At this time of year, drinking right may be more important than eating right. In a bid to quell that nasty hangover, consumers are seeking cleaner, lighter alcoholic beverages. And for designated drivers, teetotalers and anyone else choosing to refrain from liquor this holiday season, there are options that go beyond the Shirley Temple. Whatever you do, though, stay hydrated, pace yourself, don't mix drinks and do not get behind the wheel of a car.
SpikedSeltzer is a light and slightly alcoholic sparkling drink, brewed with Champagne yeast. The natural fermentation of sugar and fruit essence creates the alcohol content, which is 6%, compared to the 11.5% to 13.5% in many wines. Each 12-ounce can has 140 calories, and five grams each of carbs and sugars. Flavors include Indian River Grapefruit, West Indies Lime, Cape Cod Cranberry and Valencia Orange.
Info: $16 for a 12-can pack. Available at Target, BevMo and Whole Foods. spikedseltzer.com.
Seedlip started when British founder Ben Branson was at a restaurant in London, didn't feel like drinking and was offered only "an overly sweet pink concoction that was awful."
"Why wasn't I given the same care and attention that someone who was drinking was given?" Branson asked. So he retreated to the family farm in North Lincolnshire, where an internet search unearthed a 1651 recipe book called "The Art of Distillation," which in turn led to the Seedlip, billed as the world's first nonalcoholic spirit. The copper pot-distilled liquid comes in two varieties: Spice 94 is made using oak, cascarilla bark, green cardamom, allspice berries, lemon peel and grapefruit peel. Garden 108 has spearmint, rosemary, thyme, hop, garden peas and hay. Both are designed to work as a base in sophisticated mocktails.
"It addresses the problem of 'What do I drink if I'm not drinking?'" Branson said. "It's something that allows guests to feel like they are a part of the ritual and theater of drinking." Branson suggests mixing it with ginger ale for a take on a Moscow mule or with cold brew concentrate for a coffee mocktail.
On a winter evening, Elliot Coon, co-founder of the mezcal brand Gem & Bolt, likes to mix the liquor with herbal tea, cinnamon and orange peel for a warming and relaxing drink that she says is "so clean" that she feels great the next morning.
"Mezcal is an intrinsically clean spirit," said Coon, an artist who has always been interested in botanicals and wellness. "By law, it has to be made with 100% agave, which eliminates the possibility of additives or flavor enhancers." Her product also contains the herb damiana, which has been used for thousands of years in Maya and Aztec cultures as an organ tonic and mood elevator. Like other clear spirits, the alcohol content is high — 44%. But Coon says this is "not a shooting drink, and even taken straight or on the rocks, it's a sipping spirit. You take your time with it, you enjoy the environment you're in, the conversation you're having."
With its pretty, light burgundy color, Blüm could easily pass for a nice glass of red wine. Instead, the botanical elixir contains lavender, hibiscus, rose and yerba mate and was created as a festive, sophisticated alternative to wine. In two blends — Zen and Uplift — Blüm's founder Candace Coleman created the product after an accident required her to avoid alcohol for a few months. The beverage can also be used as a mixer ingredient. Pair with white chocolate liqueur and vodka for a creamy cocktail.
Info: $15.95. Available at stores such as Wades Wines in Westlake Village. blumbeverages.com