Around the world, 0.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) in a beverage is recognized as non-alcoholic. We often get questions about what 0.5% ABV means for their lifestyle so we thought we'd put the answers in a post.
0.5% ABV is legally considered non-alcoholic because our body metabolises that amount of alcohol faster than we can feel any effect.
We may think it's only present in beverages like wine, beer, or spirits, but in fact, many foods have some ABV due to their fermentation like kombucha, breads made with yeast, overripe bananas, yoghurt, soy sauces & vinegars ranging from 0.2% ABV up to 1.2%ABV.
Research has shown that ethanol in "non-alcoholic" beverages can still be harmful to patients who suffer from cirrhosis of the liver. About 80-90% of ethanol is metabolized by the liver and the damage caused by its over consumption can cause impairment in patients with cirrhosis even with such minimal ABV like 0.5%. This was revealed in a study done by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). For this reason, many doctors limit cirrhosis patients to only one or two 0.5% ABV beverages a month, or none at all.
For others who come from alcohol addiction, lifestyle or religious reasons, they may simply have a preference to avoid anything with a 0.0% - 0.5% ABV or beverages that were once alcoholised and then alcohol-removed – even if down to 0.0% ABV.
For all these reasons and preferences, there are still so many ways to enjoy non-alcoholic beverages and here's a guide:
Spirits like Lyre's and Free Spirits are all fully 0.0% ABV because they were never fermented into alcohol and then dealcoholised. They are crafted to replicate the taste and flavour profile, so you are safe to drink these as frequently as you wish. When mixed with soda, a low-sugar tonic, mixer and a good line up of garnishes, you've got yourself a nice cocktail!
Most non-alcoholic wines are fermented into alcohol and then alcohol-removed using a very sophisticated technology called spinning cone column or vacuum distillation. They are mostly reduced down to 0.0% but some do live around 0.3% to 0.5%. If you're looking for a 0.0% ABV wine here are some recommendations:
Noughty Organic Chardonnay and Sparkling Rosé were both fermented and then had their alcohol-removed, however these are certified 0.0% ABV. As an alternative, if you're looking for a beverage that was never fermented, Zera is a sophisticated beverage line. It's a collection made with French know-how from varietals in the Languedoc-Rousillon region. These are wine-like beverages, that were never alcoholised.
In the beer category, there are lots of delicious options on the market that cruise at 0.5% ABV and under. Most beer brands dealcoholise their beverage after giving it the traditional ferment process, but our friends at Nirvana only ferment to 0.5% or lower and get their flavour profile and depth from a proprietary technique. For those looking for a clean 0.0% ABV, then go with Nirvana's Traditional Pale Ale. It's a classic and refreshing beer. Think cask ale for the modern era. Lightly roasted barley, balanced, crisp hoppy flavour and smooth caramel malt body.
Mixers like Wood Stove Kitchen and Split Tree are all 0.0% as they are mostly natural fruit, herb & spice blends that are used to make cocktails. They never used any alcohol to craft these blends. They do use natural sugars and sit a little higher on sugar content to bring forward flavour, if you need to consider that in your choice, but overall we look products with natural sugars and organic where possible.
Bitters truly make great cocktails, but traditionally all bitters were made with approximately 40% ABV. Ethanol is a powerful carrier for flavour so it works well in bitters to bring the punch to a cocktail using very little. Alcohol-free bitters are popping up on the scene and being well-received by the full proof and zero proof world. Due to the tiny amount added to cocktails (3-4 drops), it's almost untraceable, but in the event, you have health, religious or lifestyle concerns, non-alcoholic bitters are the way to go. Bittermilk are a great option for crafting that perfect cocktail.