A great non-alcoholic drink has all the elements of a great alcoholic one. Taste is deeply personal, but there are key components that make a drink feel balanced, namely a harmonious blend of acidity, sweetness, bitterness, salinity, and water. These layers of flavor play off of one another, blossoming as you sip or eat or lounge. The drink excites your palate and challenges you to figure out what exactly makes it so dang delicious, and why you can’t stop drinking it. The trick is creating that nuance without using alcohol as a base. Alcohol has a signature burn, difficult to replicate, that helps slow the drinker down. Bitter, sour, or spicy flavors can achieve a similar effect. All of the experts we spoke with highlighted bitterness as a key element.
The idea of non-alcoholic alternatives for cocktails is intriguing. And this guide by the folks at Wirecutter is fairly in-depth and much longer than most that I come across.