There are a number of factors to consider when selecting the best non-alcoholic gin for your home bar setup, so before you rush out and pick something up just because it has a cool label, take a moment to consider what you want out of this non-alcoholic spirit.
After putting several non-alcoholic spirits through thorough testing, I have decided to pick Monday Zero Alcohol Gin for the best non-alcoholic gin.
It has the most prominent juniper flavor of all the gins tested, making it the best non-alcoholic substitute for a London dry gin in classic cocktails.
The most important takeaway from this article, I believe, is that you shouldn’t expect all non-alcoholic gins to be perfect substitutes for gin in all gin cocktails familiar to you.
Like gin, each one has a unique flavor profile, and should therefore be mixed in beverages that highlight its character.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NON-ALCOHOLIC GIN
- Flavor. This is obviously the most important. Do you want it to mimic a familiar alcoholic gin, or do you just want something new?
- Versatility. You will want to consider how it performs in non-alcoholic drinks.
- How it’s made. How it’s made can help inform whether or not it’s a quality non-alcoholic spirit or if the brand is serious about crafting a quality product.
- Nutritional Information. Some non-alcoholic spirits have a lot of added sugar, so it’s important to check if you don’t want the extra calories or sugar. Is it made from natural ingredients or artificial flavors?
THE TOP NON-ALCOHOLIC SPIRIT BRANDS TO CONSIDER:
- Monday: Zero Alcohol Gin tastes most like traditional London dry gin with a predominant juniper flavor and was most versatile in classic gin mocktails. (link to purchase on Amazon)
- Ritual Zero Proof: Ritual Gin Alternative is an excellent choice for a non-alcoholic gin that tastes unique, like pine and pepper. It’s a spicy, flavorful version of gin that performed really well in some mocktails. It doesn’t exactly replace the expected “gin” flavor in non-alcoholic cocktails, which makes it a bit less versatile and requires some added drink mixing creativity to make it shine. (link to purchase on Amazon)
- Lyre’s: While this brand makes some other excellent spirit substitutes, Dry London Spirit proved too delicate to make convincing gin mocktails. (link to purchase on Amazon)
- Seedlip: Seedlip doesn’t claim to make substitutes for spirits, but instead makes alternative beverages. However, I found Garden 108 to make a very tasty tonic mocktail, Garden Tonic. It’s herbal and has an interesting ingredient: peas. While I wouldn’t classify it as gin, I would drink this as a gin tonic substitute any day. (link to purchase on Amazon)
- Caleño: This brand makes a tropical version of gin with juniper, but inca berry is the predominant ingredient. Caleño makes some delicious mocktails, but due to its tropical nature, it belongs in a different category. Read the full review.
- Damrak: Damrak makes two gins: one with alcohol, and one without. Based in Amsterdam, the style of gin is more citrus-forward that most of the other non-alcoholic gins mentioned here. Damrak Virgin works the right mocktails, but gets lost in some standard mixers. (link to purchase on Amazon)
WHAT IS NON-ALCOHOLIC GIN?
In order to understand non-alcoholic gin, you must first understand gin. Gin is a neutral spirit infused with botanicals, the predominant of which must be juniper. Gin is an extremely broad category of spirits that, due to various styles of distillation, origin, and ingredients, is always expanding. No two gins are alike, as each distillery has a unique recipe and style of crafting the spirit, which makes comparing them to one another tricky.
Today, there are more and more gins being produced without juniper, and there’s a lot of debate about whether or not they qualify as gin. Besides juniper, common botanicals found in gin can be citrus, coriander, fruit peels, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom, and many more. The sky’s the limit for flavoring, and everyone does something different.
I love some gins with juniper, and equally love some where it’s not the predominant flavor. Each has a place in my home bar, and the same should be true about different styles of non-alcoholic gin.
HOW IS NON-ALCOHOLIC GIN MADE?
First, a look at alcoholic gin: you must distill a neutral spirit, most likely from a grain. From there, here are some common methods: You can soak botanicals in the neutral spirit for a time, then remove them, resulting in a product called bathtub gin.
