Tasty ways to celebrate a “dry” January

Although, calling January 2023 “dry” does seem somewhat ironic

What is dry anyway? Is it the opposite of wet? The answer is: sometimes. In liquor parlance, “dry” is also the opposite of sweet, and in some cases, it even means “less.” The “dry” martini probably best illustrates this point. Is it “dry” because of the “dry” vermouth? Or is it “dry” because of “dry” gin? Or is it “dry” because it has less vermouth? The truth is, it is all the above, depending upon whom you are talking to. One thing for sure, a “dry martini” is certainly not “dry” because it has no alcohol.

Let’s blame it on the French, at least initially. In French, “sec” means “dry”, but sec is often used to indicate something that is sweet, such as triple sec liqueur, one of the sweetest of all liqueurs, even though technically it reads “triple dry.” Further confusing the matter is demi-sec champagne, which is one of the sweetest of all champagne styles.

Or maybe we can blame it on the British? The term “Dry January” is a registered trademark with Alcohol Change UK and was first registered in 2014. The term denotes a month of abstaining from alcohol. The fact that Dry January has been observed long before that copyright was registered does make those of us who did that observing for decades before 2014 feeling a little left out. And then there is the weather. With an atmospheric river running through it, uttering the words “dry” January this year, just feels a little ironic.

But for those observing it, Dry January isn’t ironic or confusing. “Dry” January means abstaining from alcohol for the month of January, and while we might argue about what that means too (technically it means under .5 percent per volume, or a half of 1 percent), the fact is that there are a whole new range of products that fit this criterion. In order to mitigate any remaining confusion, we have taken the liberty of assembling some of those products here, all localized, of course, for your consumption.

Free Spirits Company “non-alcoholic spirits,” $38, 750ml

The “Spirit of Gin,” the “Spirit of Tequila,” the “Spirit of Bourbon,” and the recently introduced Spirit of Milan, (a non-alcoholic Italian style amaro) aren’t necessarily designed as an exact straight substitution for distilled spirits (except perhaps the amaro). These “spirits” work best in cocktails, either completely alcohol free ones, or as a way of reducing a cocktail’s overall alcohol content by replacing one or more of its spirits components. Founded by Tiburon’s Milan Martin, these products are alcohol free but have the mouthfeel and the bite of that alcohol courtesy of capsicum. The “Spirit of Bourbon” is aged in oak, the “Spirit of Tequila” includes the vegetal flavor of agave and the “Spirit of Gin” presents its juniper beautifully alcohol free. All are easily mixable in familiar cocktails. You might not be fooled, but you won’t be disappointed.

More information here: The Free Spirits Company

Best Day Brewery, $12, six twelve ounce cans

Once upon a time your non-alcoholic beer options were limited to Clausthaler and a smattering of offerings from a few mass market beer producers. If your flavorless, watery, so-called “American style pilsner” doesn’t have alcohol in it, then what is really the point? The taste? I doubt it. But don’t worry, better days are ahead. Enter Sausalito’s Best Day Brewery which makes a West Coast IPA (India Pale Ale), a Hazy IPA and a Kolsch. What more could any teetotaling craft beer aficionado want? And these are not watery versions of them, nor are they some sort of hopped carbonated thing that barely relates to beer. These actually taste like beer, and not just beer, but really good beer! Best Day means that the only thing you will be sacrificing is the alcohol itself.

More information here: Best Day Brewing

House of Saka, “de-alcoholized” wine infused with THC, $40 (750ml) and $7 (187ml)

Launched in 2019 by Mill Valley’s Tracy Mason and co-founder Cynthia Salarizadeh, the House of Saka takes familiar Napa wines; a buttery oaky chardonnay (Saka White), a Napa rosé of Pinot Noir (Saka Pink), and a premixed sparkling mimosa (Spark) presents them like regular wine in recognizable packages but removes the alcohol and replaces it with something different: THC. Not CBD, but 5mg of the deleterious stuff. The White and the Pink fit carefully into their respective flavor categories. The “Spark” is a  carbonated de alcoholized chardonnay which is then infused with essences of tangerine and orange blossom. Lightly sparkling, lightly citrusy, perfect. The 187ml beautifully packaged “Spark” will certainly add some fizz to your brunch, that’s for sure. The packaging and application also feel very familiar. And as far a as taste goes, Mimosas, Napa Chardonnay and rosé? Are you kidding me? Sometimes old dogs don’t want new tricks. Well, perhaps some new kicks but without having to completely reinvent the wheel. And these products certainly do the trick.

 More information here: House of Saka

Please always remember, that driving under the influence (DUI) is always against the law, regardless of the substance.