The Best Nonalcoholic Drinks To Sip This Summer, From A Sober-Curious Editor
The best alcohol alternatives
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you stopped drinking alcohol? The booming "sober-curious" movement has inspired many people, myself included, to take a more mindful approach to drinking (and to explore that very question).
Earlier this summer, as I ramped up marathon training, I began to notice the toll even just one or two drinks would have on my training sessions the next morning (not to mention my sleep scores). Stressed by the thought of strategically planning long runs around nights out with friends, I decided to take the summer off from drinking altogether.
Whether you're also taking a timed break, trying to limit your alcohol intake, or going completely cold turkey, there are more alcohol alternatives to choose from than ever before.
In other words: We sober-curious (or fully sober) folks are no longer limited to sugary mocktails, sodas, or water—and abstaining from alcohol doesn't need to mean abstaining from a social life or delicious beverage. Here, the best alcohol alternatives.
How alcohol was hindering my health
I'm a firm believer in moderation and I've always been mindful of how things like alcohol impact my health, so I've never been a huge drinker. Still I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine, cocktail, or beer. Depending on what my social schedule looked like, I'd probably drink 0 to 4 alcoholic beverages per week, on average.
Even before planning this break from drinking, I was (sometimes painfully) aware of the fact that I never felt my best the morning after alcohol. My sleep was never restful, and I'd wake up with a heavy head, tired body, and extra puffiness and redness in my face.
Once I started tracking my sleep and health metrics with an Oura ring (about nine months ago), I had the data to show it. My heart rate would spike even after one alcoholic drink, my sleep scores would dip, and my body temperature would go up—and I'd sometimes see the impact last for multiple days.
Research also backs these unfortunate side effects of drinking. Alcohol has been shown to negatively impact your body's natural production of melatonin1 and can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar, which may cause you to wake up earlier even after a long night.
As someone who's constantly testing beauty and skin care products, I couldn't ignore the unfortunate effects alcohol has on the skin either. Not only is it incredibly dehydrating, but drinking can cause water retention throughout the body and exacerbate certain skin conditions, such as rosacea (as I've seen firsthand).
The most glaring hindrance, though, was on my physical performance. On the mornings after drinking, my body felt weaker and my muscles were more fatigued. Of course, the mental effects of alcohol likely also played a role in my not wanting to get out for a run those mornings.
While, yes, I do cut down my social schedule when training for a marathon, I don't want to miss every happy hour or event. I also don't want to be confined to only water. So I set out on a mission to find other drinks to sip on through my sober stint—ones that wouldn't impact my ability to log high-quality sleep and get out for my daily training runs.
The best alcohol alternatives
- Traditional cocktail flavors
- Lightly sweetened with agave
- Contains adaptogens
- Contains caffeine
Craving a cocktail but don't want the buzz or the hangover? These zero-proof mocktails come in four traditional flavors: margarita, paloma, mojito, and mule. My boyfriend and I fight over the mojito, but I'm also a huge fan of the paloma.
Sugar is typically a huge contributor to my hangovers, so I love that these are only lightly sweetened with agave and have just 4 grams of sugar per serving.
My dad and I have a longstanding tradition of homemade Negronis—and it’s one I don’t plan on giving up for good. Ghia is an excellent stand-in, and one that I’ll absolutely keep in my rotation long term.
The brand makes a signature nonalcoholic bitter apertivo, along with these single-serve sprites in four flavors: soda, ginger, lime and salt, and sumac and chili. Each one is light and tasty, with zero added sugar.
- A ton of delicious flavors
- Contains apple cider vinegar
- Contains cane sugar
I've been sipping Poppi for years, so it's no surprise I'm upping my intake while I cut out alcohol. I love the slim ingredient list and the fact that these contain apple cider vinegar for an added boost of support to the gut.
My one qualm with Poppi drinks: They do contain cane sugar. However, at just 4 grams per serving, these drinks have a much lower sugar content than traditional sodas (or cocktails, for that matter).
