What a carry on Dry January is. I’ve been in the business of wine for almost a decade at this point, and of course, I know the risks. Dry January brings on hysterics because there’s so many different people showing up for it:

There’s the competitive group; they won’t break for anyone and when they ultimately succeed, they feel like it was a conquest that makes them better than us.

There’s the “California sober” version; if you know you know (I most certainly know). [Hahahaha – Ed.]

There’s the “the second it hits February 1st I’m going on a three-week bender” version, which completely defeats all progress made.

Guess what? No matter what version you are, it’s the thought that counts, right?

My goal this year as an ageing(ish) individual in the career path of sommelier, was to create a habit. Due to my career field, I did what we sheepishly refer to as a ‘damp January’ because I still have to taste wines for work, and one night it was my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and another night I just really wanted to go to VIP Karaoke (shoutout to my Ottawa pals). I only drank 5 nights this month. Not only am I lowkey rich now (going out costs a lot, I’m not sure you knew that), but I’m sorry to report that I am sleeping better, and by proxy have a ton of energy and really cool dreams. Taking your drinking habits down a notch will make you feel invigorated in a way I denied for a long time. A lot of us don’t enjoy dwelling on how much we’re drinking. So don’t! Let me do the uncomfortable part while discovering some absolutely thrilling news: it doesn’t have to suck.

I took it upon myself this winter to not only drink less, but to actively find exciting alternatives to Canada Dry and Lacroix. I imbibed some of the most innovative and exciting beverages I’ve had in ages, shining with herbaceousness, complexity, brightness, and maturity. Some even boasted health-conscious ingredients, and who doesn’t like partying and feeling good at the same time? Behold: the list of dry-whatever-time-you-like zero proof drinks for the grown-ish adult.


Well of course non-abv wine is my biggest gripe. It’s always my first issue, and it’s my favourite thing to drink. To put it bluntly, most easily accessible zero-proof wines are disgusting, and after years of touch and go, I’ve discovered a small bounty of those worth seeking out.

Proxies, whose parent company is the renowned vinegar producers Acid League, have to be the most creative alternative on the market. Proxies, who insist you don’t call them wine, are a tea-fruit-fermentation based beverage, both spritzy and still, founded in Guelph, Ontario. They have ongoing collaborations with winemakers (like two of my favourites! Thomas and Kate of Division Wine Co in Portland, OR), somms, and legendary chefs such as Sean Brock (their first collab!) and Dominique Crenn. Brewmaster Devin Campbell develops with innovative ingredients like fermented lemongrass, Vinis vinifera grapes, white teas, and even tomato leaf. Proxies are actually exciting and exceptionally built to pair with food. They are dry, light, but rich with depth. There are sparkling, whites, rosés, reds, and even an orange option (Vinta, which was created in collaboration with James Beard award-winning NYC sommelier Miguel de Leon) to satisfy most palates. Without a doubt these will constantly be in my fridge on heavy rotation for all my guests to enjoy without the headache (for two days in my case *shoots finger guns*).

Leitz Vineyard Eins Zwei Zero is a German producer who has created a line of crisp, dry, and delightfully acidic non-abv riesling, chardonnay, rosé, reds, and sparklings! A wonderful array of some of the best, and sincerely dry, alternatives to sipping a casual glass of vino. Their sparkling has been my go-to brunch pairing at my favourite haunt in Ottawa, The Third.

Oddbird is a Scandinavian zero-proof wine brand founded in 2013 (this business of getting less drunk isn’t *that* new) by Moa Gürbüzer, whose dedication and vision of the non-abv world to be a more simplified and relaxed one. She hopes to see a world where asking ‘would you like your wine with or without alcohol?’ be as simple as asking ‘would you prefer your coffee with or without milk?’ Oddbird now offers spirits, as well as low intervention wine styles ‘gently liberated from alcohol’.

Seltzers, Juices, and Cocktails!

Split Tree Mixers has been a staple in the Ontario home-bar scene for a decade, offering cordials, tonics, and sour mixes that can be used in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic settings. They’re completely natural, and have an excellent balance between sweet and tart with lots of subtle complexities in between. Split Tree recently opened a brick-and-mortar cocktail emporium in Westboro (Ottawa) which sells not only a plethora of cocktail equipment, ingredients, and books, but also non-alcoholic spirits, zero proof cocktail books, as well as Proxies (mentioned above!). Cocktail (and mocktail!) workshops are posted months in advanced (they sell out very quickly) for their interactive weekly workshops which include various themes, and teach guests hands-on about what you can accomplish as an at-home bartender, dry or not.

Barbet is a Canadian-owned series of non-abv cocktails in a convenient can. Complex, fizzy, and easily enjoyed on its own or as a welcome addition to any mocktail/cocktail. Their mantra is similar to the sentiments of many zero proof purveyors — make it chill to not drink sometimes! Make it easy, accessible, and fun.

