Non-alcoholic gin alternatives

Alcohol-free Gin

By Sina / Last updated on March 31, 2022 
Alcohol-free Gin is becoming more and more popular, driven by the Brits having launched their Dry January campaign in 2014. Due to its extensive flavor range, Gin is one of the easier high-ABV products to imitate and among the first non-alcoholic spirits on the market.

Gin is one of the most-hyped spirits of the past decade. You can find thousands of different brands produced all over the globe. It seems that each region has its own Gin, and sometimes also more than one. And a few years ago, a new Gin category joined the mix: namely, the alcohol-free one.

While some happily embraced this new concept, others were -and still are- more skeptical. You could ask yourself, what's the point of an alcohol-free spirit? Why not simply stick to a soft drink or water instead?

Those are valid questions and alcohol-free Gin, like other alcohol-free spirits, certainly isn't for everyone. But demand and the growing number of producers show there is a market for it, and it has a right to be here.

What is alcohol-free Gin?

As Gin, per definition, does contain alcohol, his non-alcoholic cousin technically cannot be Gin. It is a beverage that imitates the characteristic of Gin, meaning it tries to look, smell and taste as close to Gin as possible.

And Gin is a distilled alcoholic drink with a grain base and a predominant flavor of juniper berries. Sometimes the grain base gets replaced by grapes, but juniper is an imperative key ingredient, which also is directed by law, along with the minimum ABV of 40% (80 proof) in the US. In the EU, the required ABV is a little lower, at 37.5% ABV.

Gin comes in many different flavors - from herbs, botanicals, spices to fruits like pineapple, citrus, or cocos. The possibilities are endless. And clearly, this great variety of flavors is a primary reason why Gin is such a popular spirit to imitate and turn into a non-alcoholic version.

How is non-alcoholic Gin made? 

Gin is known to be a spirit that is relatively easy to produce. That also explains why there are so many Gins on the market.

To produce Gin, you take a neutral base alcohol, usually made from agricultural products like potato, grain, or molasses, and infuse it with botanicals. Once the aromas are fully absorbed, the infused alcohol gets distilled and bottled.

To mimic a spirit with such a straightforward production process is the obvious choice. So it's hardly surprising that the first alcohol-free spirit was, indeed, a Gin.

For making alcohol-free Gin, manufacturers have to replace the base alcohol. And this substitute is nothing other than water. Just like with the alcoholic version, the water is infused with botanicals and then distilled. And some producers also add aromas to the distillate to intensify the flavors.

That is more or less the whole magic behind non-alcoholic Gin. To make up for the missing taste and bite of alcohol, the botanicals and herbs used are different from those in regular Gin. But, of course, the exact recipes and composition of ingredients of the known brands are well-kept secrets.

Different types of non-alcoholic Gin 

There is more than one way to acquire alcohol-free Gin. One is to take a regular Gin and remove the alcohol. That is done by separating a spirit into its components (rectification), then reassembling them again without the alcohol. This variant will always leave some alcohol residue within the end product. But as long as the amount is below 0.5% ABV, a beverage can be labeled alcohol-free.

Another one is to distill a Gin as usual but drastically increase the concentration of aromas from the herbs and spices. Later, you water the Gin down until it has next to no ABV.

The alternative, which is a lot more common now, is to distill water with botanicals and get a 100% zero-proof substitute for Gin. Below, I will explain how you can do this at home.

How does alcohol-free Gin taste? And can I drink it neat?

Like other products that imitate spirits, alcohol-free Gin is not meant to be drunk neat. Not too surprising, considering that even real Gin generally isn't a typical spirit that one would drink neat.

Non-alcoholic Gin carries the aromas of Gin, but it lacks texture and the bite characteristic for any alcoholic beverage. However, the substitute is pleasant in a Gin and Tonic or mocktails. So, as long as you don't expect something that 100% matches the taste of a Gin, and are okay to settle on very similar, you can give this type of alcohol-free spirit a try.

