Distilling the spirit of innovation


On the heels of landing a major Dragon’s Den deal for its Sobrii 0-Gin product (Canada’s first non-alcoholic distilled gin), DistillX Beverages Inc. is gearing up for another round of success with its newest distilled non-alcoholic spirit – Sobrii 0-Tequila.

Launched Oct. 1, Sobrii 0-Tequila (pronounced zero-tequila) is the Toronto-based company’s second beverage innovation project with Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. The research team was also instrumental in the flavour development and distillation process for Sobrii 0-Gin, with the College getting a shout-out on the CBC’s Dragon’s Den episode by DistillX founder and president Bob Huitema.

Sobrii (Latin for “sober”) distilled non-alcoholic spirits are made with all-natural botanicals and extracts, contains no sugar, artificial flavours, sweeteners or calories. And no hangover.

The decision to develop the 0-Tequila was easy for Huitema, considering the ‘margarita’ (made with tequila) has enjoyed the No. 1 cocktail spot in the United States for the past decade. Further, Forbes lists sales of tequila jumping more than 46 percent in 2020 – not to mention the massive popularity of celebrities lending their names as branding.

“And yes, I do love tequila,” says Huitema.


“It was very challenging, in part because the overwhelming taste of tequila is ethanol. People associate the alcoholic burn as part of the tequila taste.”

While other non-alcoholic tequilas are on the market, many have skipped the distilling process and just include blended botanicals. With Sobrii spirits, the botanicals are macerated (soaked) in alcohol for a period of time and are further distilled or diluted, ensuring alcohol levels are below 0.5% ABV.

“We believe distillation as part of the manufacturing process assists in providing with a premium product that will not be mistaken for flavoured water,” says Huitema, adding the spirits are produced in small batches at a Stratford craft distillery.

While the distilling process (which is a proprietary method) is similar for both the 0-Gin and 0-Tequila spirits, the unique flavour development of the tequila was definitely more difficult, says Huitema.

“It was very challenging, in part because the overwhelming taste of tequila is ethanol. People associate the alcoholic burn as part of the tequila taste,” he explains. “Several of the ingredients replicate in part the heat of the alcohol in a cocktail. Jalapeno is part of it and we include other spices as well.” 

The 0-Tequila uses botanicals such as agave, jalapeno, coriander, black pepper and Canadian Ginseng.

On working with the CFWI Innovation Centre team, Huitema says, “I highly value working with Ana [Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, scientific manager] and the team. The process and ingredients are very difficult to finesse into something that resembles alcoholic spirits in a cocktail. The experimentation required to develop the products is well-suited to the research teams’ skillset.” 

The Sobrii 0-Tequila is sold in most places that sell 0-Gin, including online at sobrii.ca and well.ca, and retailers such as Pusateri’s, Cocktail Emporium and some specialty retailers. The company even offers a sampler pack to mimic the tart notes of grapefruit for a Paloma and spiced orange ginger ale for a margarita.

The project received funding through the College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP) Extend Innovation Enhancement (IE) Grant, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). 


This is one example of the types of technical services offered by the CFWI Innovation Centre.

To discover other resources and capabilities, visit the CFWI Innovation Centre website.