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Weekend Sip: Review: As Americans embrace alcohol-free beverages, here’s an ‘un-wine’ to sip

The bottle

Jukes Cordialities, $48.50 per box of nine 1-ounce bottles

The back story

Are you ready to unwind with some un-wine?

How else to explain Jukes Cordialities, a non-alcoholic beverage brand launched in 2020 by British-based wine writer Matthew Jukes? The idea here is to somewhat replicate the flavor and, um, spirit of vino without the buzz. The brand says the drinks are made from a mix of the “highest quality” fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and flowers, plus apple-cider vinegar — all packaged in 1-ounce bottles of what amounts to a concentrate. You can pour as much or as little as you want in a glass of water (still or sparkling) to get the taste you desire.

Jukes explains the idea for the brand came to him when he was dining with an editor in New York City a few years ago and heard her talk about how she was no longer drinking wine during the week. He realized this was a growing phenomenon — “This is a theme that’s emerging and it’s not going away,” he recalled saying at the time — and there had to be a market for a beverage that took the place of wine but was more sophisticated than, say, soda and more flavorful than plain ol’ H20.

That led him to do some research and he found out about haymaker’s punch, a classic non-alcoholic refresher from the 18th Century made from apple-cider vinegar and other ingredients. In effect, he set out to make a contemporary,  wine-inspired take on the drink — and he created three versions of it, Jukes 1 (the “white”), Jukes 6 (the “red”) and Jukes 8 (the “rosé”). (Each version is sold in the nine-bottle box, but you can purchase a box that combines all three versions, too.)

Jukes has started to find a market for his un-wine wine — the product is now available in 10 countries, including the U.S., where it was introduced last year (it’s sold largely online, but the plan is to get it in stores and restaurants). Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, given how non-alcoholic “spirits” and other similarly styled beverages are gaining in popularity, especially because of events like Dry January. Near the end of 2021, NielsenIQ, the research firm, reported that sales of alcohol-free beverages had climbed 33.2% over the past year.

Jukes 8 is the “rosé” in the brand’s product line

Johnny Stephens Photography

What we think about it

I’m always a bit skeptical about booze-free drinks that try to play up the adult card and aim to be something “better” than Coca-Cola. (For the record, I’ll come to the defense of soda anytime.) But…I like Jukes. I mean, I really like it. It’s indeed refreshing and has a fruity depth — and unlike sweetened soda, it’s ridiculously low in calories (as in under 20 a glass).

Does it taste like wine? Not necessarily, though it does pair well with food in the wine vein. The apple-cider vinegar gives it a certain zing that, to my palate, puts it in a different category. But that doesn’t make it any less appealing. The pricing may be a little high for a non-alcoholic sip — at least compared with Coca-Cola (or other sodas) — but this beverage could have some legs.

How to enjoy it

I can’t emphasize enough how this is very much a drink you can customize — the flavors are markedly different depending on how much water you add. Jukes also says you can use tonic water instead of plain or sparkling. And in so doing, you can take the drink in almost a cocktail direction.

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