However, most gins are re-distilled, allowing this process of infusion to happen in a pot still after creating the neutral spirit. Some distillers will let the botanicals soak in the spirit inside the still, then add water to dilute it for bottling strength. Others keep the botanicals separate from the spirit in baskets at the top of the still, so they never make contact with the spirit. This allows the spirit to achieve its flavoring from condensed vapor. Again, water is added at the end of the process to dilute it for bottling.
Of course, there are others who will try all of these processes and blend the final product. These are the most common ways of making gin, but new methods keep popping up from time to time.
Non-alcoholic gin is also made in various ways, with the same common ingredients, and some distillers even go so far as to make alcoholic gin, then distill the alcohol out of it. We’ll go into more depth on who does what in each product assessment.
COMMON STYLES OF GIN
There are many styles of gin being produced today. For the purposes of this article, I will point out the styles that may be applicable to assessing these non-alcoholic gins.
Bathtub Gin/Cold Compounded Gin: as mentioned above, this style of gin can be made in 2 ways, both without re-distillation: soaking a neutral spirit with botanicals, then filtering them out OR adding artificial flavors and essences to the spirit.
London Dry Gin: this style of gin originated in London, but a gin of this style does not need to be made in London. The defining character of a London Dry Gin is that no sugars or sweeteners are added after the distillation process. Well known examples of this would be Beefeater or Tanqueray.
Wild West: Today, there are many craft distilleries making their own versions of gin, testing new flavors and departing from a juniper-forward profile. There isn’t a name that I know of for this style, but it is very common. Think of it as the Wild West of gin. This is where you will find most non-alcoholic gins.
NON-ALCOHOLIC GIN COMPARISION
Now that we know what gin is, how it’s made, and how it might taste, we can begin to assess these non-alcoholic gins. For the purposes of this article, I’ve narrowed down the choices to the four products calling themselves non-alcoholic gin.
MONDAY ZERO-ALCOHOL GIN
Monday is a company founded by entrepreneurs in San Diego, California. Their vision is to create a product that will “delight without downside,” supporting those who choose to avoid alcohol and helping them “squash social stressors.”
The bottle of Monday arrived in thoughtful and well-designed packaging. As accustomed as we all are to receiving Amazon deliveries, the packaging doesn’t often feel like a gift. It has a beautiful green and gold label, with a very architectural, deco vibe about it. These elements go a long way to making a person feel special, and help to recreate the experience of picking out a nice bottle of gin in a specialty liquor store.
How it’s made: There is no mention of a distillation process at Monday, but the ingredients suggest it is infused spring water – flavored to mimic a London Dry Gin with natural flavors and extracts. It looks slightly cloudy, which is due to the natural preservatives inside. So it’s not exactly a bathtub gin, and it’s not distilled, but rather a beverage composed of a blend of botanical flavors. It has zero calories, is free of 8 common allergens, and it’s sugar free. They only use a tiny bit of keto-friendly monkfruit for texture and balance. In addition to that, it only contains .15% alcohol by volume, which is less than some ripe fruit!
Taste: Monday has a dramatic punch at first sip – strong juniper and citrus flavors hit you first, then you notice the spice. Love the spice! It doesn’t have that “hot” sensation of drinking alcohol, so the spice definitely helps to fulfill that expectation. This is a pretty common theme in non-alcoholic spirits, and a subject I plan to cover more in the future. The consistency is slightly viscous, but it does have a bit of a bitter finish. All around impressive.
Next stop, gin & tonic…
Using the classic gin and tonic ratio, I poured 2oz Monday gin with 5oz Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water over ice and garnished with a lime wedge. Monday Zero-Alcohol Gin is great as a non-alcoholic gin & tonic. The botanicals really burst through the tonic and deliver an excellent non-alcoholic substitute for a gin and tonic. Here it is: Non-alcoholic Gin and Tonic
To test its versatility, I also tried it in a Bee’s Knees mocktail. This classic Prohibition-drink is one of my favorites – a blend of gin, honey, and fresh lemon juice. Here’s the recipe:
- 2oz Monday Zero-Alcohol Gin
- .75oz fresh lemon juice
- .75oz honey syrup (1:1 honey, water)
Pop a coupe glass in the freezer then gather your materials. Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into your chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.
