I Tried Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey—Here’s What I Discovered
Nonalcoholic spirits, like zero-proof whiskey, may satisfy alcohol cravings without the extra calories—or the hangover. I drank Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey for my month of sobriety. Here's what I thought.
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The rise of being “sober-curious”
Americans like their booze. So much, in fact, that one of the milestone birthdays involves hitting the legal drinking age. But recently alcohol has been losing a bit of its shine.
A 2020 report from marketing research firm The Nielsen Company found that 21 percent of Americans reported being “sober-curious” in January 2019. And since the release of the book Sober Curious, readers and drinkers have been echoing author Ruby Warrington’s question: “Would life be better without alcohol?”
“Consuming too much alcohol and doing so frequently can have many negative health effects,” says Amy Gorin, RDN, a registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut.
She says that when people cut back on alcohol for physical or mental health reasons, they often try to find tricks to “enjoy the taste of alcohol without the actual alcohol.”
And that’s how the nonalcoholic beer and spirits market was born. “We are seeing artisan products in the zero-proof category with real quality, which is very exciting,” says Gorin.
One of those products is a nonalcoholic whiskey.
What is Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey?
Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey is a nonalcoholic whiskey alternative. You can sip it neat, on the rocks, or mixed with your favorite cocktail ingredients.
As a nonalcoholic spirit, Ritual Whiskey is manufactured entirely without alcohol. That might sound obvious, but it’s not always the case.
Some nonalcoholic wines and spirits are crafted with alcohol, then put through a de-alcoholization process.
Unlike many nonalcoholic spirits, Ritual takes a stab at sensation in addition to aroma and flavor.
It looks like whiskey, smells a bit like whiskey, and rolls on the tongue with a slightly thicker-than-water viscosity designed to mimic the mouthfeel of liquor.
(These no-alcohol drink recipes taste like the real thing.)
Nonalcoholic whiskey isn’t for everyone
Before you pop the cork, know that despite being free of alcohol, this whiskey isn’t a good option for people who are heavy drinkers or who have an alcohol use disorder.
Sipping a drink that tastes like alcohol could trigger unhealthy cravings and a relapse.
Consult your physician or mental health provider before trying a nonalcoholic spirit like Ritual’s whiskey.
Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey nutrition facts
Unlike Ritual’s gin or tequila alternatives, Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey does have some sugar.
The company says that’s because most whiskeys taste slightly sweet, though that depends on whether you typically drink dry rye whiskey or a full-bodied bourbon.
According to the brand, here’s what you’ll find in a 1.5-ounce serving of Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey:
Protein: 0 g (0 percent daily value, or DV)
Sodium: 0 mg (0 percent DV)
Carbohydrates: 2 g (1 percent DV)
Added sugar: 1 g (2 percent DV)
Alcohol: 0 g (0 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV)
Ritual vs. Jack Daniels
Of all the whiskeys sold in the United States, Americans buy Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey the most, according to market research company Statista.
In a head-to-head comparison of Ritual and Jack Daniels, Ritual is lower in calories and, of course, alcohol content, though it does contain carbohydrates.
For comparison, here are the nutrients you’ll get from 1.5 ounces of Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey:
Protein: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Sodium: 0 mg (0 percent DV)
Carbohydrates: 0 g (0 percent DV)
Alcohol: 14 g (40 percent ABV)
What happened when I tried Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey
In the fall of 2020, I participated in “Sober October” for the first time.
I drank many mocktails. I tried alcohol-free beer, alcohol-free wines and non-alcoholic vodka. That’s also when I tried Ritual’s nonalcoholic whiskey for the first time.
Standing at my kitchen counter one blustery autumn evening, my partner and I opened up the bottle of Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey. We smelled, swirled, then tasted it neat, over ice, and mixed up in Ritual’s New Old-Fashioned recipe.
Here’s what I thought.
Drinking it neat
First, sniffing a shot of this alternative whiskey is like being hit on the nose with liquid smoke. There’s a strong whiff of mesquite. Once you get over the smokiness, you’ll smell hints of caramel and spice.
If you’re like me, you’ll notice the viscosity at first sip. It’s a little syrupy. Add to that the subtle sweetness, and your tongue might be tricked into tasting maple.
