Body, Bottles Down
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I’ve Become a Non-Alcoholic Craft Beverage Snob

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(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)

When I drank (especially toward the end of my “drinking career”, as they often say in AA) the quality of the spirits was of little meaning to me. Sure, I loved fancy Manhattans and extra dry Ketel One martinis, but at the end of the day, a bottle of Old Grandad or a pint of Absolute did the job just fine. And to be frank, I was a vodka girl at heart  — all I really needed was a chilled glass, some ice, and olives. Eventually, I didn’t even need the ice. Or the olives.

And eventually, I didn’t even need the glass.

So when I’d go out to small gatherings, and my craft-beer-loving buddies would offer me their favorite brews, or my wine connoisseur hosts would kindly offer a glass of their top-tier red, I graciously accepted. But I honestly didn’t give a rat’s ass about the robust, hoppy flavors or woody notes. I just wanted to get drunk.

[pullquote]So here’s the kicker. I think my sobriety has transformed me into one of those drink “snobs.”[/pullquote]These people, with their precious, fine-ingredient filled cocktails, annoyed me. “Stop fooling yourselves,” I used to think. “Taste is irrelevant. You know in the end all that matters is getting smashed.”

But I’m realizing now, in my 21th month of sobriety, that maybe they really DID care about the hoppy flavors and the woody notes. Because unlike me, they weren’t consuming their drinks with the desire to escape from some awful feeling inside themselves. Although I would have never believed it two years ago, they were, very simply, enjoying a tasty beverage.

So here’s the kicker. I think my sobriety has transformed me into one of those drink “snobs.” The only difference is that the beverages I’m now blabbing about are alcohol-free. But they’re just as similar in craftsmanship and liquid artistry as any pale ale or pinot noir I used to down and dismiss in an instant.

Now I scoff at Schweppes and Seagram’s. I chat up the joys of homemade SodaStream colas over Coke and Pepsi any chance I get. Kill me now, it’s true — I have become a virgin beverage connoisseur.

Here are my four current favorites (flask no longer required)!

Give these artisanal drinks a try and let me know what you think.

1. Q Kola

There are many yummy flavors in the Q line of sodas, but I like the Kola the best. It is less sugary than typical colas and has a touch of tang, which is due in large part to its organic ingredients: kola nut, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, lemon, lime, orange and nutmeg. Plus, it’s only 70 calories per each beautifully designed bottle.

2. GUS Grown Up Soda

Drinking a Grey Goose martini used to make me feel grown up. Now these sodas do. They’re 100% natural, caffeine-free and come in a variety of flavors, including my favorite, Dry Pomegranate. The flavors range slightly in calorie count, but none top 100.

3.  San Pellegrino Sparkling Fruit Beverages

These fruity Pellegrino concoctions are delicious, elegantly bottled, and so refreshing for summer. My current love is the Aranciata Rossa (Blood Orange). Calories vary, but most are in the 140-150 range per bottle or can.

4.  Reed’s Ginger Brew

This is ginger ale at its finest. They come in a variety of flavors, including Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, which delivers a nice bite, thanks to its 26 extra grams of fresh ginger root. Each batch is hand crafted and uses fresh herbs, roots, spices and fruits. A bottle contains 145 calories.

16 Comments

  1. Margie says

    Great suggestions!

    Great suggestions. Coincidentally a friend gave me a Pellegrino Blood Orange just yesterday – delicious! He says he’s addicted to that flavor!

  2. Stacy Morrison

    My son is obsessed with the lemon and blood orange Pellegrino sodas. They are great! But I can top you in the insane-snobbery department: I can tell the difference between bottled sparkling waters, and worse, IT MATTERS TO ME. I like a small bubble, not too showy or ouchy, just there sending up some mineral-y goodness. I have finally narrowed my preference down to Lurisia (my fave) and San Pellegrino (much easier to find). Ridiculous, I know. But there you have it. You know what else you might like? I became obsessed with natural-flavor syrups: I make my own ginger ale (with the Pellegrino) with a ginger syrup, and I had phases with pomegranate and mint, as well. Not drinking booze is fun! xo

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Stacy you are too fabulous! “I like a small bubble, not too showy or ouchy.” You know what, I think I agree!

      And I’m going to try your syrup suggestions — it IS fun making these drinks. And I love remembering everything I did and said after drinking them.

      xx
      Susan

  3. I love the San Pellegrino fizzy fruit drinks. I used to spike them during the summer, though. I supposed I shouldn’t be saying that, but I do struggle with my drinking. But your writing doesn’t make me feel talked-down to, which is why I keep coming back. I may never choose to get sober. But whatever, I’m really enjoying your posts and always feel compelled to comment. I’m happy you seem to be happy.

  4. Susan Linney
    Susan Linney says

    Thanks for coming back to read, Joyce! Getting sober is a personal choice — everyone is different and no one should be told how to live their life. I’m not here to preach, and if I ever do (or even if you ever detect even a slightly preachy-tone), PLEASE let me know. That’s not my place here or my job. I’m just here to share my own story, and hopefully entertain some readers in the process.

    And again, thanks for reading. And commenting!

    -Susan

  5. I think the grapefruit San pellegrino has it all over the blood orange, but that is probably partly the depravation of the nearly-two-years-I-spent-taking-a-medicine-that-can’t-be-mixed-with-grapefruit talking.

    I will have to check out the Q one you mentioned, though I will never stop loving a crispy coca-cola, no matter how long I shop at the food coop. Meanwhile, if you are going to be cooking up syrups, let me recommend you try rhubarb-ginger.

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Thanks for the rhubarb-ginger rec, bionic! I’m getting some great new info here to add to my new “snobby” beverage list. Try that Q Kola, though, I’ll be interested to see what you think. I love it.

      And the grapefruit San Pellegrino is excellent as well, especially when you’ve been deprived of that fruit for so long! 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      -Susan

  6. I haven’t had a “traditional” (ie, coke, pepsi, etc) soda in YEARS…but I did recently discover DRY soda (that’s the brand logo, not me shouting). The Juniper Berry is divine.

  7. Jonny Why says

    I’m a bubble tea snob – it must be made with fruit puree, not powder! Now if they can only figure out a way to reduce the calories in the tapioca pearls without compromising taste!
    Polar Seltzer also has an excellent variety of flavors, always looking for then on sale.

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Hi Jonny:

      Bubble tea! I have to admit that I only recently tried it for the first time, and honestly, the “bubbles” don’t really do it for me. I find them to chewy so they distract me from the drink.

      But you’re right about Polar Seltzer, which I like. especially in the summer.

      Thx for reading!

      Susan

  8. When a friend of mine became pregnant, I bought a book of Mocktails and kept it around. It’s come in handy now that I’ve gotten sober again. I take SP with me to every party so I don’t have to make a host uncomfortable by my Non-Alc drink snobbery.

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