Damrak VirGin, a spirit-free spirit, makes a mean Mumbai Mule

[image of bottle provided by Damrak]
Graphic: Natalie Peeples
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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 hello@thetakeout.com.


From the makers of Damrak Amsterdam Gin comes Damrak Amsterdam VirGin, which does not taste like any gin I’ve ever tried in my life. This is totally fine by me, because after years of sobriety I really do not need to be reminded of how much I enjoy gin. I have complicated feelings when it comes to non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits, because though I enjoy plenty of them, I’m also apprehensive of enjoying any “so-uncanny-its-almost-indistinguishable” substitutions too much. This is why I’m so happy that for its first foray into the world of spirit-free spirits, Damrak didn’t just slap together a half-assed alcohol-free imitation of its signature product, expecting us sober folk to settle for the lesser alternative with a grateful smile. VirGin is most definitely its own thing, with a flavor so unique, even people who enjoy alcohol may want to add it to their at-home bar setup.

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Much like its flagship gin, Damrak’s VirGin features a blend of familiar botanicals: juniper berry, ginger, angelica root, cinnamon, lavender, coriander, and star anise. Where it differs from its hard distilled sibling is in its heavy use of citrus—Valencia and Curacao oranges, plus lemon—which tips the balance of flavor away from the herbaceous and into vibrantly acidic territory. Though it might not be what its creators were going for, VirGin drinks like a sophisticated pickle juice, which I truly mean as the highest of compliments. It’s bright and explosive without being mouth-puckering, the sort of sip that forces you to stop and consider what it was, exactly, that you just drank. It’s unlike anything I’ve tasted before, and I am utterly tickled by it.

I don’t know how this is possible, but even though Damrak VirGin contains 0.0% alcohol and no sugars to speak of, it does not freeze. I keep my bottle stashed in the freezer and prefer to drink it neat so as not to obscure whatever the hell sort of cacophonous magic is going on in my glass. If you’re more of a mocktail person, you’ll no doubt find plenty of interesting ways to use VirGin. Recently while attending a performance of the “digital dinner and a show” Bollywood Kitchen, I used it as a replacement for vodka in a Mumbai Mule and enjoyed it so much that I was able to drink them all night long without incident. No matter your personal relationship with alcohol, it’s simply wonderful to be able to enjoy a night of bottomless cocktails with zero regrets.


Mumbai Mule

Serves 4

  • 1 cup Damrak VirGin
  • 1 large lime, or 2 small ones
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 cardamom pods, smashed (or 1/4 tsp. ground)
  • 2 (12-oz.) bottles spicy ginger beer

Use a vegetable peeler to remove strips of zest from the limes.

Fill a large cocktail shaker or pitcher halfway with ice; add the VirGin, coriander, cumin, cardamom pods, and fresh squeezed juice from the lime. Stir for about 15 seconds, then strain between four copper mugs or highball glasses. Top with ginger beer, garnish with lime zest, and serve.

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Allison Robicelli is a writer, recipe czar, former professional chef, author of four (quite good) books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Tweet me for recipe help: @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

This is totally fine by me, because after years of sobriety I really do not need to be reminded of how much I enjoy gin.”

I feel precisely, to the letter, the same way about Scotch.