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Non-Alcoholic Beverages

By Veronique Savoie, Orleans and Downtown Acupuncturist

Hello to all the Oaktree family,

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Veronique and I am the Acupuncturist at the Orleans locations (and sometimes Lisgar as well). I have worked in bars and restaurants for over 20 years, have studied wine and curated wine lists at multiple restaurants, attended international cocktail conventions, and trained numerous bartenders throughout my career.

Though wine and cocktails was a big part of my life, and still is, leading a healthy life has more recently become a focus and passion. For years now, the trend in non-alcoholic drinks has been on the rise, and due to its increased demand, the quality has improved as well.

Whether you did dry January or February (yes the shortest month of the year) and are hoping to keep this dry train going, or are simply looking for some non-alcoholic substitutes to mimic your favorite libations, the following are things to keep in mind.

Firstly I must note that just because it’s non-alcoholic doesn’t mean it’s healthier. Lots of mocktails use simple syrups or other sugary ingredients and in moderation this is ok. But a drink can quickly become a sweet mess if you’re not aware.

Secondly, do not think that the NA alternatives will taste the same. Though they’ve come a long way, there are limitations to achieving the same flavor as your favorite wine or spirit.

Thirdly, just because it’s non-alcoholic doesn’t mean it is less expensive. This is a common misconception and not sure why we would think this. Alcohol does not mean better, and therefore does not equate to more expensive.

There will be some trial and error. There are a lot of articles out there with recipe suggestions. For beer, I must admit NA Erdinger and Corona are my top zero percent beers. Many grocery stores carry an array of options, and websites such as also have some fun sour and stout options as well. For non-alcoholic wine, to be honest, as a sommelier I have been disappointed on numerous occasions. Proxies are probably the best known options and I must say many are quite good. They are on the lighter side, but can satisfy your taste buds if you are looking for something fresh, but also deep in flavor. One of my favorites that I’ve tried is Gruvi non-alcoholic bubbly rose. Pour it in a flute and you’ll be cheersing to yourself and life. 

Speaking of flute, use “proper” glassware and garnish any mocktails when possible. Drinking is both physical and psychological. If you hold a mocktail in a simple glass with just ice you will not have the same positive effect as if it were in a cute stemmed glass with fruit and edible flowers. The weight of the glass, the way it looks and smells, the act of swirling in the bowl, these are all a part of drinking that might trick the mind into thinking it’s the real thing. Or at the very least it’s more fun. It’s like going to the gym in an outfit that makes you feel good versus just throwing on an ill fitting shirt and shorts. You’re more likely to enjoy it if it looks good!

On that note, dopamine is the “feel good” neurotransmitter release when one consumes alcohol. But studies now show that it is also released when drinking non-alcoholic options (perhaps due to the physical act, or perhaps due to the similar flavor and your taste buds memory).

We are all social beings and often drinking is linked to going out and creating interpersonal connections. Oddly enough alcohol can affect social situations in a negative way. Consuming non-alcoholic alternatives can lead to the same joy of being with friends, and better yet you will be more level headed and connected while having those conversations and allow you to actively listen to others. 

So a few takeaways:

-Have fun with glassware: I often find my favorites at thrift stores.

-Purchase a few fun bitters and check out some local Ottawa shops that have a great selection of products: Split Tree, Lollo, Corner Peach Store and Knyota. 

-Mocktails do not need to be boring: many top restaurants and bars now offer well curated options so try those for inspiration.

-Stay open minded and cheers to trying something new!

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