The Best Nonalcoholic Drinks for Athletes
Thanks to a growing list of new mocktails and alcohol-free beverage makers, nondrinkers have better options than ever
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
For those times when you want to lay off the booze or get serious about hitting a PR, there’s good news: a delicious new lineup of nonalcoholic drinks. Even a drink or two a week can decrease endurance performance and inhibit muscle protein synthesis post-exercise.
There appears to be a growing demand for nonalcoholic drinks that are still festive. Seedlip Drinks, a company that distills alcohol-free spirits made with herbs, has grown from 150 to more than 6,000 stockists over the past 12 months alone. Kantar Worldpanel, an industry research firm, found that sales of beverages with less than 1.2 percent alcohol grew by 30 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, the Kickstarter-launched company Curious Elixirs, which makes alcohol-free ready-to-drink mocktails, is experiencing twenty-fold growth. “When we launched Curious, there were a lot of people saying, ‘Finally,’” says John Wiseman, one of company’s founders.
These are our favorite new options when we choose to go alcohol-free.
It’s strange to think of distillation producing something alcohol-free, but after two years of testing, Seedlip founder Ben Branson finally got the process to work. His method is a secret, but it does involve a copper still—just like your favorite traditional spirits. Right now, Branson is making three varieties of faux spirits, to be mixed with water, tonic, soda, or however you might drink liquor: Seedlip Garden 108 has herbal flavors, Seedlip Spice 94 hints at cloves and allspice, and Seedlip Grove 42 has citrus and ginger notes. Our favorite was Seedlip Garden 108 mixed with tonic water. No, it’s not anything like a real gin and tonic, but it’s pleasant in its own grassy, herbaceous way.
DRY Sparkling Soda
It’s kind of a shame the word soda is in this company’s name, because it had me worried about sugar content before I cracked it open. But these aren’t the stick-to-your-teeth sweet drinks you might expect—each bottle contains about 15 to 20 grams of sugar (versus the 40-plus grams in some cans of soda). The flavors—which include lavender, ginger, vanilla, and cucumber—are well-balanced with a hint of sweetness backed by just the right amount of bitter. Lavender is DRY Sparkling’s real standout flavor, though the cucumber is a close second.
What if your happy-hour beverage could actually make your body happy too? That’s the idea behind Curious Elixirs. These “functional mocktails” are designed to deliver antioxidants plus herbs like gentian, which purportedly could help boost circulation. The elixirs come bottled and ready to drink; you don’t need to add them to mixers. While we don’t know if they improved our blood flow, we can say that the two flavors—Curious Elixir No. 1 and Curious Elixir No. 2—rejuvenated our weary, overworked souls. Our favorite was Elixir No. 1, which is like a negroni-pomegranate juice love child that’s ever so slightly carbonated.
Brewers in the United States are stocking their taps with ever-higher ABV beers. But this brewery based in St. Louis, Missouri, is showing that delicious craft beer doesn’t need booze. WellBeing currently produces two options, a golden wheat and a dark amber. Both are excellent and do not taste like a sacrifice. One note: Both contain less than .5 percent alcohol per serving but are not guaranteed to be 100 percent alcohol-free.
Lava Bloody Mary Mix
Most mixers are too sweet or salty to be enjoyable without the booze. This Bloody Mary mix, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same cloying feeling. It’s made with San Marzano tomatoes, tons of spices, and blistering horseradish. You won’t even miss the vodka—though you may want to thin your mix a touch with water or some extra ice to give it a consistency similar to the bloodies of your memory. I made mine with olive brine, which does make it exceptionally salty, but it was delicious after a long, hot run.
Oleo Drink Mixes
Full disclosure: These drink packets are made with CBD, a cannabis compound that more and more athletes are turning to for workout recovery and muscle and joint pain. Mixed with water, each packet mixed delivers 25 milligrams of CBD but no THC, which means it doesn’t get you high. It’s just enough to mellow you out after a long day or help you get to sleep if you’re dealing with aches and pains from a long run or ride. Flavor-wise, these aren’t the most gourmet—they taste a bit like an effervescent vitamin drink—but 20 minutes into sipping on one, we bet you won’t really care.