We Tried All the New "Psychedelic" Beverages (& Here's What's Actually Good)
A new wave of nootropics, euphorics, and all-around-feel-goods for those who don't want alcohol but still want a buzz.
There are a lot of reasons that people give for drinking alcohol: it helps them unwind, makes them less inhibited and more social, or relaxes them enough to sleep. For people who don’t drink, however, a whole new class of non-alcoholic beverages has blossomed in the last four or five years that purport to have the positive qualities of a pre-game cocktail or an after-party nightcap without the alcohol. Called “euphorics,” they are loaded with adaptogens, nootropics, and hemp derivatives that aim to keep you clear headed but promise everything from giving you more energy to party to increasing mental clarity to be more present in social situations, and helping you chill out and ease into sleep.
For the uninitiated, the ingredients that give euphorics their alleged benefits are roughly divided into three categories. Adaptogens, like ginseng and schisandra, are herbs and other botanicals that are described as mood and body balancing, counteracting stress and exhaustion, and some studies demonstrate that they do actually protect the body from cellular damage. Nootropics are compounds that are considered brain-boosting and energy-enhancing, a favorite among so-called “body hackers,” and include both natural and synthetic plants, vitamins, amino acids, and the most widely used nootropic, caffeine. Finally, non-intoxicating cannabis derivatives like full spectrum hemp oil, CBD, and terpenes are added to beverages to soothe both the body and mind.
While the research backed evidence of these claims varies widely from ingredient to ingredient, and in my experience the effects are usually so subtle as to be almost indistinguishable from the same effect of taking time to mark the end of the work day with a tasty cocktail or to connect with friends over drinks, it is always recommended that you consult with a medical professional before indulging in euphoric-enhanced beverages. Even though these ingredients are generally considered safe, some may be discouraged for people for the very reasons they choose to abstain from alcohol. Ashwagandha, for instance, may pose a risk to pregnancy, and rhodiola is a mild MAOI inhibitor that may interfere with some medications. Whether or not they actually do what they say on the bottle or it’s just a delicious placebo effect, these are our favorite sophisticated and tasty euphorics.
Forget espresso martinis! These energy boosters, social lubricants, and mood setters are your non-alcoholic excuse for flirting, dancing, and chandelier swinging.
The energizing effects of Bonbuz’s two offerings, the punchy bitter citrus original, as well as the spicy blood orange and jalapeño spiked Slow Burn, make them some of my favorite ingredients in non-alcoholic cocktails (though I have been known to enjoy it on the rocks!). Both have just enough caffeine for a quick hit of energy, and are packed with B vitamins, 5-HTP, rhodiola, and L-Tyrosine for a longer lasting mood boost and to protect against a post-caffeine crash. Designed to get you off the couch for social occasions, I find it also works well to increase my focus during the work day.
Three Spirit Livener and Social Elixir
Non-alcoholic spirits company Three Spirit has made a full flight of incredible drinks with active botanicals, nootropics, and adaptogens that evoke some of the positive qualities attributed to alcoholic drinks. Each expression is named for the effect it produces, and the full line will take you from pre-game to after the after-party. All three spirits are available in a mixed pack to give you options for every cocktail occasion. Spicy watermelon pomegranate Livener is caffeinated with Amazonian guayasa and loaded with immunity boosting antioxidants. Bittersweet Social Elixir contains flirty damiana, as well as brain boosting cacao, lion’s mane mushroom, and decaffeinated yerba mate and green tea.
Curious Elixirs No. 2 and No. 4
Deciding on a favorite between the seven exquisitely crafted, ready to drink non-alcoholic cocktails made by Curious Elixirs would be impossible, and it’s entirely likely that my favorite is whichever one I am currently sipping. That said, I do find myself turning again and again to Curious No. 2, an inspired mashup of a pineapple margarita and a dark and stormy, and Curious No. 4, a sunshiny and refreshing blood orange spritz.
A beguiling tropical treat, perfectly balanced between the sweet and sour taste of real pineapple, Curious No. 2 opens with an invigorating blast of ginger big enough to increase blood flow and warm your cheeks to a pleasant flush, while the floral-sweet and aphrodisiac damiana takes over about 15 minutes later to soothe and subtly relax the muscles. Curious No. 2 is like the physical effects of flirtation in a bottle.
While Curious No. 2 heats you up, Curious No. 4 is the welcome breeze on a hot summer day. Saturated with sunshine from blood orange and green mandarin, with a touch of holy basil that adds the orange candy quality of Aperol, the flavor profile alone of this lightly sparkling spritz is quite refreshing. The addition of turmeric, known to reduce inflammation, and American ginseng which, unlike Asian ginseng, is classified as a cooling herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine make this the perfect hot weather pool or beach side sip.
De Soi Golden Hour
De Soi’s ready to drink, zero proof, and adaptogenic Golden Hour is an inspired blend of floral forward citrus fruits like yuzu and bergamot, rounded and softened by pear juice and snuggly chamomile. Loaded with aromatic herbs like bay leaf, rosemary, and lemon balm, and supplemented with maca, best known for increasing libido, and anxiety relieving l-theanine, Golden Hour tastes like the kind of sexy, languid sunset picnic date that lingers well into the night.
