Local Beverage Brands Offer the Flavor of a Cocktail Without the Alcohol

Consider kicking the year off with Dry January
dry january - Casamara Club and Käter Wingman
Casamara Club and Käter Wingman craft sleek nonalcoholic beverages in the Detroit area.

Participating in Dry January? You’re not alone. In recent years, 20 to 25 percent of U.S. survey respondents have said they plan to do so, abstaining from drinking alcoholic beverages during the first month of the year. And after a 2020 that drove many people to drink more (quarantinis, anyone?), it’s a good time for a break.

Pandemic drinking aside, the sober-curious lifestyle has been on the rise for the past several years, mostly fueled by young adults who want to be more intentional about their drinking. Fortunately for them, eliminating or cutting back on alcohol has never been easier, thanks to creative brands and bartenders who are crafting drinks with them in mind. Here in metro Detroit, that includes brands such as Casamara Club, Käter Wingman, and Detroit Kombucha Co. 

Founded in 2017, Casamara Club has “leisure sodas” that are sophisticated herbal seltzers drawing raves across the U.S. The brand’s amaro-inspired flavors take inspiration from the classic Italian bittersweet liqueurs. Like them, Casamara Club’s sodas contain a ton of fascinating herbal and bitter flavors, but the best part is that they are just barely sweetened. This is not your childhood Shirley Temple — bright red and syrupy sweet. Instead, these fizzy beverages deliver what many adult drinkers want: all the flavor and complexity they expect from a cocktail, just without the alcohol.

Dry January has gone a long way in reducing the stigma associated with not drinking. But sometimes you just don’t want to explain to your buddies why you’re taking the night off. Enter Royal Oak brand Käter Wingman Sparkling Water. Their electrolyte-enhanced plain, grapefruit, and lime-flavored sparkling waters come in bottles that look just like beer, so no one will ever be the wiser.

Speaking of beer, low and no-alcohol beers are the fastest growing segment of the beer market. However, even though Michigan is a great state for beer, local breweries have been slow to jump on the bandwagon, with just Schmohz Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids already in the market. (That’s expected to change this year, when Reputation Beverage is set to release its first offering!) 

Certified cicerone Annette May describes herself as ecstatic about these new craft nonalcoholic beers. “Hop-flavored sodas and teas don’t interest me at all,” she says. “I’m looking for the whole beer experience, and some of these really deliver.” 

Those looking to explore the amazing new world of nonalcoholic craft beer should head to Holiday Market in Royal Oak or The Produce Station in Ann Arbor. In addition to their great selections of NA and low-alcohol beers, both stores also sell nonalcoholic spirits brands such as Seedlip and Ritual, which make creating a delicious nonalcoholic cocktail at home as easy as mixing up a gin and tonic.

Kombucha is another great drink for flavor and complexity. Some people drink this fermented (but almost entirely nonalcoholic) tea-based beverage for its purported health benefits — but it’s also just delicious. Detroit Kombucha Brewing Works makes draft kombucha that is served on tap at a variety of locations throughout metro Detroit, including Eli Tea Bar in Birmingham. Grab a growler to go!

With so many great options to choose from, there’s no reason metro Detroiters should think of Dry January as a month of denial. Instead, we should all look at it as an opportunity to explore an amazing world of nonalcoholic flavor in our glasses, and to support local businesses along the way. 

Tammy Coxen is chief tasting officer of Tammy’s Tastings, a series of virtual cocktail classes; co-host of Michigan Radio’s weekly cocktail segment Cheers!; and co-author of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers (University of Michigan Press, 2019).