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10 Non-Alcoholic Holiday Drinks You Need to Know

Derek Brown

Close-up of festive, brightly colored drinks on a wooden table.

Nov 08, 2022

In This Article

While celebrating the holidays in Copenhagen one winter, I learned that a fellow American had skipped out on the Danish “Christmas lunch” tradition of julefrokost with friends — because he was too hungover from a previous julefrokost with a friend’s family. Julefrokosts are all-day affairs in Denmark that involve drinking and eating with friends, family, or colleagues. Generally, you end up celebrating with each group. 

But being hungover was not seen as an acceptable excuse for an absence. He was expected to pick the glass right back up and drink his gløgg, beer, and aquavit in successive marathon lunches that often lasted for hours.

That may be a fun celebration for some, but for those of us who are sober or moderating our alcohol intake, we’re left out of the fun. While the holidays have different meanings for each person — and can be as diverse as the people who celebrate them — the common denominator for most holiday gatherings is alcohol. What if you want to join the holiday fun but only want to have one or two alcoholic drinks, or none at all? 

Fortunately, there is a proliferation of new non-alcoholic (NA) beverages, which are delicious stand-ins for traditional drinks. These NA drinks look, feel, and taste as complex and interesting as their alcoholic counterparts. You can easily integrate them into your holiday traditions and share them with friends.

1. The classic winter stout: Guinness 0.0 Draught

With so many great craft non-alcoholic beers on the market, I feel a bit guilty suggesting such a mainstream brew. But Guinness 0.0 is delicious, and it deserves top billing for chilly autumnal nights and snowy winter days. 

Brimming with roasted barley and tobacco leaf, Guinness 0.0 draught has a creamy mouthfeel and pours with the iconic thick, fluffy, beige head of the alcoholic Irish stout. Serve for any and all holidays.

2. The wine pairing workhorse: Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Riesling

Leitz is a German producer that makes a number of terroir-driven wines — terroir means “exhibiting local characteristics” —  along with their Eins Zwei Zero line, which features a chardonnay, pinot noir, and still and sparkling riesling, all with zero percent alcohol. They’re all excellent, though I recommend the still riesling as a perfect pairing for Thanksgiving meals. 

Turkey and riesling certainly go well together, but what about the green beans and sweet potatoes? You're in luck: the crisp acidity and touch of residual sugar ensure this wine’s versatility with starchy and sweeter dishes.  

3. When only red wine will do: Acid League AHM

It doesn’t surprise me that a sommelier would help create one of the best non-alcoholic red wines I’ve ever tasted. André Huston Mack of Maison Noir Wines worked with Proxies, who make delicious non-alcoholic wine alternatives, to create a non-alcoholic wine reminiscent of great Oregonian pinot noirs. 

Made from pinot noir grapes and marionberries as well as pu-erh tea and kola nut, it has dark blackberry, pepper, and cranberry flavors that end with an elegant tannic structure. This wine alternative pairs well with roasted meat and other hearty dishes, making it the perfect fit for most holiday dinners.

4. Cocktails by the fireplace: Spiritless* Old Fashioned

If you’re into cocktails but not the work it takes to make them, Spiritless has got you. Their pour-over Old Fashioned can be served over ice and is a dead ringer for the real thing with a slight maple and tropical-fruit finish. 

The Spiritless Old Fashioned makes a great pre-dinner drink and is still elegant enough to pour into a rocks glass, garnish with an orange peel, and drink sitting next to the fireplace. For an extra satisfying experience, I suggest using larger ice cubes made in Tovolo ice trays.

* Full disclosure: I previously worked with Spiritless as the director of education.

5. Holiday entertaining in a can: Ghia Ginger Le Spritz

Botanical, herbal, and bitter with a bite, this ready-to-drink cocktail in a can isn’t a recognizable classic cocktail. Ghia Ginger Le Spritz is a fun, experimental spritz that brings Mediterranean flavors and culinary herbs into the mix. 

The ginger and bitterness help it transcend light and summery spritzes. It’s best during a holiday party when you don’t want to prepare complex drinks. Add to a wine glass with ice and a rosemary sprig or candied ginger and serve.

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6. The holiday cocktail better than cranberry and bubbly: NA Negroni Sbagliato

The Poinsettia cocktail is often trotted about as the premier bubbly holiday drink. Comprised of cranberry and sparkling wine, it satisfies the aperitif category of holiday drinks and also looks beautiful in a wine glass. 

