4 Non-Alcoholic Tequilas to Try If You’re Sober Curious
Non-alcoholic tequila can be a delicious, hangover-free substitute in your favorite margarita. Try these bartender-recommended picks.
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The rise of “sober curious” and non-alcoholic drinks
In the past year, I’ve taken several mini-breaks from alcohol. Each time, the effects were almost immediate. I have more energy. I get better sleep. And I enjoy waking up on the weekends without a dry mouth or hint of a headache.
Fortunately for me and my sober-curious friends, the non-alcoholic drinks market is growing steadily, according to market research company Statista.
These days, you can find a zero-proof alternative to most adult beverages.
Benefits of drinking less alcohol
I’ve mentioned the physical benefits, but there are mental health benefits to cutting back on alcohol without giving it up.
“Because alcohol has numbing properties, which is why many of us use it, removing it or limiting it can allow you to truly feel more of your feelings than you have perhaps been acquainted with for quite some time,” says Leah Rockwell, licensed professional counselor and founder of Rockwell Wellness Counseling.
Even those who have never abused alcohol could benefit from a monthlong break from the bottle from time to time.
Rockwell says diminishing consumption could benefit everything from your self-awareness to your relationships with family and friends.
So how do you know if a monthlong (or longer) break from booze might be just what the doctor ordered?
Signs it’s time to cut back on alcohol
“One indication that you may want to consider cutting back on alcohol is when you notice it has become something habitual,” Rockwell says. “That moment when you’re not even sure you feel like having a drink but you crack one open anyway—pay attention to this because it may mean that drinking has become more routine than social or even pleasurable.”
She also recommends tuning into your sleep habits. Rockwell says these are signs that alcohol is disrupting your sleep cycle:
- Feeling tired even after a full night in bed
- General sluggishness
- Finding yourself repeatedly “underslept” throughout the month
“If sleep is any sort of an issue for you, it’s really important to consider your alcohol consumption,” she says.
One way to decrease your intake is to swap your Friday night cocktail for a mocktail.
A note on non-alcoholic drinks and sobriety
Some non-alcoholic spirits, including some of the tequila alternatives in this article, contain traces of alcohol from the distillation process.
The alcohol content is typically very low—less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)—which is similar to the ABV of kombucha.
Other zero-proof tequilas utilize adaptogens to stand in for alcohol’s soothing effect.
Sound familiar? Consider talking to your doctor, therapist, or support group before indulging in zero-proof spirits. When in doubt, it’s probably best to choose non-alcoholic drinks that don’t aim to simulate the look and feel of alcohol.
What makes a good non-alcoholic tequila?
Tequila is a type of mescal, and all mescal is made from the agave plant. But apart from the flavor of agave, what makes a non-alcoholic spirit taste like tequila?
“This one is tough,” says Derek Brown, owner of Washington D.C.’s award-winning Columbia Room and author of Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters. “I have yet to taste something that can offer the complexity and bite… Tequila has such a range of flavors, from sweet fruit to charred peppers and earth. Not easily imitated.”
The different types of tequila include blanco, reposado, and añejo, and they all have distinct flavors and qualities.
“Overall, when looking for a ‘non-alc’ tequila, I want something that has that agave flavor and a little (or a lot of) kick,” adds non-alcoholic beverage expert Nicole Popkow, a veteran bartender who shares non-alcoholic mixology on social media as Tonix Mocktails.
Where to find tequila alternatives
If you’re thirsty for a margarita without the hangover, prepare to wait a few days for shipping and handling.
Most zero-proof spirits are only available online through Amazon, alcohol-free marketplace Better Rhodes, or manufacturers’ own websites.
If you’re lucky, you might also discover a few mocktails on the menu at your favorite neighborhood bar.
Here are the non-alcoholic tequilas our experts Brown, Popkow, and Chris Marshall, owner of alcohol-free Sans Bar in Austin, recommend.
Mockingbird Spirit Agave
Essentially, this non-alcoholic spirit is meant to offer up the bite of tequila and relaxation of alcohol without the hangover.
Though Brown contends that there’s no zero-proof tequila that truly stands up to distilled and fermented blue agave, he says this product is the best imitation so far.
“Mockingbird Spirit Agave is closer to an agave liqueur but works in some tequila cocktails,” he says. “I would definitely use this in a margarita.”
Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative
Here’s proof that not everyone’s palate is the same.
When I first sampled Ritual’s products in 2020, I gave the brand’s gin alternative a spot on my liquor shelf and sent the tequila alternative packing (to a pregnant friend, not the waste bin).
To me, the liquid tasted like a cross between habanero peppers and burnt plastic.
Of course, a quick Internet query reveals that even full-fledged tequila has a distinctly dank funk, so perhaps Ritual deserves accolades for the mimicry.
Fortunately for teetotaling tequila lovers, both Popkow and Marshall say Ritual’s tequila alternative works beautifully in non-alcoholic Palomas and margaritas.
“The thickness holds up well while mixing and has enough of a punch that there’s no need to substitute,” Popkow says.
Marshall says Ritual’s spin on tequila is “earthy and fiery”—which sounds about right, though these elements led us to different conclusions.
ArKay Alcohol-Free Tequila
ArKay’s line of zero-proof spirits is sugar free, alcohol free, and pasteurized for a two-year shelf life.
The company uses a “proprietary molecule” that includes capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, to mimic alcohol’s trademark burn.
This is similar to what Ritual uses for piquancy, but ArKay came first. This brand has been pumping out alcohol-free spirits for 10 years.
As for the tequila alternative’s flavor? “This one is a crowd favorite, [with] notes of agave and citrus,” Marshall says.
Free Spirits The Spirit of Tequila
“I’d consider this more of a ‘spirit of mescal’ … but that’s a wonderful option for someone who craves the smoky peatiness,” Popkow says.
According to the brand, Free Spirits beverages are made by distilling the “essence” of a spirit—in this case, agave—and then reconstructing it with ingredients that amplify the liquid’s unique aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel.
Popkow says this one “packs a punch” with its blend of smoke, spice, and agave.
- Leah Rockwell, LPC, LCPC, licensed therapist in Pennsylvania and Maryland and founder of Rockwell Wellness Counseling, a private therapy practice for women
- Nicole Popkow, mixologist, founder of Tonix Mocktails, and contributor to The Sober Curator
- Chris Marshall, founder and CEO of Sans Bar
- Derek Brown, owner of Columbia Room in Washington, D.C., and author of Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World
- Molecules: "Capsaicin: Current Understanding of Its Mechanisms and Therapy of Pain and Other Pre-Clinical and Clinical Uses"
- Statista: "Non-Alcoholic Drinks"