By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 10, 2022 at 9:01 AM

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Great Lakes Distillery recently launched its new Sans non-alcoholic spirits label with Junipre, a non-alcoholic botanical spirit with  juniper berries, ginseng, orange zest, cardamom, chili pepper, and coriander.

The gin-like beverage is the first release from GLD’s new NA spirits company, called Boundless Beverage Co., which is expected to unleash more alcohol-free releases under the Sans label.

“Consumers’ tastes and desires are increasingly diversified as they become more and more health conscious,” said GLD founder Guy Rehorst in January.

Guy Rehorst.

“Those who are looking to lower or eliminate alcohol from their evening for whatever reason still want the enjoyment of a well-crafted cocktail, and a complex botanical spirit can deliver just that.”

Junipre can be used to make NA gin and tonics, or to dramatically lower the alcoholic content of other popular cocktails, added Great Lakes Distillery Bar Manager Brendan Cleary at the time of release.

“Using Junipre in place of a 44 percent ABV gin in something like a Negroni drops the alcohol in that drink from 24 percent to around 10 percent alcohol by volume,” says Cleary.

“The same substitution in a standard martini brings the alcohol content down to just about 2 percent, but still with plenty of flavor.”

Sans Junipre is available in the GLD Tasting Room and is distributed in Wisconsin by Capitol-Husting and Allstate Distributors LLC.

We asked Rehorst about Junipre and what we might expect from Sans and from Great Lakes Distilery in the coming months.

OnMilwaukee: What led you, as a distiller, to create an N/A brand?

Guy Rehorst: Who better to do so? We're trying to recreate something people really enjoy and have developed a taste for – a cocktail of complex flavors that hold up to blending with other ingredients, juices, soda, tonic, etc. but without the alcohol content that many are trying to avoid or reduce.

Is nonalcoholic spirit an oxymoron?

It is still a spirit, many of the flavors in our product are extracted via distillation whether that be macerating in alcohol – which will later be extracted – or vapor extraction using water.

What's the difference between an NA spirit and something like a flavoring syrup or a cocktail mix or juice, etc.?

The difference is an NA spirit is complex and made to be the star of the drink – syrups, mixers and and juice can be used to modify the drink but it's still the base spirit that defines the drink.

Tell me about the first product and why you settled on it as the debut item?

Junipre is based on our very well-received and successful Rehorst gin recipe. It's been modified a bit and has some other botanicals. We don't call it a gin because as a botanical spirit we feel it has a lot more flexibility than gin.

What are some of the other products you're working on or considering, if you can say?

We haven't been working on too much, we like most producers are facing supply issues and are concentrating on being able to maintain the supply of product we have now. That being said, we've got a few ideas we're working on, some additional botanical spirits, spiced rum and whiskey, which I kind of consider the holy grail of NA since I haven't tried one yet that I thought was a good replacement for alcohol-based whiskey.

How has the response been so far?

It's been great! Honestly better than I expected. Since releasing Junipre I've had a lot of people who I knew, but had no idea how interested they'd be in this. I get people telling me all the time that they're sick of joining their friends at a bar and having to drink soda. They want a cocktail, but don't necessarily want to deal with the effects the next day.

Where do you see N/A going? Do you think it will keep growing, is it a fad?

Definitely not a fad. All the industry projections I've seen show it growing at a rapid rate. It's a tiny part of the beverage market right now but as people become more educated about NA and try more we pick up more consumer interest. They're more flexible than a lot of people realize. Consumers that do drink alcohol but want to moderate their intake can use them to lower the ABV of a drink without sacrificing taste and quality.

Can you tell us about any other new products, alcoholic or otherwise, that are in development or on the horizon?

We are releasing a couple special releases of whiskey with unique finishes this month. Including a cognac finished Still & Oak bourbon this Thursday! We have a nocino coming out in April.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.