Booze-Free Buzz

Non-alcoholic hooch has come a long way since Near Beer. Here, our taste-tested roundup of the best of the best

Upstreet Craft Brewing’s anytime ale

1Non-alcoholic beer is no longer a lager-or-bust proposition. Upstreet Craft Brewing’s Libra line of cold ones includes pilsners, stouts, hazy IPAs and their North Cape pale ale, which has all the flavour and texture of the genuine article, with refreshing tropical notes and a crisp, chain-drinkable (why not?) finish. $33 for 12 355-ml cans.

Fluère’s zero-proof rum

2 Fluère’s line of spirit-free spirits duplicates the distilling techniques used for regular-proof booze, producing zero-proof pink raspberry gins, smoky mezcals and their Spiced Cane Blend, a particularly enticing faux spiced rum made with sugar cane molasses. It’s full of complex coffee and cocoa flavours, and, combined with cola and lime, it makes a mean Cuba libre. $43 for a 700-ml bottle.

Kickass 89’s abstemious amaro

3 Toronto chef Luke Hayes and his mom, fellow chef Carrie Hayes, started tinkering with the idea of a booze-free amaro during the pandemic, landing on an elixir called KiCKASS89. Named for the number of botanicals in
their blend, it’s a berry-forward, gently spiced sipper full of antioxidants and other healthy-ish stuff: think reishi, ginger, ginseng and lemongrass. But perhaps most importantly, it’s great as an after-dinner drink. $40 for
a 473-ml bottle.

Gruvi’s dry (literally) prosecco

4 A mimosa-fuelled brunch doesn’t have to upend the rest of your day. That’s where Gruvi’s alcohol-free Dry Secco comes in handy. This prosecco stand-in, made from chardonnay grapes and carbonated spring water, adds fizz to spritzes and punches, for occasions that call for celebrating sensibly. And their compact size—each bottle contains two pours—means they’re ideal for wherever the good times may take you. $20 for four 275-ml bottles.

Wellington Brewry’s hopped-up water

5 This isn’t merely a jazzed-up seltzer: it’s Cascade sparkling hop water from Guelph’s Wellington Brewery. It gets its name from the addition of Cascade hops (you’ve tasted them if you’ve had just about any West Coast IPA in the past decade), and its citrus-y grapefruit notes help it go down like an extremely crushable adult beverage. $11 for six 355-ml cans.

Silver Swallows’ luxury kombucha

6 For teetotallers, Silver Swallow’s champagne-like kombucha is a herbaceous, ebullient alternative to full-proof bubbly. Each bottle is carefully made with rare white tea from Yunnan, China, then bottled like a champagne, complete with cork and cage. It’s got all the pizzazz and pomp of the real thing, with none of the hangover. $57 for three 750-ml bottles.

Spiritless’ booze-free G&T

7 Ready-to-drink cocktails are having a moment—what’s not to love about a party in a can?—but non-alcoholic options remain limited. Enter Spiritliss, a booze-free G&T that packs the flavour of the cinq-à-sept staple into a chill-and-serve can. It’s gently fizzy, packed with notes of hibiscus and ready for your next happy hour. $2.50 per 355-ml can.

Acid League’s on-the-wagon wine

8 Ontario-based Acid League is evangelical about all things acidic, from a line of living vinegars to their non-alcoholic Proxies, which are meant to be sipped and savoured like wine, even if they’re not a direct replacement for a pinot or a riesling. The makers are always tinkering with seasonal ingredients, but one of their mainstays is Zephyr, our favourite. It’s a funky, floral rosé for all-season drinking, made with sauvignon blanc grapes, peppercorns, white tea, hibiscus, rhubarb and lemon verbena. It’s best consumed from your favourite stemware. $99 for four 750-ml bottles.

Töst’s sober sparkler

9 Available in two easy-drinking flavours—including a poolside-perfect rosé and a celebratory sparkler— Töst’s wine substitutes do justice to the full oenophile experience. They eschew grapes and get their body from berries and tea; the white combines cranberry, white tea and ginger, while the rosé version is elderberry-based. $16 per 750-ml bottle.