Welcome to Like A Virgin, a new column in which we’ll 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.
There’s not much I miss about drinking, but I do miss champagne. It’s not that I was ever a big champagne drinker at all because, like most people, I always equated it with special occasions, and, thanks to my latent Catholicism, I am very bad at convincing myself I deserve nice things. If I was a person who could responsibly drink alcohol, I could drink champagne every night “just because,” and no one could stop me. Alas, I am burdened with a constitution that renders me incapable of drinking responsibly, and by the time I realized I was indeed worthy of the occasional glass of champagne, I’d already been sober for three years. So is life.
The good news is that since I never devoted any time to learning the finer points of champagne, my memories of it aren’t vivid enough to render me persnickety about finding a suitable non-alcoholic stand-in. This week, I am recommending Aqua ViTea Kombucha to plug the coupe-shaped hole in your heart. Not because I set out to do such a thing, but because after my very first sip of its Pineapple Lemonade variety, I literally yelped, “Holy crap, this almost tastes like champagne!” The accuracy of that claim is up for debate since I believe the last time I drank champagne was at a banquet hall wedding back in 2014, but what I do know is that Aqua ViTea has many of the notes I remember—the refreshing dryness, the tart finish, the electrifying pucker of fermented fruit—and it is glorious.
Now, kombucha can be pretty dicey for those of us who are full-time members of sober society, since, as a fermented product, it can contain traces of alcohol. I normally avoid it altogether, but Aqua ViTea convinced me to give kombucha another chance by being upfront with its non-alcoholic claims and transparent about the methods—and science—behind them. The kombucha is sent through a spinning cone column in the brewing process in order to remove the alcohol without the use of extreme heat, which would destroy the beverage’s flavor. Another thing the cone seems to remove are all the unpleasant tastes I’ve long associated with kombucha, as I’ve found every flavor this brand makes to be clean, crisp, and superlatively delicious.
Mostly I’ve enjoyed Aqua ViTea’s kombuchas on their own, straight out of the can, because they don’t need any help to be beautiful. But because of their champagne-like qualities I tried making a spirit-free “Aperol” spritz with both the Pineapple Lemonade and Elderberry varieties. (I’ve never been able to taste an Aperol spritz before, and I’m tired of always being left out of the cocktail zeitgeist.) If it doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing, well, I’ll never know, but I do know it made me feel like someone special. Everyone deserves to celebrate themselves in style.
Find a glass that makes you feel fancy and fill up halfway with ice. Pour everything in, swirl the glass in your palm like you’re a Bond villain making dastardly plans, then garnish with an orange slice.