Refreshing mocktail success! The botanical punch in the spirit really tastes like alcohol is in the beverage. I also tested Monday in some brand recommended mocktails that proved it to be a very versatile non-alcoholic spirit.
Verdict: Monday Zero Alcohol Gin is a great substitute for it’s alcoholic counterpart, and performed well in several different mocktails, including the classic gin and tonic.
Click here for the best available price for Monday Zero Alcohol Gin on Amazon.
RITUAL ZERO-PROOF GIN ALTERNATIVE
Ritual Zero Proof’s slogan is “Enjoy the ritual, not the alcohol” and was founded by 3 foodie friends with a love for quality beverages and good time. Their mission isn’t necessarily to remove alcohol completely, but supplement your home bar with an alcohol-free choice. Some of their recommended cocktails recipes even mix Gin Alternative with alcoholic vermouth for lower ABV beverages.
How it’s made: Here’s an explanation from the folks that craft the Gin Alternative on their method: “First, we use all-natural botanical flavors (organic where we can get ‘em). ‘Botanicals’ is a fancy word for ‘plants’; ours are distilled individually to lock in their purest flavor, then carefully blended to create a sophisticated profile. The batches are microfiltered, and every bottle is date stamped for freshness.” So, they are distilled more like a traditional gin, but without the alcohol. The clean, modern design of the bottle is a great reflection of the all natural ingredients sourced for the Ritual gin, and would stand out on any home shelf of spirits.
It has zero calories, zero alcohol, and is free of common allergens. There is only less than 1g of sugar per 1.5oz serving, due to the cane sugar natural sweeteners used.
Taste: At first sip, you’re hit with a strong pine flavor, then immediate spiciness. So spicy! The consistency is very much like gin, and it is reminiscent of St. George’s Terroir Gin, which focuses on pine flavors from California’s mountain forests. Again, the spicyness seems to be a theme as a substitute for the hot sensation you might get from drinking alcohol.
Onward to a gin and tonic!
Mixed with Fever Tree Indian Tonic water, the Ritual Zero Proof gin & tonic is spicy and pine-forward, as the previous tasting would suggest. It maintains these strong flavors alongside the tonic, and makes a really interesting spicy version of a g&t.
Then I thought, why not go all the way with the spice, and try out a ginger beer mocktail? If you need a great cocktail set to get started with mixing drinks, see:
Here’s the Gin-Gin Mule Mocktail recipe:
- 6 mint sprigs
- 2oz Ritual Zero-Proof Gin Alternative
- .5oz fresh lime juice
- .5oz simple syrup (1:1)
- 1oz Fever Tree Refreshingly Light Ginger Beer
- Splash of club soda
Lightly muddle mint leaves, syrup, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add gin and ice, then shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and splash of club soda. Lightly stir and garnish with a lime wheel and mint spring.
This mocktail is really great! Happy hour just got a little happier.
Verdict: Ritual Gin Alternative is a really interesting gin substitute, but with the strong pine flavor and spicy nature, it may be limited in what classic gin drinks it can recreate. However, it makes delicious alternative beverages.
After some more thorough testing, Ritual gin proved itself in making very tasty beverages, especially this brand-recommended low ABV cocktail, the Lemon Drop. This is a good contender for best non-alcoholic gin.
Click here for the best available price for Ritual Zero Proof Gin Alternative on Amazon.
LYRE’S DRY LONDON SPIRIT
Based in Australia, Lyre’s claims to deliver “crafted homages to the intensity, balance, and beauty of the time-tested classics.” The name was inspired by the Australian Lyrebird, the world’s greatest mimic, so it’s safe to say they are really trying to make their spirits as close to the originals as possible.
To start, the bottle is just plain fun. The design, and each of Lyre’s bottles have fun quotes and amazing graphics designed specifically for that spirit. I won’t tell you the quote on this bottle, as you should go discover it yourself. That’s part of the adventure!
How it’s made: Lyre’s “flavor architect” is David Murphy, a well-respected sommelier in Australia. He uses his expertise in taste and wine to craft a spirit by blending natural essences and extracts. The spirit is not distilled, but blended, putting it in the same style category as Monday gin.
Dry London Spirit has less than 1g of sugar and .57g of carbohydrates per 30ml serving, and is also free of common allergens. Like most non-alcoholic spirits, there are trace amounts of alcohol present in this spirit, between .2% and .3%.