- Strong fruity flavor
- Great to mix with other beverages
- Sweetened with agave & fruit
- High sugar content in some
Blake Lively created these light, refreshing sodas as an alcohol alternative with real, better-for-you ingredients. They’re available in grapefruit, Meyer lemon, or lime, with real fruit juice in every flavor.
If you’re looking for a low sugar option, go for the Meyer lemon flavor, which is made from just lemon juice, water, and sea salt. While the other flavors are sweetened only with natural agave, the sugar content is fairly high (especially in the grapefruit).
- Nostalgic soda flavors
- Sweetened with real fruit juice
- Contains stevia
Olipop's healthier sodas will take you right back to childhood without the inevitable sugar crash. Choose from nostalgic flavors such as vintage cola, classic root beer, cherry vanilla, banana cream, and (my personal favorite) ginger lemon.
Each can contains just two to five grams of sugar with real fruit juice in every flavor. They even make a great mixer, if you're just limiting your alcohol intake and are looking for a lower sugar cocktail.
- Tastes like real beer
- Minimal ingredient list
- Some find it a bit too hoppy
I discovered Athletic Brewing Company a few years back, and now I order it anytime it's on the menu. Even beer fanatics say this tastes like the real thing—and that's because it is. The IPA is crafted with Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops for a fresh hoppy taste without the hangover.
This is by far the best nonalcoholic beer I've tried, and I'd like to start a petition for every bar to put it on the menu. Until then, I'll be stocking my fridge.
- No added sugar
- Red, white, rose, or sparkling option
- Pairs well with food
- On the sweet side
These alcohol-free wine were crafted with specific food pairings in mind. Each bottle has high quality ingredients—such as whole spices, premium wine grapes, and teas—with no added sugar and a cohesive, complex flavor that even wine snobs will love.
Even though I know there's no alcohol in the wine, I enjoy it so much I sometimes expect to wake up with that familiar foggy feeling (spoiler: I don't). My boyfriend and I have a standing pizza night every Friday, and the red blend pairs so well.
- Minimal ingredient list
- Sweetened only with fruit
- Not the strongest flavor
Confession: I'm addicted to Spindrift. Even when I'm not looking for alcohol alternatives, my fridge is stocked with the pineapple Spindrift flavor. It's actually another great healthy mixer for a simple summer cocktail—but these days, I'm typically sipping Spindrift straight.
One look at the clean ingredient list, and you'll assume these are lacking flavor. But I actually find the subtle fruit hint to hit the spot just right. If you're seeking a stronger taste, I'd opt for the pineapple, mango orange, or peach strawberry. Alternatively, lemon and lime are two of the more subtle flavors.
- Only 1 gram of sugar per serving
- Tastes like "real" rosé
- Some say it's too bitter
If your summer isn't summer without rosé, this is the drink you should be trying. Unlike other nonalcoholic wines, this one actually isn't sweet at all.
Each can contains one gram of sugar, and it's sweetened only with fruit. Pour these into a wine glass, and you'll truly feel like you're sipping on the "real" thing.
How to drink more mindfully
Alcohol doesn't need to come with an all-or-nothing mindset. I fully plan to enjoy a post-marathon beer or two—and even a 101-year-old longevity-focused neurologist enjoys his weekly martini.
My goal? To come back from this alcohol-free summer with a more conscious approach. That could mean choosing healthier alcoholic drinks, such as vodka, gin, mezcal, or red wine; drinking less; pairing alcohol with a meal; or alternating alcohol with water (a method I swear by during longer events like weddings, tailgates, and holiday parties).
You don't have to wait until you've been drinking too much to think more consciously about alcohol. No matter your intention, opting for an alcohol-free beverage can help you feel healthier, sleep better, increase productivity, and even save money. I've noticed all of the above in the past four weeks sans alcohol.
The best part? There are swathes of delicious nonalcoholic drinks to choose from—many of which I'll continue drinking even when I do add alcohol back to the mix.
Whether you're looking for a zero-proof version of your favorite alcoholic beverage or simply something tasty to sip in its place, there's something on this list for you.