Upscale Alcohol Alternatives, Plus Nonalcoholic Cocktail Recipes to Try Yourself
Three local companies are carving out a space for themselves in the alcohol-alternative market
Curious? Us too. Curious Elixirs bottles booze-free beverages with complex flavor profiles, the inspiration for which was the makers’ favorite dark cocktail, the Negroni.
A party sans alcohol might sound more like an office meeting, but there are plenty of reasons not to drink, among them health, safety, personal preference, or the desire to actually feel functional the next day. In fact, 38% of respondents to a 2017 Gallup poll said they do not consume alcohol at all. When it comes to alcohol alternatives, however, it can be challenging to find a beverage that isn’t a poor imitation. Three companies in the Hudson Valley have recently committed to responding to this market need in different ways. Read on, and then...drink on.
For starters, Töst looks grown up. An effervescent, topaz-hued drink with diminutive bubbles, it comes in a prosecco bottle sporting a great font. In other words, it looks like the real deal, and you can feel suave giving it as a hostess present or putting it out on the bar. When opened, it will fizz forth like a Champagne. But Töst boasts a classic ginger/cranberry flavor profile, rounded out by white tea with notes of peach, while maintaining a dry finish.
Brooks Addington, CEO of Töst, says their team looked at the market and saw “no sophisticated adult option.” They wanted to “create something with a nose, which has some body.” The creators brought together culinary and beverage specialists to develop something with characteristics typically attributed to alcoholic beverages. Töst, which Addington says is available in some of the city’s finer restaurants, is developed to pair well with food.
He quips, “Töst is equally as enjoyable with a four-course meal as with a turkey sandwich.” The company is based in Red Hook.
If Töst is positioning itself in an upscale, swank space, then Curious Elixirs, bottled in Beacon, is going for a hip and insouciant take on the booze-free drink.
“The reason we created these booze-free craft cocktails is because we think everybody deserves something delicious,” says company co-founder Ashley Simon. She feels that whether someone wants to drink alcohol or not, “the social experience should be inclusive.”
Simon, a yoga instructor, has a focus on wellness, and her business partner John Wiseman has worked in the bar and restaurant business. Together they’ve created drinks using sophisticated flavors and secret, herbal formulas.
You know those cocktails anchored by Italian aperitifs such as Campari or Aperol — equal parts bitter, fruity, and herbaceous? Curious #1 was inspired by one of the makers’ favorite dark cocktails — the Negroni, which has a flavor anchored by Campari. Slightly fizzy, dark in color, nicely complemented by an orange wheel, this drink comes in a Red Stripe-style bottle and can be shipped to you ($32 for four bottles). It also contains an undisclosed herb that was said to give Vikings energy before they go into battle.
Curious #2, released in January, calls to mind the ginger bite of a dark ’n’ stormy, along with acidic notes of a margarita. Curious #2, brewed with another mystery herb, has more of a calming property. Curious #3 is still in the works.
Purchase these elixirs from the website or look in NYC bars and restaurants.
If your goal is to make your own grown-up drink with well-sourced ingredients, you’re in a great position to do so with the shrubs and bitters handcrafted by The Hudson Standard, a woman-owned business in Hudson.
You’re probably familiar with bitters, which have long been used to aid stomach ailments and digestion — or to enhance cocktails such as the old fashioned. (Partakers beware: Hudson’s bitters do have a bit of alcohol as a base, so avoid if you’re avoiding.)
But shrubs? You are less likely to know about these (aside from the garden variety). Emily Woerthman, part of the three-woman and one-man team at The Hudson Standard, says people in Ancient Rome would drink posca, repurposed spoiled wine (a.k.a. vinegar) enhanced by herbs and fruit. It prevented scurvy; it kept you from drinking foul water; and it was better than plain rotten wine. Later, in 18th-century America, people sought various and sundry ways to preserve fruit, and putting their harvest in vinegar yielded something both delicious and shelf-stable: shrubs. And now, the charming and knowledgeable Woerthman declares, “We seek to launch shrubs onto the global stage.”
Enter the base for all sorts of wonderful drinks, made with carefully chosen ingredients, non-GMO organic cane sugar, real fruit, and apple cider vinegar. The mouthfeel of these shrubs is refreshing and mimics the experience of alcohol. The company sells a cornucopia of flavors, including Apple Coriander Maple, Spicy Turmeric Switchel, and Peach Lavender Shrub. Find them online and in specialty food stores around the Hudson Valley.
You want further inspiration? Check out some delightful recipes from The Hudson Standard:
Nonalcoholic Cocktail Recipes
- 1 oz Hudson Standard Shrub of your choice (we love the Strawberry Rhubarb or Cassis Berry)
- 7 oz soda water
- Sprig of rosemary (optional)
Directions: Combine shrub and soda water in ice-filled glass. Stir with rosemary sprig. Enjoy!
Newfangled Old Fashioned
- 5 oz apple cider
- 1 oz Hudson Standard Apple Coriander Maple Shrub
- 3 oz soda water
- 3±4 drops Hudson Standard Catskill Masala Bitters
- 1 slice of orange
- Orange peel
Directions: Muddle slice of orange in a shaker. Add ice, then add all other ingredients (except soda water and orange peel) to the shaker. Shake well and pour into ice-filled glass with soda water. Garnish with orange peel, enjoy!
The Currant Crush
- 4 oz fresh blood-orange juice
- 3/4 oz. Hudson Standard Cassis Berry Shrub
- Splash of soda water
- 2±3 drops Hudson Standard Love-Struck Bitters
- Slice of blood orange (for garnish, optional)
Directions: Combine all ingredients (except soda water and garnish) in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and pour into ice-filled glass with soda water. Enjoy!