Review: GNISTA is a Complex Non-Alcoholic Spirit You Can Enjoy On the Rocks
UPDATE: Gnista is now available! Get them here.
Did you enjoy first sip of bourbon or scotch?
Chances are you gulped it with a forced smile. But as time went on, you learned to appreciate the bite, the complexities, the flavors changing as they roll around your mouth.
You have to learn to love most liquors. And that's what Erika Ollen was going for when she started GNISTA - something that was "challenging" at first.
GNISTA (Swedish for "spark") is a non-alcoholic spirit made in Sweden. GNISTA isn't trying to replicate any existing liquors. It's out there in a space all its own.
It's a complex concoction loaded with herbals like wormwood, lovage, oak, rose, almonds, orange, juniper, star anise, rhubarb and other ingredients.
Wormwood, by the way, is the herb used in real absinthe. One if its key compounds, thujone, is believed to cause hallucinations and other fun effects.
And while we weren't hearing colors after drinking GNISTA, the wormwood adds a nice bitterness.
How Does GNISTA Taste?
We drank GNISTA three ways - neat, on the rocks and with tonic and lime.
As the label suggests, this drink is "bitter, aromatic and intense." The nose is super herbal and slightly sweet.
Get ready for a powerful drink...
The first sip of GNISTA is herbal, salty, syrupy, sweet and a bit spicy. It's incredibly strong and complex. It takes a few sips and contemplation to really wrap your head around all the flavors.
Rhubarb and salty are the two strongest notes. And you get a great bitterness thanks to the wormwood and other ingredients.
GNISTA doesn't taste like any other non-alcoholic spirit out there.
And that's by design. It's got nice body and big punch.
On its own, the drink was a tad syrupy sweet for our palates.
However, simply adding ice solves that problem...
The rocks cut the syrupiness without killing the complex, herbal flavors. The liquid has enough body to stand up to the ice. And we really enjoyed this drink after dinner.
In fact, after finishing the first, we went back for another ("wanting another" is some of the highest praise we give at TZP).
Lastly, we drank GNISTA with Fever Tree Premium Indian Tonic (the gold label) on the rocks with a squeeze of lime.
The addition of tonic really cranks up the bitterness (in a good way). It's a refreshing cocktail that has enough kick to slow you down.
While you still get the herbal blast of flavors, the rhubarb really shines through in this mix. And the sweetness disappears.
GNISTA stands up well to the mixer and still provides a great mouthfeel. The bitterness and tannin really hang out on the back of your palate, slowing you down between sips.
A GNISTA and tonic is a great addition to anyone's NA cocktail repertoire. However, if you prefer the original G&T, you can read about our favorite non-alc gin here.
Where can I buy GNISTA?
If you're in the EU, you can order GNISTA on their website www.gnistaspirits.com. It costs €21 a bottle.
You can buy them in the US at our non-alc bottle shop here.
Update: Reviewing GNISTA's new Barreled Oak product
If you've managed to get your hand on GNISTA, be sure to check out their latest edition to the family, a bourbon-inspired creation, which we review in full.