Taste: Onward to the fun stuff. The spirit is clear, like gin. Tasted neat, the first impression is sweet orange and reminds me a little of Seedlip Grove 42, but with more of a bitter finish. It doesn’t really have a bite at all, so it is a far cry from alcoholic gin. Either way, it has an intriguing flavor, so let’s see what it can do.
First, the baseline gin & tonic (same ratio as above): It’s a bit too delicate and orange-flavored for a classic g&t. It’s tasty, but a different beverage altogether. Time to test it in a gimlet mocktail I’m calling Liar’s Gimlet:
- 2oz Lyre’s Dry London Spirit
- .5oz fresh lime juice
- .5oz simple syrup (1:1)
Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lime peel. Tasty! It’s delicate and very different from a gimlet, but a nice mocktail nonetheless.
Verdict: Lyre’s Dry London Spirit is not a substitute for gin, but it makes a very tasty alternative beverage.
It was also tested in more mocktails, including brand recommended drinks, with mixed results. The delicate nature of Lyre’s gin makes using it in mocktails a little tricky.
Click here for the best available price for Lyre’s Dry London Spirit on Amazon.
DAMRAK VIRGIN 0.0
Damrak is based in Amsterdam and named after an historic harbor that used to welcome spice and fruit traders. It is most known for their alcoholic Amsterdam style gin, using some of the same spices traded in those days. Made in the spirit of that gin, Damrak Virgin carries a citrus-forward flavor, as opposed to a juniper forward Dry London gin.
Damrak is the first brand in this comparison that makes both alcohol and alcohol-free gin. Like the gin itself, the bottle mimics their first product and looks more like a standard bottle of alcohol. It certainly wouldn’t stand out as “other” on your bar shelf.
How it’s made: Ten different botanicals are distilled and blended to create Damrak Virgin’s non-alcoholic gin.
Damrak Virgin is completely free of sugar, carbohydrates, calories, and alcohol.
Taste: It smells delicate, like sweet orange essence, but Damrak Virgin tastes stronger and more bitter with flavors of lemon juice and citrus peel. The orange makes the flavor brighter, almost like a well balanced lemonade.
Damrak Virgin does not taste like alcohol, but rather a delightfully fresh citrus bomb or a botanical orangey lemonade.
It can stand on its own as a beverage on the rocks, which is not something I can say about any of the other non-alcoholic gins.
As with the other products, the first mocktail tasted is the gin and tonic. Damrak Virgin mixed with Fever Tree Refreshingly Light Tonic Water makes a slightly citrus flavored tonic. The quinine in the tonic somewhat overpowers the Damrak, but it’s still a refreshing drink.
One brand recommended mocktail tasted in Damrak Virgin Review with Recipes Tested is the Breakfast Martini. This was delicious and a great non-alcoholic substitute for a mimosa. Here’s the recipe:
- 2oz Damrak Virgin 0.0
- .5oz lemon juice
- 2.5tsp orange jam
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over cubed ice into a martini glass. Garnish with an orange zest.
Verdict: While Damrak is delicious on the rocks and in this breakfast mocktail, the citrus flavors get a little lost in some basic mixers.
Click here for the best available price for Damrak Virgin 0.0 on Amazon.
After evaluating these three non alcoholic-gins, the choice is tough. Two of them consistently make delicious drinks, when used appropriately. Lyre’s Dry London Spirit is just too orange-flavored to be used like gin in mocktails, so it places last in the lineup.
The competition is close between Ritual and Monday gin. I love Ritual’s passion for crafting an all-natural, non-alcoholic distilled spirit, and the extra effort taken to distill the botanicals individually. However, given the bold and unusual nature of Ritual Zero Proof Gin Alternative, it places second.
My favorite in this group for a non-alcoholic gin is Monday Zero-Alcohol Gin. It makes an excellent substitute for a non-alcoholic gin & tonic, and with its classic juniper-forward flavor, it most closely mimics dry gin in mocktails, making it superbly versatile.
Be sure to browse the recipe collection for more mocktails made with these non-alcoholic gins, as I am continually testing out non-alcoholic drinks and deciding the best way to use these spirits.