Tequila is powerful, and it might seem strange to try and mimic a spirit that evokes so much memory: the perfectly blended margarita, good times with friends, a vacation at the beach, or even the unfortunate memory of having too much…There are a few factors to consider when trying to make non alcoholic tequila drinks, so before you go and buy a margarita mix and skip the alcohol, allow me to explain why that is not the best option.
After quite a bit of research, I picked up Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative, and I’m thrilled to say that I did. It has proven to be an excellent substitute for tequila, and even mezcal, in several mocktails, especially non-alcoholic margaritas.
I think the most important message from this article is that you can absolutely make alcohol free beverages without a non-alcoholic spirit, but in the case of tequila mocktails, it’s better to use a non-alcoholic tequila.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NON-ALCOHOLIC TEQUILA
- Flavor. This is obviously the most important. Do you want it to mimic a familiar alcoholic gin, or do you just want something that tastes good?
- Versatility. You will want to consider how it performs in non-alcoholic drinks, whether that is a classical cocktail with a non alcoholic substitute for tequila or entirely unique alternative beverages.
- How it’s made. How it’s made can help inform whether or not it’s a quality alcohol free spirit or if the brand is serious about crafting a quality product.
- Nutritional Information. Some alcohol free spirits have a lot of added sugar, so it’s important to check if you don’t want the extra calories or sugar. Also ingredient transparency and whether or not it’s made from natural ingredients or artificial flavors can be an important factor.
THE TOP NON-ALCOHOLIC SPIRIT BRANDS FOR TEQUILA SUBSTITUTES
Ritual Zero Proof – this brand is responsible for two other non-alcoholic spirits, and their Gin Alternative makes some delicious mocktails (link to purchase on Amazon)
Seedlip – Seedlip doesn’t claim to make substitutes for spirits, but instead makes alternative beverages. The brand has a margarita mocktail, but a different one actually caught my attention.
Arkay – Arkay has a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages they call “liquor flavored drinks” and includes a special molecule to mimic the warm sensation of drinking alcohol.
Mockingbird Spirit – this brand was launched in the UK and is still not available in the USA. I will also add it to the comparison when I can get my hands on it.
WHAT IS NON-ALCOHOLIC TEQUILA?
Before we dive into the comparison, let’s take a look at alcoholic tequila and mezcal. Mezcal is a distilled spirit made from any varietal of the agave plant, often from Oaxaca, and often found in the wild. Tequila is a spirit made 100% from blue agave, mainly from Jalisco, Mexico. Interestingly, mezcal tastes dramatically different from tequila (hello, smoke), and the flavor varies wildly due to varietal choice. So technically, tequila is a type of mezcal, but the blue agave plant is responsible for its signature flavor.
Non-alcoholic tequila is essentially a non-alcoholic beverage made to taste like tequila. Each brand has a different method for achieving this flavor, and it doesn’t always involve agave or distillation.
HOW TO MAKE NON ALCOHOLIC TEQUILA
A lot goes into crafting a bottle of tequila. It’s a very manual process, aka hard work. It takes hands-on experience to be able to know how to tend an agave plant until it becomes ripe, then expertise to know when it’s ready to be harvested. Jimadores are the experts, and often come from multiple generations of family in the business. One fun fact about mezcal is that it’s WILD. It can be made from any agave plant, so there are endless possibilities for flavor. Jimadores forage for wild agave plants in the desert and mezcaleros make some exceptional one-of products.
To begin, the leaves are cut away from the agave plant, leaving the core, called the piña. The piña is baked slowly in an oven, then mashed to a pulp in order to extract the juices. The pulp is discarded or repurposed, then the juice goes into a stainless steel vat for fermentation. After a few days, it has become a wort, which is then distilled twice. After this, it’s either bottled or aged, and there is more information about these styles in the next section.
Faux tequila does not undergo fermentation, nor is the whole product distilled. A lot of non-alcoholic spirits are simply blended ingredients trying to mimic a specific flavor, and the same is true for non-alcoholic tequila. Sometimes the individual botanicals are distilled before being blended, but not always. Under each brand below, the individual processes are described.
