The Scoop and the Skinny on the Latest and Greatest N/A Drinks from Better Rhodes

Better Rhodes is the coolest N/A market we’ve seen, a place where you can find and learn about stellar alcohol free products. This comes in handy especially now with the Holidays and all the social pressure that goes with it. What if we sailed through all the parties, not only having fun, but feeling great? Better Rhodes’ collection of really amazing N/A spirits and cocktail recipes offers that possibility, and let us tell you, the N/A world is exploding with complexity and fabulousness.

Better Rhodes is the coolest N/A market we’ve seen, a place where you can find and learn about stellar alcohol-free products. This comes in handy especially now with the holidays and all the social pressure that goes with it. What if we sailed through all the parties, not only having fun, but feeling great? Better Rhodes’ collection of really amazing N/A spirits and cocktail recipes offers that possibility, and let us tell you, the N/A world is exploding with complexity and fabulousness.

We sat down with Chris Becker, founder of Better Rhodes, for some recommendations and thoughts about celebrations while happily sober.

ELA: Chris, why did you start Better Rhodes? I've read in your story how you wanted to find beer that tasted good, but was there also a personal reason that led you to the world of N/A? 

CB: Yes! As you read, and like many startups, our business started with a personal search for alcohol-free beverages that didn’t suck! Trying to solve my own problem of having an adult social beverage without alcohol. For me it was beer I was looking for; I was actually in LA at the time, and discovered there was a lot more out there than I knew. My personal reason is like many—I’ve never truly been comfortable with my relationship with alcohol—really going back to my teens. It was something I ignored and even glorified—something our society does as well. I wanted the ability to socialize and drink an adult beverage that did include alcohol sometimes, or not at all! This category of ‘better-for-you’ adult beverages can provide real empowerment for those that feel pressured to drink. Our company name speaks to the idea that we are all on our own personal journey to a better place, whatever that may mean to each of us. 

ELA: The holidays are coming up, and with it the parties. We all know there's still pressure around social drinking, especially when people are celebrating. Do you have any tips for navigating this? What about showing up with your own N/A party-in-a-bottle and, if so, what do you suggest?

CB: The holidays are a trigger-time for many where alcohol can be a go-to (social) tool. You’re right on it—bring your choice of amazing alcohol-free adult beverages and surprise people with what’s out there. Being prepared can take the stress out of holiday situations. Non-Alc sparklings or cocktail recipes are a great way to also get out there without the booze. 

You could try French Bloom Sparkling Rose from Tattinger, Noughty White Sparkling, or a recipe for a non-alc Old Fashioned.

ELA: Ok, so non-alcoholic wine. Is it any good? How does the process differ from a traditionally-made bottle of wine? How are today’s N/A vintners dealing with the challenges and making really interesting wines?

CB: Well, we sample and sell a range of N/A wines. I would say the current generation of N/A wines are okay, but there’s a long way to go. There are some standouts for sure, but I think we can expect some great things over the next few years with a new and ‘next generation’ of non-alc wines. 

The current process for wine really only differs after traditional wine is ready. From there there are two main differences: 

  1. The de-alcoholization process starts, which is really like giving the wine open heart surgery, replacing the alcohol with other flavors to build back the body and life. There are three main ways to de-alcoholize (we won’t get into them but the names of the processes are Reverse Osmosis, Vacuum Distillation and Spinning Cone)—some are cheaper and use heat, but result in a greater negative shock to the liquid. Others are more subtle, but take longer. There are also some new techniques we are seeing that we are excited about. 

  2. The dosage process. This is the adding of other flavors to bring certain characteristics and body to the wine. This exists in traditional winemaking as well, but takes on a bigger role with N/A wines. There is real artistry in this element. We’re working in this area based on our customers' feedback and are excited about some of the announcements we will share next year for some great ‘next generation’ N/A wines. 

