| Victoria Banaszak

What is a "non-alcoholic spirit"? The Alcohol-Free Booze You Need To Know About Courtesy of Food Zurich

What is an alcohol-free spirit?

This week VE Refinery attended the Food Zurich Chuchi to participate in the non-alcoholic beverage making master as part of the Zurich Food Festival, where Thomson & Scott NOUGHTY organic alcohol-free sparkling made a guest appearance. 

But what are non-alcoholic spirits and how do they taste in cocktails? Alex Armbrüster, professional bartender and head of the bar school in Zurich, stepped up to the challenge by offering an educational lesson in the alcohol-free drinks space and mixing up some cocktails with and without alcohol for all participants.


What is a Non-Alcoholic Spirit Exactly?

What is a non-alcoholic spirit exactly?

Non-alcoholic spirits are beverages that appear and taste just like real spirits, but with low to no alcohol content. Because of this, they are unable to use the word "spirit". Their ABV is usually between 0% and 5%. 

The shelves are increasingly being filled with non-alcoholic gins, whiskeys, herbal liqueurs, vodkas, vermouths and rums. It's not just start-ups that are stirring up the market with non-alcoholic "spirits", but large international beverage producers too. 

In addition, distilleries in Switzerland have recognised the signs of the times and are bottling non-alcoholic beers. Some providers copy alcoholic models, while others create completely new non-alcoholic spirits alternatives. 

Accordingly, the new beverage category is increasingly finding its way into bars, where it complements the range on the bar menu and offers a “healthy” yet no less stylish alternative.


How Do You Make a Non-Alcoholic Spirit?

Non-alcoholic spirits can be produced in various ways. These spirits are frequently produced using the traditional distillation process, which is now used to make many non-alcoholic spirits. 

Liquors are made via fermentation, in which sugar and yeast produce ethanol, a type of alcohol. Fermented beverages typically have alcohol by volume percentages ranging from 15% to 20%. A distilled spirit must have at least 40% alcohol content to qualify as such. 

The water is separated from the ethanol during the distillation process, resulting in an alcohol concentration of up to 50% ABV. Because distillation can increase the alcohol concentration, it can also decrease the ABV of a beverage or eliminate it completely. 

An assortment of botanicals and other natural flavourings are mixed with neutral grain spirit in a copper still. The ethanol is then removed through multiple distillation phases. Heat is used to extract and concentrate the desired flavours from fruits, herbs, and spices. The mixture is then distilled to remove any ethanol. 

Maceration is another method for extracting natural flavourings like herbs that are immersed in a liquid and allowed to soak until they become flavourful. The liquid may be either alcoholic or nonalcoholic. In this procedure, the liquid is distilled again to remove any alcohol that remains. 

An infusion is a process in which botanicals are soaked in an alcoholic or non-alcoholic liquid for a long time to extract aroma and flavour.

Non-alcoholic spirits typically reflect the flavour of whatever substance is employed to give them character. For instance, non-alcoholic gins are usually produced with juniper, which is a plant that is required by law to give them a gin flavour. 

The taste of certain alcohol-free spirits is comparable to maple syrup, apple juice, or a smoky flavour. Every brand utilises a distinct manufacturing process, resulting in distinct flavour profiles. The question remains - did participants of the Cocktail-Making Master Class even notice the difference between real alcoholic cocktails and an alcohol-free version?


Are Alcohol-Free Spirits Healthy?

People are becoming more health-conscious, leading to a surge in demand for non-alcoholic beverages. Those seeking to avoid the side effects of alcohol can find an excellent alternative in non-alcoholic drinks. 

Sugar and calorie content of non-alcoholic spirits are generally lower than those of regular liquors. Choosing to switch from alcoholic to alcohol-free beverages if you want to lose weight is one method. Non-alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, do not present the same health dangers as alcoholic ones, particularly chronic diseases and liver issues. 

However, one's health cannot be determined by just one aspect of diet. Even if a drink has a low sugar or calorie content, it may still be unhealthy to consume. “Eat only as much as you need,” which means even booze-free, drink in moderation! 


Why are Non-Alcoholic Spirits and Cocktails just as Expensive as Alcoholic ones?

Why are non-alcoholic cocktails and spirits just as expensive as alcoholic ones?

It's the more sophisticated manufacturing process that drives up the price, as opposed to soft or alcoholic drinks, which are simpler to make. Acquiring and maintaining the cutting-edge distillation machinery is costly. 

A premium price signals that your drink was produced with extra care and premium substances as a result of the waste of gallons of alcohol or other bases. 


The Alcohol-Free Master Class:

The Alcohol-Free Master Class

During our master-class we learnt that non-alcoholic spirits, like alcoholic ones, may be consumed straight, on the rocks, mixed in a cocktail, or used in other dishes and desserts. Make sure to select a drink that matches the flavour profile of what you plan to pair it with. My advice: don't be afraid to experiment and create your own delights. It’s your personal preferences that must be satisfied after all!

Here’s a selection of our four favourite non-alcoholic cocktail creations developed by Alex Armbrüster, head of the Bar School in Zurich



Grosses Weinglas (Spritz)

On the rocks


4 Mint Leaves

2 cl Elderflower Syrup

2 cl Lime Juice

10 cl of Thomson & Scott Noughty Sparkling Chardonnay

Decorate with a sprig of mint



Shaker/Tumbler (Cuisine Style)


6 cl Gin Alternative

2 cl Lemon juice

6-8 Basil leaves

1-2 cl sugar syrup

On the rocks

Decorate with a basil leaf



Tumbler (Fancy)

On the rocks



6 cl alcohol-free rum alternative

4 cl Lime juice

2-4 Cane Sugar (white)

1 Handful of fresh mint leaves

Thomson & Scott noughty Sparkling Chardonnay 

Sprig of mint


Directions: Add mint leaves, sugar and lime juice to a tumbler and lightly stir. Fill the tumbler with ice and add the rum alternative. Mix lightly and fill to the top with Noughty Sparkling Chardonnay. Add a sprig of mint for decoration. 



Tumbler (Aperitif)

Straight or on the rocks


2 cl Martini Vibrante

2 cl Jsotta Senza Red


Lemon Peel


what are teh best alcohol-free cocktails of all time?

If you're planning a party and want a unique drink, why not try one that doesn't have alcohol? You might just be surprised like we were, at how much you enjoy them.