DRAM Lemongrass Adaptogenic Sparkling Water
Though it has 25 mg of broad spectrum CBD hemp extract, DRAM’s Lemongrass Adaptogenic Sparkling Water is a great option for the late afternoon slump, despite it’s high CBD content, due to the inclusion of eleuthero root. Sometimes called Siberian ginseng (though it is not a true ginseng), eleuthero is an herbal stimulant that may fight fatigue, increase concentration, and even give you a little extra boost for your workout. Combined with the aggressively fresh flavor of lemongrass, boosted by both lemon balm and lemon oil, this is not just a great herbal forward option to replace a gin and tonic at happy hour, but an intriguing alternative to a 4:30 shot of espresso.
Looking for something alcohol free to help you unwind when you can’t help exclaiming, “I need a drink!” (with or without an expletive)? These perfect happy hour options will help put you in a better mood.
A hemp-infused, non-alcoholic spirit, Aplos has an invigorating botanical and aromatic flavor profile from crisp green basil, rosemary, and dandelion, and pronounced notes of yuzu and calamansi. Delicious on its own or with a splash of soda, Aplos is also a great ingredient in cocktails, not just for the herbal citrus balance it brings to bitter and sweet flavors, but for the visual effect of its unique, pearly white color.
Aurora Elixirs Blackcurrant Spruce
While I enjoyed all of Aurora Elixirs’ flavors, the wonderfully unique Blackcurrant Spruce tastes like a winter walk in an evergreen forest. Dark blackcurrant is deep and juicy with a bitter bite on the finish, while the piney spruce and a hint of quinine make this the cold weather answer to a juniper forward gin and tonic. With 25 mg of broad spectrum hemp extract, this is a perfect after-work relaxer straight out of the bottle or served over ice with a sprig of rosemary if you want to get fancy.
Vybes Blackberry Hibiscus with CBD and Apricot Lemon with adaptogens
Vybes makes seven different flavors of CBD infused juice drinks with 25 mg of hemp extract and three lightly sparkling adaptogenic “mood enhancers,” like l-theanine, red ginseng, and immunity boosting vitamin C, zinc, and elderberry. The Blackberry Hibiscus Hemp CBD beverage has the flavor of a late summer evening, with tart hibiscus tea sweetened with rich blackberry juice, warmed by just a touch of cinnamon and clove like the promise of autumn. Apricot Lemon Mood Enhancer is equally summer-y, with a round, jammy burst of apricot sunshine that tickles your palate with tiny, tight bubbles.
Kaló Ginger Lemonade
Even among Kaló’s eight flavors of seltzer infused with 15 mg of CBD, all of which are tasty and worth drinking, the Ginger Lemonade stands out. The lemon is aromatic and sweet, and the ginger has a real grown up kick, more like ginger beer than ginger ale. Though described as a seltzer, there is just enough natural cane sugar to give this a really full, satisfying flavor that stands on its own as a drink to savor and enjoy.
The Hemp Division Orange Mango Sparkling Elixir
CBD seltzers are everywhere these days, though few have a flavor profile interesting enough to drink on their own at happy hour. The Hemp Division’s Orange Mango Sparkling Elixir is a juicy and bright glass of bubbles, with a trace of fruity sweetness despite having zero sugar. The 20 mg of CBD hemp extract adds both a sophisticated herbal edge to the flavor and a noticeable relaxing effect.
There’s just something deeply relaxing about slowly savoring a drink with the lights low. Try pouring these zero proof options in your favorite rocks glass to send you off to bed.
Three Spirit Nightcap
The last step in Three Spirit’s dusk to dawn lineup of functional drinks for all occasions, Nightcap blends cozy flavors of maple, ginger, vanilla, and hops with valerian root, a clinically proven, non-addictive sleep aid, as well as soothing herbs for brain and body like lemon balm, licorice root, and white willow bark.
Crisp and Crude Gold Fashioned
Rich, oaky, and delicious, this smoky blend of lapsang souchong, with bitter and herbal chicory, dandelion, and chinotto oranges, deepened by the cocoa aromatics of Chocolate Thai terpenes is a real masterpiece. Ready to drink and available either with 20 mg of hemp extract or without, this is a perfect zero proof option for both bourbon enthusiasts and those who love a peaty, slow sipping scotch.
Proposition Turmeric Ginger Mule
Though it’s described as a mule cocktail, this brilliant sunflower yellow non-alcoholic cocktail from Proposition is packed with mint and tastes more like a pineapple mojito than a Moscow Mule. Warming ginger and anti-inflammatory turmeric combine with 15 mg of hemp extract for a cozy nightcap or a Sunday afternoon treat before the start of the work week.
No matter your reason for not drinking alcohol, or what effect you are trying to achieve, there are delicious, zero proof, non-intoxicating euphoric beverages that will hit the spot!
Join The Conversation