My Favorite Alcohol Swaps

Table of Contents
  1. Flavored seltzers
  2. Kombucha
  3. Functional beverages
  4. Herbal teas

I wanted to take a moment and celebrate a few of the beverages that have helped me not drink alcohol for the last year. About a year ago, I stopped drinking alcohol. I realized drinking wasn’t in line with my goals. It was affecting my mood and my anxiety. Maybe you resonate with that and you know what I’m talking about. I’d advise patients over the years to help them stop drinking using all kinds of different techniques and ways. One way that I realized was really important, which came from nutritional psychiatry, is simple swaps. Anytime we find ourselves eating or drinking a lot of something unhealthy, we want to think of ways to swap that out for something that is healthier for our brain. It’s a fundamental tool of nutritional psychiatry. I wanted to share with you some of the beverages that really helped me over the last year. When it gets to be around four, five or six o’clock, you might be looking for that drink to celebrate or reward yourself and you need to have some good alternatives. So let’s go over some of them.

Flavored seltzers

Starting out, it would be flavored seltzers. I was already drinking a lot of these, whether that’s a seltzer that has some flavors in there or they have little splashes of juice, like Spindrift. I really like the grapefruit flavor. I’ve consumed hundreds of these in the past year instead of alcohol. It’s just 17 calories with a little splash of juice. I get that sweetness and that fizz and I find that combo is often what people are missing. You’ve got to have some fizz, something that’s fun, something that gives you a little reward. I have a variety of flavored seltzers in my fridge, along with just plain seltzer and plain water.


The next category is kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented beverage so you’re already getting some brain foodie points in terms of eating more live fermented foods. We know that’s a huge part of nutritional psychiatry. We’ve got lots of other videos and information on that, but kombuchas have played a big role in my not drinking alcohol. Since kombucha is a fermented tea, there are trace amounts of alcohol in some of them. I’ve definitely had a can or two of kombucha in the past year where I felt it was maybe a little too fermented. They’re also now hard kombuchas. So really the only sip of alcohol I’ve had is when I picked up a hard kombucha by accident. So look out and if you have true alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence in your past, you will want to make sure you chose ones that have no alcohol.

I wanted to highlight a couple of my favorites. This Citra kombucha is special to me because I was consuming IPAs. The hops appealed to me and I’d find that there could be a lot of alcohol around me but if there wasn’t an IPA, I really wouldn’t have any of it. So finding a hoppy kombucha for me was really helpful. I also grew some hops and chewed on some hops, so maybe there’s something to hops.

Some people worry about the caffeine, so they make them with green teas or with chamomile teas. You also want to watch the calorie content so make sure the serving size is one can or look to see if it is two servings per can and how then how many calories this is. My wife will regularly tell me, “you’re drinking too many of your special fermented sodas there”, and I’ll cut back. So watch the sugars, but again, during that first period of about three to six months, don’t worry about it. What’s important is that you’re not drinking alcohol.

Functional beverages

Next up is what I call functional beverages. These are beverages that have some phytonutrients or elements that I’m just either interested about or they’re part of the wellness scene or I just want to be enjoying something that I can learn about. This is kind of like when we spend a lot of time learning about alcohol. If you’re a wine drinker, think about all the time you might have spent learning about the different regions of Bordeaux. Well, how about learning about, all the different adaptogens, like reishi mushrooms or ashwagandha.

I love this Rowdy Mermaid adaptogenic beverage. It’s not a fermented beverage but it’s got some of these functional nutrients that medicine and the wellness world have been thinking about. Another one that I love are the Hop Lark beverages. This is a totally calorie free hop seltzer. Hops are this really wonderful vine. I’ve grown them on the farm here in Wyoming. Hops are filled with all these really interesting phytonutrients. These new functional beverages are filled with all kinds of other nootropics or phytonutrients can be interesting and delicious.

Herbal teas

Lastly, I love all of my herbal teas. I’ve always been a big tea drinker, whether it’s a non-caffeinated holy basil tea that I love during the day or a classic chai. I also love earl grey, mint and ginger teas. If you’re getting off of alcohol, you might want to put a little squirt of honey in there or maple syrup just to give yourself a little bit of sugar.

These are some of the ways I stopped drinking alcohol. There are lots of other things to do if you’re wanting to stop drinking or change a habit like that but this is one of the simple swaps that I found really helpful in my own journey. Reach out to lots of other appropriate resources if you’re struggling with your mental health or with your alcohol consumption. There are lots and lots out there but I just wanted to give you some basic ideas to get started. Good luck to you.

Drew Ramsey, MD

Drew Ramsey, M.D. is a psychiatrist, author, and farmer. He is a clear voice in the mental health conversation and one of psychiatry’s leading proponents of using nutritional interventions. He is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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