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Non-alcoholic DIY Bourbon | How good is it?

Hi, Friends of Cocktails. Today we’re making another episode for our Friends who prefer non-alcoholic cocktails, or zero-proof cocktails, or mocktails, or virgin cocktails… whatever you want to call them. Either way, after today you’ll be able to make an Old Fashioned without any alcohol! Pretty cool, right? To do that we’ll use the Non-alcoholic Aromatic and Orange Bitters we made in a previous episode, but we’ll also need a special ingredient: Zero-Bourbon.

Zero-Bourbon is a DIY zero-proof Bourbon-inspired drink that can be used to make non-alcoholic versions of classic cocktails, and it’s again inspired by the book Zero. Also, as the authors point out, re-creating spirit-forward drinks, where a high-proof spirit plays a central role in its flavor profile, is a lot harder than with bright, refreshing drinks, like a Daiquiri for example. So we’ll have our work cut out for us today. But that’s what makes it fun, right?

But first a disclaimer. You won’t mistake this, or any other zero-proof spirit for that matter, for its alcoholic counterpart, when you try this on its own. Think of it as an interesting and complex building block of a mixed drink, opening up mixology options for those that wish to stay away from alcohol. So if you’d like to see how to make more of these zero-proof components, such as non-alcoholic liqueurs or amari, let me know. For now we’ll keep our palates open and our minds sharp, because once again, it’s zero-proof Cocktail Time.


● 1L water

● 24g molasses

● 20g malted barley

● 40g banana peel

● 20g dried peaches

● 30g unsalted popped popcorn

● 10g charred oak chips

● 10g fenugreek seeds

● 10g cassia cinnamon

● 2.5g vanilla bean

● 1g salt

● Pectinex*

Add everything into a sous vide bag and don’t forget to scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean. In the book dried figs were added as well, the ratio of ingredients was quite different and you’d also need to roast the barley and banana in an oven first, but I preferred the taste I got by skipping these steps. So now place the bag into a sous vide set at 90°C or 195°F for 1 hour, but you can also make it on the stovetop as long as you have a good thermometer, but the sous vide will make it so that we don’t have any evaporation.

Once done, we’ll take the bag and place it in an ice bath to cool completely. Then cut open the bag and completely strain out all the solids with a fine mesh strainer, and we’ll filter out all the small particles after clarifying this liquid with Pectinex overnight. So weigh how much liquid you ended up with because we need to add 0.2 grams of Pectinex for every 100 g of liquid - in the US you can get this on Amazon or Modernist Pantry, and in Europe you can get some by clicking here for a special ingredients website.

Now leave the Zero-Bourbon to sit in the fridge overnight then filter through a rinsed coffee filter. The Pectinex we added accelerates the separation, but you’ll see that happening in the bottle even without it, and once it’s done you can gently filter the liquid. While this still won’t give us the perfectly clear liquid, you can re-filter the whole batch to get a better result, and I think the visual aspect is an important element of making non-alcoholic variations of cocktails. So the clear-er, the better, if you ask me, but this step is optional of course.

Something that’s not optional is keeping our Zero-Bourbon in the fridge and using it within 10-or-so days, since this isn’t alcohol based and doesn’t have any preservatives. One thing you can do is bottle in small batches, like I’m doing here, and freeze what you don’t need, and don’t forget to add a label so your Zero-Bourbon is ready to make a Zer-Old Fashioned.

Zer-Old Fashioned

● 1 barspoon Maple Syrup

● 3 dashes Non-alcoholic Aromatic Bitters

● 3 dashes Non-alcoholic Orange Bitters

● 75mL (2.5oz) Zero-Bourbon

● Orange peel

I’m making the cocktail directly in the glass over a clear ice cube - make sure you give the ice time to temper before pouring the ingredients. So add the ingredients in, and as with any Old Fashioned-styled cocktail I’m adding the spirit last. Now give your cocktail a stir, to mix and chill everything evenly, then take a wheel of an orange peel and a lighter, to give this a special garnish: flamed essential oils over the top! Place the peel on the ice and that’s it. It sure passes the eye test, but let’s dive right in.

Fruity, citrus aroma with a little smoke and heat. That heat doesn’t replace the gentle alcohol burn you’d be used to in a regular Old Fashioned, but everything we put in our zero bourbon gives it enough character to make the Zer-Old Fashioned a surprisingly good zero-proof substitute for the King of Cocktails. If you’re into non-alcoholic cocktails, give this a try. So my verdict would be… not bad, not bad at all.

Oh, and before we leave, have you ever wondered if you can still make non alcoholic drinks with Angostura or any other alcohol based bitters? Angostura Aromatic Bitters clocks in at 44.7% ABV, which is 89.4 proof- Quite a lot. So Camper English, a San Francisco-based cocktails and spirits writer, who also runs a website called Alcademics, wondered how much alcohol do bitters contribute to a non-alcoholic drink.

Keeping in mind that a drink can have up to 0.5% alcohol in it to legally be called "non-alcoholic", he calculated that when using 2 dashes of Angostura, the cocktail must be 5 ounces, or 150 milliliters in volume and contain no other alcohol. Your typical Old Fashioned, with dilution added, will typically max out at about 3 ounces. So you could technically use 1 dash and still be under the limit, or you can also take a middle road by using Liber&Co’s Old Fashioned Syrup. Your choice!

See you next week where I’ll make a cocktail that you’ll need a spoon for. Cheers!

4 Kommentare

can this be clarified using agar agar instead of pectinex?

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Kevin Kos
Kevin Kos
14. Dez. 2023
Antwort an

I haven't tried it with agar agar, but it should work too.

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Corey Lane
Corey Lane
02. Okt. 2023

Thanks for this! Point of clarification: when you say to scrape out the seeds out of the 2.5g vanilla bean, do the seeds still go in the bag or are you saying just use the seedless pod? Or just the seeds?

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Kevin Kos
Kevin Kos
04. Okt. 2023
Antwort an

Hi! Yes, scrape out the seeds of the 2.5g of vanilla bean. The seeds still need to go in the bag with the rest of the vanilla.

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