ELA: In the old world of alcohol versus N/A drinks, we were talking spirits, beers and wines versus juices and seltzers. There was a huge gulf between “adult” drinks and beverages for the sober crowd. Basically, you could have a margarita, or you were stuck with apple juice. Now I’m seeing so many N/A spirits that are developed with layers of complexity. They don’t exactly mimic the taste of alcohol, but have the same level of sophistication. Would you talk more about that and particular brands you’re seeing that impress?

CB: Yes, this is really at the heart of this whole ‘Better-for-You’ beverage category. Non-alc and alcohol-free are definitely a feature, but there is also a lot going on with functional elements. This category touches also existing beverage segments such as kombuchas. 

There are a growing number of brands that are not attempting to emulate their alcoholic cousins. Many promise ‘GABA-inducing’ benefits which is similar to what you might get if you take supplements such as 5-HTP. Some are focused on being alternative pairings for food. In this category there are ‘vinegar-based’ beverages such as Proxies which are amazing and very creative. For mixed drinks, brands such as Melati, Pathfinder, Sentia and LA’s own Bonbuz are making waves and can be used to create all kinds of drinks. There is also a ‘tea based’ category with products like Töst and Saicho. Lastly there are some really amazing ‘Ready-to-Drink’ brands that are not trying to emulate classic cocktails. LA’s own Hiyo along with Sir James, For Bitter or Worse or NOPE are exciting options. 

There’s also cannabis. These are drinks with CBD and THC, so now you’re going to get a buzz of some kind, but they will sidestep many of the more deleterious effects of alcohol. The cool thing about cannabis is that it's actually supposed to be good for you!

ELA: A word about what you’re seeing in the landscape there?

CB: This category has come a long way in a fairly short amount of time, especially in California, Oregon and Canada. CBD-based drinks have been in many stages for awhile but THC is coming and you will see a lot more where ‘alc-free’ drinks like beer will have THC or even other substances like Psilocybin. Dosing and education are important in this category. The regulations are also changing and can be complex. Caan and others are jumping into this ‘drinkable’ space. We may see some known brands come out with ‘drinkable’ versions with THC. 

ELA: What’s your favorite NA cocktail when you want to celebrate?

CB: Well, besides the N/A IPA’s, my favorites are the various Aperol Spritz RTDs. One example is the ‘Bitter Apertif’ from Sir James.

ELA: Tell me about a moment of fulfillment since you started Better Rhodes.

CB: No one has ever asked me that before—thank you for asking. There was a time last winter, with so many orders coming in, and things feeling like they were in absolute chaos. We were all madly organizing shelves and packing orders with the music going in the warehouse and everyone working together. I looked up and was amazed at the incredible team we have and how they were all pitching in at the height of our December holiday and Dry January busy season. I’m very proud of the team we’ve got—we’ve brought together a dedicated group doing amazing work. I feel fulfilled and humbled just to get out of the way. It's a real honor to also think that this can help people have more choice in where and how they want to drink. 

ELA: Lastly, we'd love to show people how to have their own unconventional Christmas party with a whole NA bar set up. If I’m going to throw a party, what bottles should I make sure to have on hand for really creative NA cocktails and beverages?

CB: Good question! I’ve listed them below: 

  • If you’re starting from scratch you will need some good glassware and bar tools.

  • A few N/A Sparklings or N/A wines with sparkling sodas can do wonders with added strawberries or raspberries for a nice touch with extra flavor. 

  • A few N/A beers for sure—Athletic and Big Drop are some favorites. Or LA’s own Bravus here in Orange County, and RationAle. All great choices. 

  • We have a few ‘Occasion and Starter’ kits to get you going which enough to make some cool cocktails or have some fun and flavorful RTDs for your guests (check it out here). 

  • Lastly, recipes. Books like The Guide to Zero-Proof Cocktails or Mocktail Party or Good Drinks are some great choices. 

  • Also, if you are really into the mixology aspect of NA drinks—check out our friend Derek Brown and his class on creating Mindful Drinks.


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