I’ve been becoming more and more “sober curious” over the course of Dry January, so I’ve started following a lot of alcohol-free accounts on Instagram. At first, this was mostly limited to beer accounts (it turns out, there is a lot of really great non-alcoholic beer being produced; unfortunately, most of it is in Europe or the USA, but I’ve had some good luck with some Canadian craft options – notably Partake Brewing (Calgary, by way of Toronto) and One for the Road Brewing (Calgary) – and a few European imports).
After a while, I started wondering about non-alcoholic spirits. Right now, the main player in this market is Seedlip out of the UK. They’re the market leader simply because they were among the first and the market is very much in its infancy right now. I enjoy all of Seedlip’s offerings, but they’re all very unique and don’t seek to replicate existing alcoholic beverages.
This is probably a wise move on their part, because it means customers don’t have a point of comparison and can’t say, “This tastes like watered down gin/whiskey/rum.”
Some brands, however, have attempted to replicate existing alcoholic spirits. I’ve read about two products: Ginish and Rumish. I think you can guess what each is trying to do. Currently, neither is available in Alberta.
What is available is Sobrii, a non-alcoholic gin from DistillX Beverages in Toronto. Late last week, it became available nationwide through Well.ca. Impulsively, I almost immediately ordered a bottle. It arrived this afternoon and I opened it shortly after getting home from work.
I believe Sobrii is primarily intended to be used in cocktails and highballs, but I wanted to see what it tastes like neat. The answer is: disappointing. It tastes reasonably similar to gin, with a lot of botanicals and a little pepperiness that hit you right away. Unfortunately, the lack of alcohol means it doesn’t quite land. Removing the booze really alters the flavour profile when you’re drinking it straight up.
I’m happy to report that it’s much better in a gin and tonic. It’s still not quite the same as gin with alcohol, but I think replacing that warming sensation of alcohol is hard to do (Ginish, mentioned earlier, apparently does it by adding capsaicin, the chemical that gives chili peppers their heat).
Overall, Sobrii makes a passable gin and tonic. I’m currently mixing it with a pretty cheap, store-brand diet tonic water. I’ll try it again later with something a bit nicer, like Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water, and see if that makes a difference. I imagine quality tonic makes a bigger difference when alcohol is taken out of the equation. I’ll update this post after I’ve tried Sobrii with a better quality tonic water.
I bought a 750 mL bottle, rather than the smaller size that was also available, so it’ll likely last me several months. By that time, who knows what other options might be available. The market for alcohol-free spirits is new but seems to be growing rapidly. Only time will tell if Sobrii becomes a stable in my liquor cabinet.
Update (Jan. 31, 2020): I still haven’t tried mixing Sobrii with a higher quality tonic, but I made a highball with this last night, that was quite good. The recipe follows:
- 2 oz. (60 mL) Sobrii 0-Gin
- 4 oz. (120 mL) ginger beer (I used Zevia Ginger Beer Mixer)
- Squeeze of lime juice (fresh and garnished with a lime wedge would be best, but I used ReaLime since it’s what I had on hand)
Note: An earlier version of this post identified Partake Brewing as being based in Toronto. In fact, the brewery is located in Calgary but the company originated in Toronto and has offices in both cities.