Is alcohol-free Gin worth it? 

The alcohol-free Gin substitutes are a good choice for highballs or mocktails. But also here, this is probably limited to special occasions. With prices similar to or above those of Gin, the booze-free alternatives are not exactly an unbeatable offer. So, at least at the moment, it seems to mainly be a convenient way to offer a non-drinker a grown-up drinking option and make them feel part of the party.

Plus, alcohol-free Gin is low in calories -A lot lower than juice-based alcohol-free cocktails or their alcohol-containing counterparts. So that helps with sticking to mocktails during Dry January, as well as with the unavoidable After-Christmas Weight Loss resolutions.

Can I make alcohol-free Gin at home? 

Unlike alcohol-free Whiskey imitations, you can indeed make your own version of alcohol-free Gin at home. Maybe you came across the word hydrolat, also called hydrosol, before. That basically is a sort of solution with water as a solvent. 

To produce this hydrolat, you need a big pot with a lid and a metal steamer, a small vessel to collect the hydrolat, a 20oz bottle, a funnel, and ice. And, of course, you need spices and botanicals. The options here are limitless. If you want to achieve a product similar to a well-balanced, classic Gin, you can go with a mix of (measurements per liter of water)

  • 1oz juniper berries 
  • 6 green, opened cardamom pods
  • 6 tsp mixed flowers (lavender, orange, thyme, etc.)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • a thin cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp grated lemon peel
  • 1 tsp grated organic orange
  • wedges of 1/2 fresh bergamot

Fill the pot with 1l of water. Make sure the steamer will sit high enough, so it won't get flooded. Now add all your botanicals and give it a good stir. Put the steamer insert in place and position the bowl for collecting your hydrolat centered on top.

Now cover the pot with the lid, but put it upside down. That way, it functions as a plate for the ice that has to go on top.

Then use medium heat to bring everything to a boil. You will soon see vapor rising from the flavored water that condenses on the cold lid and drips down into the bowl below. Voila, that's your alcohol-free Gin.

Distill the water in the pot that way until only about 0.5inch of water remains in the pot. And every time the ice is fully melted, replace it with new ice. Fill your hydrolat in your bottle, close it tightly and let it cool before tasting it with a tonic of your choice.

Brands to try 

Seedlip was the first producer of non-alcoholic spirits, and their iconic and playful bottles featuring either a rabbit, a squirrel, or a fox flooded social media back in 2014 and 2015. So it seems almost impossible to write about non-alcoholic Gin without mentioning them. But since then, many others have joined the game, so here are three other Gin alternatives worth a try.

1 - Laori

Laori alcohol-free gin alternative

Laori is a non-alcoholic Gin alternative from the heart of Berlin. They developed a new method to distill alcohol-free Gin following the example of French perfume distillation. That helps to imitate the fragrance of Gin and adds to the experience. Laori Juniper No 1 carries the aromas of seven botanicals: juniper, cardamom, coriander, angelica root, bergamot, rosemary, and lavender.

2 - Siegfried Wonderleaf

Siegfried Wonderleaf alcohol-free gin

This Gin was born out of a joke posted on social media. Siegfried Gin posted a non-alcoholic version of their popular spirit on Fools Day 2016 on Instagram. But apart from the expected laugh, they got a lot of positive feedback, which left them wondering if it was an actual option. And in 2017, Siegfried Wonderleaf resulted from all this wondering and thinking.

3 - Sea Arch

Sea Arch non-alcoholic

Sea Arch zero-alcohol Gin goes back to the stunning Devon coastline in South England. They use traditional distillation techniques and remove the alcohol in an additional step. So keep in mind, it might not be 100% zero-proof, although pretty close. The flavor profile of Sea Arch is refreshing and crisp with a subtle sweetness coming from botanicals like sugar kelp, samphire, juniper, blood orange, cardamon coriander, grapefruit, lemon, and sage. Also, Sea Arch packaging is completely plastic-free.

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