COMMON STYLES OF TEQUILA
There are three main styles of tequila being produced. For the purposes of this comparison, I have also added mezcal because I believe some of those flavors are being implemented in non-alcoholic tequila.
Silver: After two distillations, the tequila can be bottled. This is called silver tequila. It’s also called blanco tequila, and is the one that looks clear in the bottle. In my opinion, this makes the cleanest tasting margarita.
Reposado: Tequila can also undergo an aging process for different flavors. Reposado tequila is aged in white oak barrels for at least 2 months, giving it a deeper flavor, and a golden color. This type of tequila is also popular in margaritas and tequila cocktails.
Añejo: This style of tequila is aged longer in oak barrels – at least 12months. It’s not typically used in mixed drinks, as it has been crafted to be sipped neat. The same can be true for the other two styles, depending on the quality of the tequila.
Mezcal: Technically, tequila is a style of mezcal. Mezcal is a whole other category of spirits, but the most important thing to note here is that it often has a smoky quality. This is probably the most commonly noticed difference between tequila and mezcal, and a flavor you will also find in some non-alcoholic tequila.
RITUAL ZERO PROOF TEQUILA ALTERNATIVE : WHY IT’S THE BEST
Ritual Zero Proof makes Gin Alternative and Whiskey Alternative, which were both reviewed against other contenders for best alcohol free spirits in their categories: best non-alcoholic gin and whiskey. Tequila Alternative is their non-alcoholic tequila. Three foodie founders based in Southern California combined forces to make something special, allowing you to “enjoy the ritual, not the alcohol.”
They are not exclusively for cutting alcohol completely out when using their products, but also suggest mixing them with alcohol or bitters for low-ABV cocktails. Ritual might just be another tool in your home bar kit.
It should be easy to spot on a shelf with its crisply white label and modern font, clearly disclosing all the botanicals and ingredients included.
How it’s made: Tequila Alternative is made by distilling each botanical individually, blending them for the perfect balance, then batch micro-filtering for the final product.
Blue agave and Mexican lime are two of the botanicals listed, which boosts confidence, since these are both common ingredients found in margaritas. They are clearly not blending fake flavors to mimic the taste. All the ingredients are listed on the label, which is refreshing and also helpful if you happen to have allergies or food sensitivities, as it is free of common allergens.
It also has zero calories and zero alcohol. There is only less than 1g of sugar per 1.5oz serving, due to the cane sugar natural sweeteners used. Compared to a 100-calorie pour of tequila, that’s pretty good. It’s also free of common allergens.
Taste: Ritual Zero-Proof’s Tequila Alternative is golden in color, suggesting it’s an alternative to reposado tequila. However, it smells smoky like mezcal or charred wood, and there’s a hint of that tequila agave scent.
Sipped neat, it tastes sweet and smoky with a spicy finish. It’s an interesting blend that isn’t quite tequila and isn’t quite mezcal, but seems pretty darn close.
Ritual Tequila Alternative has been very thoroughly tested in mocktails, and the results are clear: it’s an excellent non-alcoholic substitute for tequila in margaritas, and an excellent non-alcoholic mezcal substitute in mocktails. I’m going to share some of my favorites, and what caused me to pick this as the best non-alcoholic tequila.
I started by testing Ritual tequila in several variations or a margarita, and my favorite was the Non-Alcoholic Margarita. It mimics a margarita most to me, and has a clean, balanced flavor. The ratio for this is 2 parts Tequila Alternative, 1 part fresh lime juice, and .5 parts agave syrup.
For more variations on this classic beverage, I recommend reading Non-Alcoholic Margarita Success: In-Depth Tasting and Recipes. The variations with simple syrup and honey syrup also tasted delicious, while highlighting different flavors in Tequila Alternative.
Then I tried it in brand recommended mocktails, and my favorite was the Heat Wave (Spicy Margarita). The spiciness of the spirit really lends itself to spicy mocktails. This one adds a soaked jalapeño to the mix. I definitely recommend trying it.
