Low-ABV Beverages Are Having a Moment—Here's What You Need to Know

Plus, find out our food editors' favorite ways to use them.

Negroni Cocktail
Photo: Spencer Staats

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Low-ABV and nonalcoholic drinks rose in popularity in 2019, and we see no sign of this trend slowing down. "People are increasingly more mindful of their health, what they put into their bodies, and where their food and drink comes from," says Ben Branson, founder of nonalcoholic spirit brand Seedlip. When shopping for low-ABV or nonalcoholic beverages, assistant food editor Riley Wofford recommends looking for a "short, clean ingredient list."

What Does Low-ABV Mean?

Beverages that are low-ABV, which means "alcohol by volume," typically contain between four and seven percent alcohol by volume. Any drink that contains 0.5 percent ABV is classified as non-alcoholic, Branson explains. The low-ABV beverage category typically includes beer, wine, vermouth, and cider. Nonalcoholic spirits are quite different—they are flavorful mixers that contain no additional alcohol, which means that even children or pregnant women can enjoy a mocktail made with them. Home mixologists can use nonalcoholic mixers in the same way they would vodka, gin, or any other distilled liquor.

How to Use Low-ABV and Nonalcoholic Mixers

Branson recommends serving Seedlips' botanical blends like the aromatic Spice 94 or citrus-forward Grove 42 with ginger ale, tonic water, or club soda. You can make a delicious, lower-ABV cocktail using bar ingredients that you already have, too. Deputy food editor Greg Lofts loves a Negroni, the gin and Campari cocktail, but when he wants something lighter and more refreshing, he makes a Negroni Spagliato."The gin is replaced with Prosecco for a lighter, effervescent drink. If you don't have any sparkling wine, you can just use seltzer," he explains.

When senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell wants to enjoy a slightly bitter aperitif that is similar to Campari, but has a lower-ABV, she reaches for Forthave Red ($36.96, astorwines.com), a made-in-Brooklyn aperitivo. "I like to drink it on ice with a splash of seltzer and a twist of either lemon or orange peel," she says.

Not all low-ABV or nonalcoholic beverages are inspired by traditional cocktail ingredients. Editor-at-large Shira Bocar is a fan using GT's Raw Kombucha in this Nonalcoholic Michelada recipe. "Kombucha is great for gut health, has a very low-ABV, and is a nice, mellow happy hour drink," she adds.

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