dr. Zero Zero AmarNo, Three Spirits Social elixir, tonic water, house-made cascara syrup and nutritional yeast foam syrup, saline, and All The Bitter New Orleans non-alcoholic bitters.

Focus on Health’s Jump notes an appreciation for how much no- and low-abv cocktails challenge her creativity. “When you take alcohol out of a cocktail you lose some of the body and texture you would normally have so you have to find ingredients that keep that body of the drink intact,” she says. For her no-abv cocktail the River Fool, for instance, she clarifies the drink with buttermilk to refine its texture. The drink features Aplós Arise non-alcoholic spirit, Seedlip Garden 108, Roots Divino Bianco non-alcoholic vermouth, homemade grapefruit and fennel cordial, and August Uncommon Capri tea. “And for low-abv cocktails, you have to ensure the spirits you’re mixing with are truly low-abv, or you can certainly work with full-proof spirits, but then it’s about how you incorporate them—that’s what matters,” she says. To keep the abv low in her Marquee Moon, Jump uses a three-quarter ounce pour of both Svöl Swedish-Style aquavit and Timberline vodka, plus homemade buttermilk syrup, lemon juice, and just a teaspoon of Chareau aloe liqueur. 

“The world is your oyster with these drinks; you just have to rise to the challenge of balancing textures, water content, flavors, and how it sits on the palate—it never gets boring,” Jump adds. “This upswell of low- and no-abv presence in bars, restaurants, and liquor stores won’t slow down soon and I’m thrilled to be on this journey as the categories flourish.” 

No-abv Cocktail Recipes

Black Diamond

By Kira Collings

1½ ounces Seedlip Spice 94 non-alcoholic spirit;

¾ ounce fresh lemon juice;

½ ounce lavender syrup¹; 

3 dashes Fee Brothers Elderflower Water;

Lemon twist.


In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine Seedlip, juice, syrup, and elderflower water. Shake for 60 seconds, then strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

¹In a pot over medium heat, combine 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons dried lavender, and 2 teaspoons butterfly pea flower (optional—adds color but no flavor). Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain and keep covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Lyre To The Core

By Sarah McCabe
(Photo by Kurty Meyer)

1¾ ounces Lyre’s non-alcoholic Italian Spritz;

¾ ounce apple syrup²;

¾ ounce lemon juice;

Top soda water;

Lemon peel.


In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine Lyre’s, syrup, and juice. Shake and strain into an ice-filled double rocks glass. Top with soda and garnish with a lemon peel, expressing the peel over the drink first.

²In a small saucepan, combine 236 grams water, 220 grams brown sugar, 2 peeled and sliced apples, and 1 cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a chinois, using a spatula or spoon to gently push the cooked apples to continue getting the liquid.

Café de España

By Ricardo Garrido and Vinny Pimienta

2 ounces Lyre’s Coffee Originale;

1 ounce espresso;

½ ounce simple syrup;

¼ ounce Liquid Alchemist orgeat;

1 dash orange blossom water.


In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine Lyre’s, espresso, syrup, orgeat, and orange blossom water. Shake and strain into a coupe glass.