Breweries such as Collective Arts and the internationally-renowned Bellwoods Brewery have hopped on the bandwagon and created variations on favourites and brand new products. Collective Arts has their delightful alcohol-free mocktail-in-a-can series similar to Barbet. It’s readily available at several bars I’ve been to and is an easy, delicious switch. Bellwooods has been developing alcohol-free versions of their top products such as the Jelly King (!!!) Dry Hopped Sour as well as a line of seltzer tall cans in flavours like tangerine and grapefruit, and a killer mojito flavour. 

Some Montreal baddies of the non-abv scene include the Le Seltzer line of flavoured sparkly water with flavours such as yuzu-pomelo, black cherry, and ginger. One of my personal favourites is the hibiscus juice company Zamalek, which features still, sparkling, and iced tea style. Based on an Egyptian family recipe, Zamalek is delicious, a touch dry, and even a bit tannic! Tannin is something I often lose (and adore) in non-abv versions of wines, and this juice happens to have that tea-like mouth tightening component that I crave. Zamalek’s cold brewed still hibiscus juice is my personal favourite alternative to a light red wine.


I have a top 5 for zero-proof spirits this year! Thanks to my teaching job and workshops, I’ve had a lot of access to some dry spirits I might have missed otherwise. 

Feragaia is a Scottish-produced non-abv spirit. Foraged local ingredients of both land and sea give Feragaia a very whimsical and unique flavour that can be used in any space that might call for a bright, herbaceous spirit. They do not claim to be a de-alcoholized version of any particular spirit, which is refreshing (pun intended) because it pushes the boundaries of what a unique zero-proof spirit can lend to each recipe.

My next batch of options are all of a similar breed — aperitifs. This is the pinnacle of non-abv spirit movement. Why? Because if the recipe is precise and complex (as these are) then not only can you enjoy them on ice like you would any good vermouth or aperitivo, you can sub them into non-alcoholic OR alcoholic cocktails. I couldn’t make a zero-proof negroni or aperol spritz until these styles came out. You could arguable make a negroni with one of these vermouths to make a lower-alcohol version and I can almost certainly guarantee you wouldn’t notice a loss in flavour. I was floored and excited. I love a stiff cocktail, but sometimes 3 straight ounces of liquor puts me out like an Ikea tealight — fast. My top three are:

Monsieur Cocktail’s Noa — Their sweet vermouth, amaretto, and Italian aperitif are my top flavours. The sweet vermouth was a total surprise for me, and as a die-hard vermouth sipper, I would be happy to have this in my cup. The amaretto is a sweet little treat and easy to mix into sours. The Italian aperitif is the ONLY way I’d make a non-alc Aperol Spritz. It smells like Tang or Fanta, it’s confusing (in a fun nostalgic way) and then in comes the delightfully bitter finish. I giggled with delight the first time I tried it.

Ghia — While I haven’t personally tried this non-alcoholic apéritif, it comes with strong recommendation from another top sommelier. Harder to get in Canada (hopefully we see more soon!), Ghia offers a sweet vermouth that’s rich and delightfully bitter. I would recommend this on branding alone (SO CUTE).

Sobreo — Sobreo used to have really quirky names (I didn’t like them but some people did) and with a quick rebrand and focus on specific ingredients, it’s a staple in my zero-proof arsenal. I regularly use two of them, the Valencia Orange and Vietnamese Star Anise, both vibrant and rich. The star anise is a great alternative for those baking spice-scented cocktails (perhaps whiskey-based), and the Valencia Orange is excellent for cocktails that call for Aperol. I’ve also played with Guatemalan Cardamom (rum-based cocktails rejoice!) and the French Gentian and Tuscan Juniper (basically choosing your flavour focus for gin-based cocktails). Dang! I’m just missing the Indonesian Cinnamon, but I’m sure I’ll taste it soon.

Martini — Can you believe it? Martini, the cheaper option for Italian bubbles and vermouths… They absolutely nailed it with their non-abv duo of aperitivos. The ‘Vibrante’ (orange and bergamot) and ‘Floreale’ (artemisia and chamomile) are a stunning little duo for drinks as chill as a spritz or as complex as…well whatever calls for a light amaro, herbaceous spirit, or just something more mature to sip on. Not mentioned on the site: Martini 0.0 Zero Proof Prosecco! A splash of either aperitivo topped with the 0.0 Prosecco and a slice of grapefruit? Perfection, without the hangover.


I have compiled a small list of local shops I know carry these items (Ottawa & Toronto) but would love to hear about more!


Split Tree


Lollo/Byward Wine Market

Corner Peach Store



Grape Witches

The Zero Proof


Needless to say, dry months, dry spells, dry times, they aren’t the end of the world, and we should be excited about drinking the new and ever-improving non-alcoholic drink category. Being hungover can be either a thing of the past or few and far between, and celebrating with loved ones doesn’t need to feel like a stressful burden when you aren’t imbibing on booze. I hope to see more readily available and interesting non-alcoholic options on menus and in households with the same respect as any alcoholic alternative.

Cheers to you and yours!