Alcohol free, or non-alcoholic drink or beverage, is a non-alcoholic version of an alcoholic drink. These may take the form of a non-alcoholic mixed drink (a "virgin drink"), non-alcoholic beer ("near beer") and "mocktails", and are widely available where alcoholic drinks are sold. Labels that state the actual alcohol by volume help citizens from unknowingly becoming inebriated or drunk drivers.

Scientific definition

Low-alcoholic drink

Sparkling apple cider, soft drinks, and juice naturally contain trace amounts or no alcohol. Some fresh orange juices are above the UK 'alcohol free' limit of 0.05% ABV, as are some yogurts and rye bread.

Ethanol distillation is used to separate alcoholic drinks into what are advertised as non-alcoholic drinks and spirits; distilled wine produces low alcohol wine and brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn, "burning wine"),[1] distilled beer may be used to produce low-alcohol beer and whisky.

However alcoholic drinks cannot be further purified to 0.00% alcohol by volume by distillation. In fact, most drinks labeled non-alcoholic contain 0.5% ABV as it is more profitable than distilling it to 0.05% ABV often found in products sold by companies specializing in non-alcoholic drinks.

Ethical issues

Alcohol is legal in most countries of the world where a drinking culture exists. In countries where alcohol is illegal, similar non-alcoholic drinks are permitted. The definition of "alcohol-free" may vary from country to country. The term "non-alcoholic" (e.g., alcohol-free beer) is often used to describe a drink that contains 0.0% ABV. Such drinks are permitted by Islam and are popular in countries that enforce alcohol prohibition, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran.

However, most drinks advertised as "non-alcoholic" or "alcohol free" sold by countries with zero tolerance with state-run liquor monopoly, actually contain alcohol. Finland has a quite high ABV regulation for non-alcoholic drinks that are classified as alcoholic drink by most other countries.

non-alcoholic beverage means a beverage which contains a maximum of 2.8 percentage by volume ethyl alcohol

— THE ALCOHOL ACT, Chapter 1, Section 3 (4.1.2001/1), paragraph 3[2]

In the European Union, the labels of drinks containing only more than 1.2% ABV must state the actual alcoholic strength (i.e., show the word "alcohol" or the abbreviation "alc." followed by the symbol "% vol.").[3]

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug and some people[who?] say that the label non-alcoholic is misleading and is a threat to recovering alcoholics.[4]


Cocktails rose in popularity during the 1980s, but they have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The use of cocktails has proliferated deep into the drinking culture. Those who did not drink alcohol found themselves in a situation where other drinks, by comparison with cocktails, were generic non-alcoholic drinks. Because of the demand for more visually and aesthetic appealing drinks than normal soft drinks, the concept known as "Mocktails" was born.

Mocktails, an abbreviation for "mock cocktails", are festive, non-alcoholic party drinks. The word "mock" implying a facade of the alcoholic cocktail without any of the alcoholic content. In last few years it has become so popular that it even finds its place in the cocktail menu on many restaurant and bars. Mocktails can be described as a smooth blend of only non-alcoholic drinks, which could be fresh fruit juices, syrups, cream, herbs and spices. Mocktails are designed specifically for those who do not take alcoholic drinks or need to refrain from them, which means these blends can be enjoyed by people of all ages. They are particularly favoured over cocktails by drivers, pregnant women, and others who choose party drinks that are alcohol-free.[5]

Legal definitions


In the European Union, the labels of drinks containing more than 1.2% ABV must state the actual alcoholic strength (i.e., show the word "alcohol" or the abbreviation "alc." followed by the symbol "% vol.").[6]


The government of Denmark have decided to change the alcohol free legal definition from 0.1% alcohol by volume to 0.5%.[7]


non-alcoholic beverage means a beverage which contains a maximum of 2.8 percentage by volume ethyl alcohol

— THE ALCOHOL ACT, Chapter 1, Section 3 (4.1.2001/1), paragraph 3[2]


Non-alcoholic beer, termed as "birra analcolica", is regulated as equal to or less than 1.2% ABV[8]


Systembolaget defines alcohol-free as a drink that contains no more than 0.5% alcohol by volume.[9]


Licensing laws only place restrictions on the sale or consumption of drinks with an alcohol content of over 0.5%[10]


An alcohol free drink is defined as under 0.7% alcohol by volume.[11]


A malt drink that contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume does not have to be labeled.

(e) Non-alcoholic. The term "non-alcoholic" may be used on malt beverages, provided the statement "contains less than 0.5 percent (or .5%) alcohol by volume" appears in direct conjunction with it, in readily legible printing and on a completely contrasting background. (f) Alcohol free. The term "alcohol free" may be used only on malt beverages containing no alcohol.

— Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, PART 7—LABELING AND ADVERTISING OF MALT BEVERAGES, Subpart H §7.71 Alcoholic content[12]

List of traditional non-alcoholic drinks

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1989. 
  2. ^ a b http://finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/1994/en19941143.pdf
  3. ^ "Beverage Alcohol Labeling Requirements by Country". IARD.org. Retrieved 2016-06-10. 
  4. ^ "Sweden's alcohol-free drink label 'misleading'". Thelocal.se. 29 October 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  5. ^ http://www.fruc.org/history/
  6. ^ "Beverage Alcohol Labeling Requirements by Country". Icap.org. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  7. ^ "Nu må en alkoholfri øl indeholde mere alkohol". politiken.dk. 
  8. ^ "A Preference Study for No Alcohol Beer in Italy Using Quantitative Concept Analysis". Journal of the Institute of Brewing. 114: 315–321. doi:10.1002/j.2050-0416.2008.tb00775.x. 
  9. ^ "Alcohol-free products". Systembolaget.se. 2011-03-11. Archived from the original on 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  10. ^ "Licensing Act 2003". legislation.gov.uk. Crown copyright. 
  11. ^ "Lov om omsetning av alkoholholdig drikk m.v. (alkoholloven)". lovdata.no. 
  12. ^ "Electronic Code of Federal Regulations". United States Government. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011.  See §7.71, paragraphs (e) and (f).