For me, it’s never been about the buzz, but the tang of the drink. I remember my last glass of wine perfectly: I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in New York City’s East Village with a few friends, where we split a delicious bottle of Merlot. After our feast, we went to a concert in the Lower East Side where we drank a few more glasses of the house red.
By the time I got home, the wine was completely out of my system. While tending to my irritated bowels the next morning, I decided to try drinking other things for a while.
When you’re writing about culture somewhere like New York, the social scene does not always cater to your lifestyle choices. It wasn’t until I became a regular at Reception Bar that I saw the possibilities of non-alcoholic drinks. It was there I realized that I could still taste for structure, balance and finish. Every ingredient counts.
It’s so refreshing to pop one of these bottles to make the most ordinary meals feel like a special occasion.
The growing availability of nonalcoholic wines and wine alternatives transported me to a whole new world that tastes better than I could have ever imagined. I’ve come to appreciate innovative brands like Ghia, Yesfolk Tonics, Tart Vinegar and Acid League, which provides sophisticated takes on the red, white and orange wines that I miss.
My personal favorite is the Cuvée Zero, which is bursting with the succulent flavors of beets, blueberries and red fruits that mimic the taste of Pinot Noir. The floral notes are balanced out by herbs and spices, so the sweetness doesn’t overpower such a multilayered blend.
It’s so refreshing to pop one of these bottles to make the most ordinary meals feel like a special occasion—I have even converted my very pro-wine drinking parents to sometimes share the Proxies with me.
Non-alcoholic wine clubs get you a rotation of new flavors, and something you can’t put a price on: the feeling of being part of a community again. My social life has been reawakened with every pour.
Embarking on this sobering journey has shown me that you can still have an elevated experience that invigorates all the senses without alcohol. My glass isn’t half empty, it’s full—of vinegar, and juices and teas, that is.
Published: April 25, 2021