Is alcohol-free tequila on your mind? Whether you’re getting ready to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, fancy a mindful margarita or want to enjoy the flavours of Mexico without a hangover, the good news is that you have plenty of options.
As with other spirits like whisky, finding a like-for-like alcohol-free tequila isn’t straightforward. But there are many drinks that echo the flavour profiles of different kinds of tequila, and plenty of traditional Mexican alcohol-free drinks you can enjoy too.
What is tequila?
Tequila’s distinctive flavour comes from the blue agave plant, a succulent named for its distinctive hue, which primarily grows in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Each plant takes between seven and ten years to mature. Once harvested, the leaves are stripped away to reveal the piña, the heart of the plant, which is then roasted to break down the complex carbohydrates into simple sugars.
The piñas are then crushed to extract the juice, which is fermented with yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol. The resulting liquid, known as mosto, is then distilled to create tequila.
When you’re looking for an alcohol-free tequila, it’s important to remember that tequila is more a family of drinks, rather than a singular entity.
Variety in tequila comes primarily from ageing. Blanco tequila is clear and unaged, with a strong agave flavour. Reposado (which means “rested” in Spanish) tequila is aged in oak barrels for at least two months. This aging process imparts a smooth and slightly woody flavour. Further ageing creates Añejo and Extra Añejo tequilas, with sometimes complex notes of vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, tobacco and leather.
Tequila has a profound significance in Mexican heritage and culture and is drunk around many important events, such as Dia de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo. However, outside of Mexico, tequila has a very different image. And honestly, its reputation means that many people drink tequila not for its flavour but for its alcohol content. Whether in margaritas, slammers or shots, tequila’s image as a party drink means that it’s often a part of big nights in bars, clubs and social gatherings. And some people come off considerably worse for wear as a result.
Flavours in alcohol-free tequila
While the world of tequila contains a multitude of flavours, there are several key elements to look for in an alcohol-free tequila:
- Sweet: Many tequilas have a sweetness that comes from the blue agave plant, which can be subtle or pronounced.
- Earthy: Tequila often has a slightly earthy flavour, with notes of herbs and spices.
- Citrus: Some tequilas have a citrus flavour reminiscent of lime, grapefruit, or orange.
- Smoky: Aged tequilas, particularly añejo and extra añejo tequilas, can have smoky or woody aromas that come from ageing in oak barrels.
- Pepper: Some tequilas have a slightly spicy or peppery flavour, which can add complexity to the overall taste.
You can find these flavours in a wide range of alcohol-free drinks beyond tequila. So don’t get stuck looking for a like-for-like replacement.
Alcohol-free tequila options
But there are a handful of alcohol-free tequilas available in the UK. Here are some options.
Lyre’s Agave Blanco hits the same notes as an unaged tequila. Rich with roasted agave, it offers citrus and peppery flavours, making it a perfect base for a tequila-style cocktail.
CleanCo’s Clean T is a similar riff on a blanco-style tequila, opening with soft, fresh green agave and new oak aromas and hints of olive, complemented perfectly with a medley of sweet melon and subtle fruit flavour.
Or embrace the smoothness of a reposado-style alcohol-free tequila, with the Mexican Agave Spirit from ISH. Lush smoke is on the menu, making this perfect for slow-sipping cocktails.
Given the strength of the tequila market in the US, it’s hardly surprising that North America is streets ahead of Europe in terms of alcohol-free tequila. Better Rhodes has a great selection of options, such as Spiritless Jalisco 55, Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative, The Spirit of Tequila from Free Spirits and Cut Above Agave Blanco. And they even have some alcohol-free mezcal!
Other alcohol-free drinks from Mexico
Alcohol-free or not, there is a lot more to Mexican drinking than tequila itself. Mexico has a fantastic tradition of refreshing homemade fruit-based drinks and iced teas. Make the best of these with high-quality ingredients. And decorate your glass with a salt and pink peppercorn rim for visual appeal and spicy punch with every sip.
Agua fresca is a refreshing fruit-infused water that is popular in Mexico. To make an agua fresca, simply blend your favourite fruit with water and sweetener (if desired). Some popular flavours include watermelon, cucumber, and mango.
You can make agua de Jamaica from hibiscus flowers. To make this traditional Mexican drink, simply steep dried hibiscus flowers in hot water for several minutes. The resulting infusion is tart and refreshing, and you can sweeten it with honey or agave syrup. Serve with plenty of ice.
Finally, limeade is a classic summer drink. To make limeade, simply combine freshly squeezed lime juice with simple syrup and water to taste. Tangy and refreshing, and perfect for alcohol-free celebrations.