This Easy Non-Alcoholic Drink Will Make Your January Blues Disappear

Whether you’re a mocktail person or not, there’s one non-alcoholic drink you should be making — and it only calls for two ingredients.

Drink bitters and soda for dry January

Steve Moss / Alamy Stock Photo

Let’s get this out of the way: I am not a Dry January person. There are few things I enjoy more than pouring myself a gin and tonic and sitting down on the couch after a long work day, and I lack the willpower to completely deprive myself of this small joy during the same month that I’m asked to set goals for the rest of the year. However, I am a mocktail person — I don’t need a cocktail every night, and when I opt for an alcohol-free evening, I still like to practice the ritual of pouring something special and collapsing onto the couch. Similar to making coffee in the morning, I think a large part of the joy in drinking a cocktail comes from the sense of self-care you get when crafting a beverage for yourself. Regardless of what kind of person you are — capable of fully committing to a month without booze, someone who prefers to pick and choose the evenings that they don’t drink, or a firm believer that mocktails are just juice — there is one non-alcoholic cocktail that anyone will enjoy sipping on: bitters and soda.

Bitters and soda is a combination of seltzer (soda water or club soda, call it what you will!) and bitters, a cocktail flavoring infused with herbs, spices, fruit, barks, or other botanicals. The result is an incredibly simple drink that still feels special, filled with earthy complexity, subtle spiced notes, and fresh fizziness. Bitters are technically alcoholic, and they’re usually between 35% to 45% ABV. Because they’re sold in such small bottles and their flavor is so strong, most recipes call for just a dash or a few drops, making its overall alcohol contribution negligible, and why you don’t need to be 21 or older to buy them. Think of using bitters like adding a drop of vanilla extract into a milkshake. 

There’s no recipe required to make bitters and soda, which is why you likely won’t find any online; just fill a glass with ice, add a few dashes of bitters, and pour seltzer up to the rim. One of the fun things about this drink is that you have plenty of room to play around with it;  either a rocks glass or a highball glass could work, depending on how much seltzer you like, and you can also mix and match different kinds of bitters and flavors of soda water. I like to pair classic Angostura Aromatic Bitters with an orange seltzer, for a lightly spiced, citrusy, and refreshing combo — its subtle orange color also makes me feel more like I’m drinking a cocktail. There are also so many different flavors of bitters out there that you’ll have infinite options to try; I’ve personally seen celery, cherry, mole, ginger, grapefruit, peach, root beer, and everything in between. If you want to get really fancy and branch out of the traditional two-ingredient combo, you can try adding a twist of citrus peel, a spoonful of simple syrup, or a splash of juice.

Bitters and soda is a drink for people who don’t drink, but it’s also a great option for people who do drink. With its subtle bitterness, riffability, and ease of assembly, it reminds me of a boozy cocktail, without making me miss one. My motto going into 2023 is simple: treat yourself. It’s not a new concept, but it’s one we often neglect amidst the pressures of work and socialization. So when you’re in need of an easy act of self-service, may I humbly suggest sitting down with a bitters and soda?

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