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Dry January Dispatch 03: Non-alcoholic Spirits

Words: Jessica Sweetman
Artwork: Paul Smith

Jessica Sweetman dives into the muddy non-alcoholic waters of Dry January so you don’t have to. Each week we’ll be posting a Dry January dispatch that will check in with our guinea pig and provide an objective and scientifically impeccable study of a non-alcoholic beverage. This week Jess gets thrown a curve ball and we find out if plant-based spirits are a viable alternative to the real thing.

We’re nearly there guys, just one miserable week to go! The announcement of the never-ending-lockdown definitely had me side-eyeing the wine rack but this week brought another alcohol-free revelation…

Let’s face it, with the January we’ve been having it would be pretty nice to melt into oblivion one of these Friday nights. But with alcohol off the table we’ve no choice but to get creative (and legal) with our highs. Baths and sex are two good options, and freaky botanicals is a third. Three Spirit is a plant-based alternative to booze that actually gives you the feels. With alchemy at their core, they’ve experimented with natural ingredients to offer drinks that make you feel some type of way. What is this sorcery you ask?  

Three Spirits Trilogy Starter Pack, €39.99 at The Virgin Mary Bar’s online shop (lots of other fun treats there too). 

Designed by plant scientists and bar-tenders, these drinks are their very own category of beverage, as Tatiana Mercer, one of their founders puts it, ‘we wanted to create something that allowed you to feel good without alcohol, something that fills the gap between drinking and non-drinking’. I was intrigued and got my hands on the tasting trio to test for myself. Presented in premium grey (Livener), green (Social Elixir) and brown (Nightcap) bottles, they look fancy as hell, which is just as well when you consider the hefty price tag. They also come with a tasting booklet, which introduces the ingredients and how they might make you feel along with some cocktail recipes. In fairness this is the most fun I’ve had since Christmas.

Livener

They suggest you start with the Livener to get your night started. Described as ‘exotic, fiery and fun’ the active ingredients are guayusa, schisandra and guava leaf. Out of the bottle it looks red and smoothie-thick and smells super fruity with a herby undertone. Very weird, very fun. Before I add tonic water, I taste it straight. Initially I’m hit with equal measures of sweet and sour, but there’s lots of depth of flavour with a hot, tingly finish, like ginger. It slightly burns the throat in a surprisingly satisfying way – it’s strong! Mixed with tonic water, it’s much more drinkable and tastes like a proper complex cocktail. After a few minutes and multiple sips my glands start to salivate and I start to feel more alert. Fifteen minutes later I’m buzzing. But wait a second, I recognise this warm, tingly feeling – it’s a classic caffeine high! Apparently guayusa contains natural caffeine, go figure. It’s worth noting that I’m a total caffeine wimp, but after a couple of these I’m HYPED. 

Social Elixir 

If Livener is aimed at the pregame, this guy is for drinking at the main event, which in my case is a Family Fortunes binge with my housemates. Strange times. Described as ‘dark, bittersweet and curious’, the active ingredients are cacao, lion’s mane and green tea. Sounds great but looks unappealing… It’s brown and a bit sludgy. It also smells mad musty and a bit pruney, like a granny in drink form. I decided to do this one on ice (I’m out of mixers) but apparently you can make a somewhat convincing espresso martini with this lad. This kind of makes sense considering it tastes like fruity chocolate milk with big prune energy. It’s a very dry finish, quite skunky and smokey. As for the feel good element, for me it was basically nada. Their website testimonials quote ‘a nice buzz’ and the booklet tells me I’ll feel chatty and a little flirty, but I challenge anyone to feel flirty while watching Family Fortunes at 8pm on a Friday in your pajamas. Even without the buzz factor, it’s a damn nice drink. 

Nightcap

As the name suggests, this is for winding down at the end of the night. Described as ‘decadent, woody and smooth’ the active ingredients are valerian root, lemon balm and melon mull hops (there’s also turmeric and ashwagandha thrown in). This Nightcap looks golden and smells like stewed pears and earth. Again I had it on the rocks, which is what the good people at Three Spirits suggest. It’s another bizarre concoction. Ripe fruit and hot spices mingle together with a slight mushroomy undertone. It’s also properly spicy, leaving your mouth super tingly. It’s good but I prefer the taste of the previous two, despite the spice, this one’s a little sweet for me. But it does the job, after a couple of shots I can feel my eyes get heavier and my body relax. Valerian root isn’t to be sniffed at. 

It can’t be denied, these are fun to drink. I’ve never come across such depth of flavour in a drink outside of alcohol before. It’s hard to put a finger on how effective they are as a buzz alternative, I’m pretty susceptible to any and all mind altering stimuli so caffeine and valerian root will get me. But there’s loads of independent reviews and testimonials on their website which claim fun effects. The taste alone makes them worth a try, there’s countless mocktails and flavour experiments to be had, perfect for another month stuck indoors.