Welcome to Like A Virgin, a column in which we recommend a different zero-ABV drink each week. They’re not “near beers,” they’re not “mocktails”—they’re delicious beverages that anyone and everyone should try at least once. Got an idea for a future Like A Virgin column? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I like to think I’m the sort of person who would hand-squeeze an entire bag of limes for a single margarita or buy a dozen different juices for my classy home bar, but I am too lazy for the former, and the latter is just a small cabinet shared with a mess of canned tuna and cereal boxes. Though a bottle of Fresh Victor costs a bit more than a bag of limes, it’s certainly cheaper than buying an assortment of juices that I’ll never be able to use up before they expire. Each 16-ounce bottle is enough to make five cocktails, and oh, what cocktails they are.
I began my taste test with Fresh Victor’s Mexican Lime & Agave, because it has been blazingly hot in my little corner of Baltimore, and I have been craving a good margarita since I quit drinking over six years ago. Straight from the bottle this stuff is intense—explosively bright and fresh, like a pureed slice of key lime pie. I followed the simple margarita recipe on the label, mixing two parts Fresh Victor with one part of Ritual Zero-Proof’s tequila alternative, took a sip, and immediately exclaimed, “Holy shit, this is amazing.” I didn’t think that a bottle containing cold-pressed juice, sugar, agave, and water could make that much of a difference in my mock-margarita game, but it managed to change everything.
I tried the margarita recipe again using Fresh Victor’s Jalapeno & Lime, and even with my high tolerance for spicy things, I found it far too fiery. This is a good thing, though! I would have been disappointed if the spice was weak enough to disappear into the background, and Fresh Victor has made sure there is no chance of that happening with this mixer. Filling the empty space in my highball glass with Topo Chico calmed things down without drowning anything out.
The Cactus Pear & Pomegranate was similarly extraordinary, and doubly appreciated by me as a person has never once had cold-pressed prickly pear in her refrigerator. I used it in Fresh Victor’s non-alcoholic Kir Royale recipe, using one part of the mixer to four parts of AquaViTea’s champagne-y tasting Pineapple Lemonade Kombucha. Glorious, simply glorious! Even when it makes up only 20% of a drink, a Fresh Victor mixer is vivid enough to shine through like a brilliant but distant star.
As I’ve previously written, I believe the superlative Monday Gin to be too nice (and too pricey) to water down with mixers, but I was curious to see how it would play with Fresh Victor’s Cucumber & Lime. I’m pleased to say that it manages to make a beautiful thing even better; by using two parts “gin” to one part mixer, Monday’s best aspects became more pronounced. Sometimes the mixer needs to play a supporting role, and even with its electrically charged flavors, Fresh Victor is capable of doing whatever you ask of it.
After being blown away by my first four taste tests, I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised when Three Citrus & Mint Leaf managed to make me genuinely enjoy mint in a beverage for the first time in my life. I followed the easy mint julep recipe using Lyre’s American Malt and it was as enjoyable as any cocktail I remember from my drinking days. Non-alcoholic whiskey is a hard thing to get right, and though I love Lyre’s version, it lacks many of the most pleasurable notes that whiskey develops during a long charred-wood barrel age, hence why I only use it in mixed drinks. Fresh Victor’s blend of cane sugar, agave, lemon, lime, and orange juices manages to prop up its weakest corners, giving the faux-whiskey’s overly soft notes a major volume boost. Both components manage to bring the best out of each other, and isn’t that the point of a good cocktail?
The only flavor I can find anything to complain about is the Lemon Sour, not because it’s bad, but because it’s relatively unremarkable: it’s 60% lemon juice, 40% filtered water and organic cane juice, and something I can easily whip up myself. But if you find yourself with a bottle (like if you order the variety pack), you won’t be disappointed by anything you make with it. I used it in a simple shandy, mixing it one-to-one with Partake Brewery’s IPA, and it was just about as perfect as summer drinks come.
Normally when vetting non-alcoholic spirits for Like a Virgin I do not mix them into fancy cocktails that could obscure their flavors, and also, as I mention above, I am a lazy home bartender. But while perusing Fresh Victor’s recipe site looking for something to do with its Pineapple & Ginger Root, I found my interest piqued by the Jungle Bird, an alcoholic cocktail far fancier than anything I’ve made myself at home, and one actually had I had the ingredients to make.
Instead of using a cocktail shaker as instructed (again, I’m lazy), I poured Ritual Zero-Proof rum alternative, Lyre’s Campari-esque Italian Orange, and Fresh Victor’s mixers into a highball glass halfway full of ice and swirled it around in my hand like a fancy bastard. I took a sip, and I instantly became an even fancier bastard! This is the sort of drink I want bars to offer me when I tell them I’m sober. This is the sort of beverage I imagine more sophisticated people whip up in the evening before they put on their jazz records and talk about the stock market. It makes me believe, in short, that I’m someone special who deserves the finer things in life.