Lastly, I had to try it in a mezcal based cocktail, and it ended up being my favorite drink made with non-alcoholic tequila. Here’s the recipe:
Non Alcoholic Mezcal Mule
1 oz. ginger beer*
.75oz. lime juice
.5oz. agave nectar
4 slices of cucumber (1 used for garnish)
Muddle 3 slices of cucumber with agave nectar in a cocktail shaker. Add lime juice and Tequila Alternative with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with ginger beer, and lightly stir. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and a dash of cayenne pepper.
*recommend Fever Tree Refreshingly Light Ginger Beer
Click here for the best available price for Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative on Amazon.
I have shared some of these beverages with friends, who have been equally impressed, while completely disinterested in the world of non-alcoholic spirits, so that’s big. After all the research and testing, I am extremely pleased I chose to buy Ritual Tequila Alternative. Since I love mezcal so much, it was a nice surprise to find it fit right in as a non-alcoholic substitute for this spirit as well as reposado tequila.
If you are new to mixing drinks or want to upgrade your cocktail set, read Best Cocktail Set to Upgrade Your Home Bar.
SEEDLIP AND THE MOST INVENTIVE MOCKTAIL
Seedlip was the first company to make non-alcoholic spirits. As mentioned above, Seedlip does not make a non-alcoholic tequila, but I want to offer it as an example of one point. Despite the fact that none of their spirits taste like tequila (and aren’t trying to do so), Seedlip’s mocktail, Garden Party, is a very tasty mocktail that is a creative take on the concept of a margarita. Here’s the recipe:
.5oz Seedlip Grove 42
.5oz Agave Syrup
.75oz Fresh Lime
2 drops of saline
Shake all ingredients. Strain over ice into a rocks glass and garnish with a lemon wheel and mint leaf.
Interestingly, Seedlip’s margarita mocktail was less impressive. So you should really ask yourself, are you looking for something that tastes like tequila, or something that is versatile and makes delicious alternative beverages, even one that reminds you of a tequila drink?
How it’s made: Seedlip individually distills all of their botanicals, then carefully blends and filters them to create the final product. It has less than .5% ABV, zero calories, zero sugar, sweetener free, and no artificial flavors.
Taste: This recipe has two of Seedlip’s spirits in it. Garden 108 is herbal, with notes of peas and hay. It has a bitter finish. Grove 42, on the other hand, is a delicate blend of various orange flavors. Neither of them tastes anything like tequila, so aside from this recommended mocktail, I wouldn’t substitute them for tequila in cocktails if you want that tequila flavor.
To find out what drinks they work best in, I recommend you read the full product reviews, including recipes and photos for testing several drinks, including brand recommended mocktails: Seedlip Garden 108 and Seedlip Grove 42. Some select bars and restaurants even carry Seedlip and are now offering mocktails with these non-alcoholic spirits.
ARKAY ZERO ALCOHOL TEQUILA
Arkay has a large selection of non-alcoholic drinks, some to mimic cocktails and some that mimic spirits. Their Alcohol-Free Tequila Flavored Drink is made in Jalisco, Mexico, home of tequila. Arkay products have a molecule in them called W.A.R.M., which is responsible for emulating that warm, burning sensation you get when you drink alcohol. This is really intriguing, as it seems most non-alcoholic spirits are using spice and pepper botanicals for this, and mostly missing the mark.
How it’s made: There is no distillation, but Arkay blends agave aromas with “other flavors” along with the W.A.R.M. molecule to attempt to mimic the flavor of tequila. It has zero alcohol content, is sugar free, and doesn’t specifically mention caloric content. There is only less than 1g of sugar per 1.5oz serving, due to the cane sugar natural sweeteners used.
Taste: In full disclosure, I have not personally tried this.
After tasting so many non-alcoholic spirits and having such success with Ritual Tequila Alternative, I don’t believe I need to look any further. While Seedlip made one mocktail that really impressed me in this category, Ritual Tequila Alternative is hands down a more versatile non-alcoholic tequila substitute.
Be sure to browse the recipes library for more mocktails, as these non-alcoholic spirits are continually being tested to decide the best ways for you to use them. I will always keep my “best of” articles up to date, as I discover more brands and taste more spirits.