So does the Negroni Sbagliato — but it’s much better. Recently, it’s been in the news. The bittersweet combo works well in a non-alcoholic cocktail and transcends its 15 minutes of fame. I use Wilderton’s Bittersweet Aperitivo (hands-down the best bitter aperitif on the market), Roots Divino Aperitif Rosso, and Teetotaler Sparkling White.

NA Negroni Sbagliato

1 serving (1 wine glass)

- 1 oz. Teetotaler Sparkling White

- 1 oz. Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo

- 1 oz. Roots Divino Aperitif Rosso

Combine the ingredients in a wine glass and add ice. Stir gently and garnish with an orange slice.

7. A Scotch-y digestif: Lyre’s Highland Malt 

At first, I was a bit perplexed by the aroma of Lyre’s Highland Malt. It seemed I was smelling a genuinely good blended Scotch! However, it can’t be a Scotch, as it’s not from Scotland and has no alcohol. 

But it is a great substitute in blended Scotch-based cocktails. I paired it with Lyre’s delicious Coffee Originale coffee liqueur and a bitter non-alcoholic spirit, The Pathfinder, made with hemp, creating the perfect after-dinner cocktail called the Path Ender.

The Path Ender

1 Serving - Double Rocks Glass

- 1 ½ oz. Lyre’s Highland Malt

- 1 ½ oz. Lyre’s Coffee Originale 

- ½ oz. Pathfinder Hemp and Root Non-alcoholic Spirit

- Optional: pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in a double rocks glass and add ice. Stir gently and garnish with an orange peel. 

8. If you go a-wassailing: Eric Bordelet Perlant Cider

Cider can be served any season, but it feels extra special during the holidays, when images of wassailing (drinking cider and singing) come to mind. Made by an internationally renowned cider maker and imported by Delmosa Artisanal Beverages, this cider is best served chilled (but doesn’t suffer from delicately warming up). 

Either way, it has a sticky sweetness that’s offset by the tartness and slight effervescence of the sour heritage apples it’s made with. Its complex notes of hay and marmalade deepen the flavor and make it a great gift to bring to holiday dinners. 

9. For popping corks: Thomson & Scott “Noughty” Sparkling Rosé

New Year’s Eve is one of the hardest times of the year for me when it comes to not drinking alcohol. The festive sound of Champagne bottles popping — and the ensuing golden or rosé bubbly nectar — signals a celebration like no other. 

Sweet apple ciders from grocery chains don’t quite fill the void, at least not as an adult (though I was enthralled with them as a child). Thomson & Scott’s excellent “Noughty” sparkling rosé, however, fills the void in droves. It’s more reminiscent of a light, non-vintage champagne than a child's drink, and its berry notes from tempranillo grapes are complemented by a crisp, medium-dry finish.  

10. Julefrokosts without the hangover: Gløgg

And now we return to the offending beverage, a Danish specialty that was the ruin of my American friend in Copenhagen. Gløgg is a delicious mulled wine that’s served throughout Denmark during the holidays. It’s usually made with wine and a Scandinavian spirit called aquavit but can just as easily be made low-alcohol with just wine. 

In my version, I used another non-alcoholic wine from Thomson & Scott, their “Noughty” rouge made from syrah grapes. Then I added spices, cane sugar, raisins, and almonds (optional, of course). It doesn’t only taste delicious but will ensure you can meet all of your social obligations.

NA Yule Glögg

8 Servings - Tempered Glass Mug

- 1 bottle of Thomson & Scott “Noughty” Rouge

- 1 tsp. crushed cardamom seeds

- 2 tsp. cloves

- ½ tsp. grated ginger

- 2 tsp. grated orange zest

- 2 cinnamon sticks

- ½ cup whole almonds — blanched

- ½ cup seedless raisins

- ½ cup brown sugar

Combine the spices and zest in a satchel or folded cheesecloth that you can tie with string. Heat wine to a boil and then add the spice sack. Once the spice sack is added, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add in almonds (optional), sugar, and raisins; cook for an additional 5-10 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and serve hot, ladling almonds and raisins in each glass. Serve with a spoon.

About The Author

Derek Brown is the founder of Positive Damage, Inc., a NASM-certified wellness coach, advocate for mindful drinking, and expert on no- and low-alcohol cocktails. Brown was recognized as a leading beverage figure affecting positive change in the global bar industry by Drinks International in 2020 in their “Bar World 100” list. In 2022, Brown published his second book, Mindful Mixology: a Comprehensive Guide to No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails. Follow Derek on Twitter @PositiveDMG and visit his website positivedamageinc.com.

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