Once the liquid settles in your mouth, you’ll feel a distinct heat at the back of your tongue. Ritual seems intent on mimicking the burn of alcohol. That’s admirable, but this whiskey alternative’s kick tastes distinctly of peppercorn. It wasn’t tasty, but it wasn’t terrible.
Drinking it on the rocks
Because this spirit contains no alcohol, it already seems watery compared with full-fledged whiskey.
A shot of Ritual’s whiskey won’t have the same punch, burn, and flavor—and that might be a good thing, depending on your preferences.
I thought adding ice to my nonalcoholic whiskey would dilute it even more. Fortunately, I was wrong. Chilling the whiskey gave the drink more structure, pleasantly kicking up the aroma and flavors. It still didn’t taste like whiskey, but it was palatable.
Drinking it in a cocktail
We made Ritual’s twist on an old-fashioned:
- 2 ounces Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey
- 1 dash water
- 2 dashes bitters
- 1 ounce simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube)
- Orange slice and a cherry for garnish
The resulting cocktail was overly sweet but quaffable.
Blending Ritual’s whiskey with other ingredients helped round out and anchor the spirit. Though no one would mistake this nonalcoholic old-fashioned for a drink mixed up at the bar, it held its own as a spicy, aromatic, sippable libation. We were pleasantly surprised.
Benefits of nonalcoholic whiskey
In the past, experts have listed several health benefits of cutting back on alcohol consumption. These include:
Of course, these benefits are not directly linked to Ritual’s whiskey alternative. But swapping distilled spirits for nonalcoholic alternatives is an easy way to enjoy your favorite mixed drinks while still reaping the health perks of sobriety
Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey also contains far fewer calories than its alcoholic counterparts. If you’re a frequent whiskey drinker, switching to Ritual could support healthy weight-loss efforts.
Drawbacks of Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey
The most obvious drawback to Ritual’s whiskey is that it doesn’t taste like whiskey. Not when you sip it neat or on ice, at least.
But if you’re looking for a nonalcoholic spirit for a mint julep, old-fashioned, or Manhattan, fiddling with the ratio of ingredients could result in a palatable beverage.
In terms of healthfulness, Ritual has few drawbacks. Gorin says it’s important to watch out for added sugar in mocktails and alcohol alternatives, but Ritual hardly tips the scales with a single gram of sugar per shot.
“Generally, when choosing a zero-proof product, look for something with a clean ingredient list, no or little added sugar, and flavors that you enjoy,” Gorin says.
If you enjoy the flavor of Ritual’s whiskey and do not have an alcohol use disorder, you should be able to enjoy it with few risks or downsides.
Would I recommend it?
Ritual whiskey’s deep amber color looks like whiskey. Aside from missing the distinct vapor of alcohol, it even smells like whiskey.
Sipped alone, it doesn’t taste like whiskey. However, if you enjoy mixing mocktails at home, this whiskey alternative deserves a place on your bar cart.
As Gorin says, “If you’re going to eat or drink something, it helps to consume something quality so that you truly enjoy it.”
Ritual has put thought and research into its nonalcoholic spirits. So whether you’re “sober curious” or nixing alcohol completely, it’s worth tasting to see if it could be a truly enjoyable drink for you.
Other Ritual Zero Proof Products
Ritual also offers a gin alternative and tequila alternative. I tried both in my fall 2020 quest for the best alcohol-free spirits.
The Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative didn’t delight me. When I rounded up a small group of friends for a zero-proof tasting, we scored it lowest of the group—and we tasted some real duds.
Online reviews are mixed, so if you want to give this tequila alternative a try, prepare to love it or hate it.
Ritual’s Zero Proof Gin Alternative, however, is smooth and refreshing, with a fresh, herbal aroma and surprisingly heated finish (thanks to capsicum, also known as cayenne pepper).
Ritual’s gin alternative would be especially tasty in zero-proof gimlets or gin-gin mules.
Next, read tips to help you drink less.
- Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut
- Drugs and Lactation Database: "Capsicum"
- Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey:"Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey"
- Ritual: "FAQ"
- Ritual: "Ritual Whiskey Alternative"
- Statista: "Sales of the Leading Whiskey Brands in the United States in 2019"
- Radio Talking Points: "Soft Drinks and Health and Wellness Can Co-Exist Within the Same Space"