What we order at the bar (and mix up at home) when we're not drinking booze.

By Food & Wine Editors
Updated January 23, 2020

Even if (especially if?) you're fond of cocktails, there are probably times when you want to take a break from booze. Whether it's for health reasons, designated-driver reasons, or just-wanting-to-take-a-beat-after-holiday-revelry reasons, it's always helpful to have an actually enjoyable non-alcoholic drink order on standby—not just for dry January, but all year round. From fancy shrubs to good old-fashioned soda, here are the dry drinks we lean on most.

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Non-Alcoholic Spirits and Tea

"I’ve been obsessed with Seedlip ever since I came across it on the menu at Oxalis, in Brooklyn. My favorite non-alcoholic drink is actually from Oxalis’ menu, and it’s called Jasmine. It has just three ingredients: Seedlip grove, 'champagne acid,' and green tea. Perfectly balanced, a little fizzy, and not at all sweet. Goes with literally everything."

—Oset Babur, Associate Restaurant Editor

Bitters and Seltzer

I used to drink a truly revolting quantity of Diet Coke every day, but then I learned to love myself. I couldn’t quit the bubbles, though, and swapped over to unholy amounts of fizzy water and RIP my tooth enamel, but it’s still no doubt a healthier option. I mean, where does all that caramel coloring go? Anyhow, seltzer, soda, carbonated water, whatever is great and I could drink it in my sleep, but sometimes I like to add a little oomph with some bitters (Angostura is dandy, but I’ll switch it up to celery, rhubarb, or mixologist mustache hair bitters) and a squeeze of whatever citrus is around. I don’t care what kind; I’m a rebel and I’ll never ever be any good. Not that it’s anyone’s business what anyone else is putting in their mouth, but it looks like a cocktail if anyone is wondering and you don’t feel like answering questions about why you’re not drinking, and also bartenders understand it as a code for “I’m not drinking right now (or maybe ever—again, no one’s business), but I still wanna hang,” and they’ll make sure you’re hooked up all night, you bubble-loving maniac.

Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor

Seedlip

Diet Coke and Grenadine (aka Diet Roy Rogers)

"Everything comes full circle: When I was a kid my go-to fancy drink was always Coke and grenadine: a Roy Rogers. Specifically, I’d only order it at a beloved Mexican cantina in my hometown where they’d always accommodate a request for extra maraschino cherries. But as I’ve since come of drinking age, I explore and appreciate all sorts of flavors from sweet to citrusy to spicy in my cocktails. But as I’ve come of, well, just age in general with my twenties a distant dot in the rearview mirror, I’ve had to pace myself. So when my wife was pregnant and I was going mostly alcohol-free in solidarity, I got a hankering for a cherry Diet Coke while at bar birthday party. I asked the bartender if they could make that possible and they immediately replied “Yeah, grenadine and Coke. A Roy Rogers.” So here I am, nearly thirty years later, ordering the same fancy drink I did when I was coloring the placemats. Okay, I still color the placemats. Considering how few places actually serve Cherry Diet Coke (let alone Cherry Coke), you could even consider reviving this booze-free beverage named for a Hollywood cowboy a life hack."

—Adam Campbell-Schmitt, Associate News Editor

Grapefruit Spritz

"In the wintertime, when I feel chronically dehydrated and always in need of a Vitamin C boost, my go-to just-got-home-from-work drink is a simple grapefruit spritz: a tall glass filled halfway with ice and grapefruit juice, then topped up with seltzer and a few dashes of Fee’s Rhubarb Bitters. Way more tonic than a Gin & Tonic ever could be."

Adina Steiman, Deputy Digital Editor

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The Freshest Gatorade

"I usually take a chunk of preserved lemon, some fresh lemon juice, and sugar or honey, muddle it and top with soda water. It also works without the preserved lemon and with a big pinch of sea salt, but I like it with simple preserved lemon. Lime or lime pickle is also nice, which then makes it a kissing cousin of chanh muoi. It's basically Gatorade, but fresh."

Mary Frances Heck, Senior Food Editor

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