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11 essentials for fun Dry January mocktails

Whether you're trying to recover from holiday overindulgence or committing to a long-term lifestyle change, Dry January is an increasingly popular way to cut out alcohol. While nonalcoholic drink options have been depressingly limited in the past, a little creative mixology — not to mention a slew of new zero-proof spirit alternatives — can help make zero-proof cocktails that are just as complex and thoughtfully built as their alcoholic counterparts.

Is it really alcohol-free?

The accepted limit for nonalcoholic beverages isn't actually zero alcohol: it's 0.5% alcohol by volume. Some spirit alternatives may still contain trace amounts of alcohol, but for comparison, a ripe banana can be up to 0.4% ABV due to naturally occurring fermentation. While the casual sipper may not mind the difference, those with alcohol allergies or other health concerns should shop carefully.

How to make a good mocktail

Balance is key to creating a delicious, satisfying zero-proof cocktail. A good cocktail balances sweet, sour and bitter flavors and frequently includes herbal or botanical notes. The trick is to capture all those flavors in the right balance — without alcohol.

For crafting drinks at home, try replicating a cocktail that already includes an alcohol-free mixer, such as a gin and tonic or a margarita, since they don't rely entirely on alcohol for their flavor profile. It can also help hide the flavor of zero-proof alternatives, which can lack the complexity of the spirits you're used to.

Don't underestimate a drink's visual appeal, either. Serve your zero-proof creation in the same champagne coupe or double old-fashioned you'd usually use. Add a garnish of fresh herbs, fruit slice or citrus peel twist as the finishing touch.

Zero-proof "gin" and tonic

This easy switch can be done with any gin alternative or botanical-infused zero-proof spirit alternative. Fill a highball glass with ice, then pour over 2 ounces of your choice of zero-proof gin. Top with 5 ounces of tonic water and garnish with fresh herbs or a lime wedge.

Green Arnold Palmer

Put a twist on nonalcoholic classic, the Arnold Palmer, by mixing 2 ounces of strongly brewed, cooled green tea and 1 ounce each of lemon juice and simple syrup. Add an ounce of a red or purple fruit juice and stir. Try experimenting with a spiced syrup for more complexity.

Kombucha spritzer

Get an extra dose of gut health benefits from kombucha in this easy mocktail. Combine 3 ounces of your favorite kombucha with 1/2 ounce of simple syrup and 1/2 ounce of lime juice. Add 3 ounces of club soda or ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.

Virgin whiskey sour

For this mocktail, start with a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add 2 ounces of zero-proof whiskey alternative, 1/2 ounce simple syrup, 3/4 ounce lemon juice and for a traditional whiskey sour, an egg white. Shake until foamy, then pour into your glass and garnish with a lemon wedge. Try alternative sweeteners such as maple syrup or honey for a different flavor profile.

If you'd prefer to omit the raw egg white, leave it out or try adding an ounce of aquafaba. Aquafaba is the starchy liquid left over from cooking chickpeas, but you can also obtain it from a can of chickpeas in your pantry. Thanks to its ability to foam up when beaten, it's a popular vegan substitute for fluffy egg whites.

Best nonalcoholic spirits

Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative

Awarded gold and platinum medals by the industry standard Beverage Tasting Institute, this tequila alternative is perfect for one-to-one swaps in your favorite tequila cocktails. It has the classic flavors of agave, lime and mesquite smoke.

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Seedlip Garden 108

Seedlip was the first major company to offer zero-proof alcohol alternatives, but unlike other companies, they didn't attempt to recreate existing spirits: they crafted completely new options. This top-rated, gin-like botanical blend is made with spearmint, thyme, sugar snap peas and rosemary.

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Monday Zero Alcohol Gin

This award-winning and widely available spirit alternative closely matches the flavor profile of London dry gin. The flavors of juniper, citrus and coriander play well in many different mocktails.

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Spiritless Kentucky 74

This nonalcoholic spirit was created by Kentuckians to capture the essence of the state's famous bourbon. Even if you're not going fully dry, the manufacturers also recommend swapping half the bourbon in your recipe for Kentucky 74 for a lower-proof and lower-calorie cocktail.

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Best ingredients for mocktails

Fever Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water

Flavored with hand-pressed bitter orange oil, this high-quality tonic water is a popular pick for many mixed drinks. It's sold as a pack of four 6.8-ounce bottles.

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Q Mixers Ginger Beer

This spicy ginger beer is accented with chili, coriander and citrus extracts for a more rounded flavor. It's also extra-fizzy. Each 7.5-ounce can is perfectly sized for satisfying mixed drinks.

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Angostura Aromatic and Orange Bitters

While they do contain alcohol, only a few dashes of bitters can transform a mocktail or even a simple glass of club soda into an enjoyably complex beverage. Experiment with this set, which includes both classic aromatic and orange bitters.

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Element Shrub Ginger-Lime Drink Mix

Shrubs are a vinegar-based concoction with sweet, spicy or herbal flavors. Since they're so complex on their own, simply mixing them with club soda results in a delicious drink. This one has an apple cider vinegar base for additional health benefits.

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Best barware

Mikasa Clear Julie Highball Drinking Glasses

Your zero-proof cocktail will feel as fancy as the real thing in a crystal highball glass. These are made from durable European crystal in a style that's suitable for any occasion. They're sold in a set of four.

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Barfly Teardrop Bar Spoon

A bar spoon is useful for quicker, easier cocktail mixing. The twisted handle can help you shape garnishes and the spoon's bowl, which holds about 1 teaspoon, helps measure ingredients. This nicely weighted bar spoon is made from copper-plated stainless steel. 

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OXO Cocktail Strainer

Prevent ice chunks or muddled ingredients from falling into your glass with a cocktail strainer such as this one. Its non-slip finger rest helps it stay gripped to your glass while you pour.

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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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