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Non-Alcoholic, Italian-Style Drinking is Having a Moment

The non-alcoholic drinks trend keeps reaching new heights, and fans of Negronis, amari, and spritzes have more options than ever

Amaro falso bottle, mocktail and bowl of pasta

Amaro Falso is the second non-alcoholic Italian-style drink from St. Agrestis. Photo: Adam Friedlander

It’s summer, which means we’re a long way from Dry January, and the warm weather practically calls for a boozy cocktail or refreshing spritz. So why is non-alcoholic, Italian-style drinking so hot right now?

I count quite a few reasons, and they all make sense. The full-time sober and the sober-curious audience keeps growing, as consumers migrate toward healthier habits. Another factor is that mainstays of Italian spirits such as amaro and digestivo rely on botanicals and bitter flavors, which provide depth and structure even without alcohol. Plus, brands are flocking into the market, creating dynamic, artfully made ingredients and products, with easier availability for consumers in stores, online, and at restaurants and bars.

We’re at such an inflection point that it’s now possible to make first-rate spritzes, Negronis, and other well-known Italian drinks without any alcohol, yet with flavors that are comparable to the finest mixed, boozy drinks. 

The progression is extraordinary. I started 2023 with a three-month break from booze, aided in part by Brooklyn distiller St. Agrestis’s one-two NA punch of successful and buzzy bottles: the Phony Negroni and the Amaro Falso. I’m less of a beer drinker than I used to be, but discovering Athletic’s wide-ranging non-alcoholic range of ales and then Brooklyn Brewing’s growing line of NA beers made me a convert. I later found Peroni Nastro Azzuro, making it possible to even drink Italian with NA beer. Every week, it seems, a new NA product appears, making it increasingly easy to avoid drinking alcohol without sacrificing anything other than the calories and the buzz.

As a wine lover, I should say that the options here in general are less attractive—many of the NA wines I’ve tried are either watery or veer too far from the flavor profiles of wine. Yet the more recent progression is starting to extend to zero-proof wine-like drinks and de-alcoholized wines, which are improving rapidly. Especially when it comes to sparklers, which of course makes it possible to emulate the fizziness needed in a spritz or that trendiest of drinks, the mighty Negroni Sbagliato

In fact, the pioneering NA bottle shop Boisson, with nationwide shipping and locations in NYC Los Angeles, and soon in Miami, now offers a non-alcoholic “NOgroni Sbagliato” kit featuring three of my favorite bottles: Fins Zwei Zero (the Prosecco substitute), WIlfred’s Non-Alcoholic Aperitif (the bitter substitute), and Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso (the sweet vermouth substitute). I’ve included it below, along with other recommended bottles to explore non-alcoholic, Italian-style drinking. 

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NOgroni Sbagliato Non-Alcholic Bundle

The NOgroni Sbagliato bundle from Boisson

As mentioned above, a kit of non-alcoholic products that you can use for the famed Negroni Sbagliato—”Sbagliato” meaning mistake in Italian. The drink changes the usual recipe of three equal parts of gin, red bitter liqueur, and sweet vermouth, swapping in prosecco for gin. Use the same ratios here, with one part each of Fins Zwei Zero, WIlfred’s Non-Alcoholic Aperitif, and Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso.

Amaro Falso by St. Agrestis

Amaro Falso
Amaro Falso by St. Agrestis.

Following in the footsteps of the brand’s Phony Negroni, St. Agrestis created a blend of herbs, botanicals, and citrus that makes for an excellent after-dinner drink, minus the alcohol.

Phony Negroni 

The Phony Negroni from St. Agrestis. Photo: Adam Friedlander

One of the early game-changers, the Phony Negroni became a go-to alternative for Dry January participants as well as anyone who either doesn’t drink alcohol or is cutting down on booze. The sleek bottled packaging dazzles, but the substance backs up the style, with a real Negroni taste. Boisson now offers the Phony Negroni in cans as well.

Dr. Zero Zero AmarNo

Dr. Zero Zero Amarno bottle
Dr. Zero Zero is one of the non-alcoholic amaro brands to emerge from Italy (so far).

A non-alcoholic amaro from Italy? Dr. Zero Zero comes through with a rich, flavorful drink that’s great over ice or mixed into a mocktail.

Peroni Nastro Azzuro Pale Lager

The great taste and crisp flavor of Peroni without the alcohol and with fewer calories (about 75) per bottle.

Ghia Ginger Le Spritz Non-Alcoholic Soda Apéritif

Ghia spritz cans
Ghia Ginger Le Spritz

One of the most prolific and high-profile players in the NA space offers this tasty spritz in a can, flavored with a hint of ginger beer.

For Bitter For Worse, Eva’s Spritz

For Bitter For Worse spritz
Eva's Spritz For Bitter For Worse.

This award-winning effervescent aperitivo has subtle flavors of citrus and rhubarb, and is essentially a ready-to-drink spritz that doesn’t even require a splash of soda.

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