Cocktails needn’t be served strong and straight up to be taken seriously. Nor should low-ABV Highballs be seen as unsatisfyingly simple. In modern mixology, you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Whether you’re partaking in Dry January or simply looking to drink more mindfully, these 10 cocktails use lower-proof liqueurs as their base, or combine a maximum of 2 ounces of spirit with a generous serving of non-alcoholic mixers. What they lack in booze, they more than make up for in complex flavor, making cutting back a celebration.
The Ray of Sunshine Recipe
A riff on a riff, this Highball shares its DNA with both the Penicillin and the Gold Rush. Where those drinks call on bourbon or a split Scotch base, the Ray of Sunshine adds spice with the introduction of aged rum. The sweet twang of molasses dances with a vibrant ginger syrup, while the addition of soda water lightens the tone and dials down the buzz.
The Cold Snap Recipe
Orange liqueurs usually play the role of supporting actor, most famously in drinks like the Margarita and Sidecar. Not here. The citrus modifier becomes the main event in the Cold Snap, a low-proof, ginger-spiced shaken drink with a dazzling dash of Angostura. Served over ice, it promises refreshment with a pleasant kick of winter spices.
The Ranch Water Recipe
Highballs don’t get much simpler or tastier than this. Built to beat the arid Texas heat, the mix of tequila and Topo Chico is endlessly crushable. Use reposado or añejo to add complexity and baking spice notes, and keep things casual by building directly in the seltzer bottle. Just don’t forget the lime wedge!
The Italian Julep Recipe
Replacing bourbon with amaro greatly reduces the ABV in this Derby Day classic. Grapefruit juice and raspberry syrup add vibrant layers of fruit before a sprig of mint delivers an aromatic crescendo. This is the perfect excuse to pull out the copper Julep cup any time of the year.
The El Jefe Recipe
Mastered the Paloma? This take on the classic Mexican Highball leans into one of the great fruit and spice pairings, blending pineapple juice with chili-infused tequila. A splash of agave syrup adds sweetness, while a spray of soda water means it doesn’t stray too far from the OG.
The Ramos Gin Fizz Recipe
This elbow-straining shaken drink of gin, heavy cream, and citrus is a classic brunch cocktail and a killer workout. Seek inspiration from the professionals to help perfect its towering soufflé, and rest assured, all the effort is rewarded by one of the most striking cocktails on the planet. It’s damn tasty, too.
The After-Hours Bloody Maria Recipe
Forget hangover cures and bottomless brunch, the Bloody Mary is so much more than a breakfast cocktail. Nowhere is that better displayed than this reposado-mezcal-spiked riff. With a whiff of smoke and six dashes of chocolate chili bitters, the After-Hours Bloody Maria is a complex, savory, umami bomb.
The Spiked Coffee Tonic Recipe
Look past the slew of RTD hard coffees hitting the market, get your caffeine kick and gentle buzz from this hard-coffee G&T hybrid. With botanical gin, bittersweet tonic, and roasted espresso, the mix of flavors sounds dizzying. But it all comes together with elegance and grace.
The Rosé Port Cosmopolitan Recipe
It’s time to become reacquainted with the Cosmo via this low-proof, perfectly pink twist. Citron vodka and triple sec are dropped from the original with simple syrup and rosé port taking their place. The latter is a revelation in and of itself, serving a fruity cocktail base but also a wonderful aperitif on its own or with soda water.
The Strawberry Fields Forever Recipe
This one’s an outlier: Not only does the Strawberry Fields Forever contain no booze (we thought there should be at least one non-alcoholic alternative in this roundup), we also prefer to think of it as a template rather than a recipe. An attractive blend of homemade strawberry and hibiscus syrups, feel free to switch up the fruit for any berries that happen to be in season.