You’re not drinking for one reason or another and out with your friends. They’re all enjoying delicious and refreshing cocktails, and you’re stuck with water. But you don’t have to miss out on a well-balanced drink just because you can’t or don’t want to consume alcohol. A well-made mocktail, or cocktail without the alcohol, is an easy-to-make substitute that’ll help you get in on the fun.
There are a few simple rules to follow when ordering a mocktail at the bar or making your own. First off, you need to recognize the five basic flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. A good mocktail, like a good cocktail, doesn’t let one flavor dominate. And while there are non-alcoholic substitutes out there like Seedlip’s distilled non-alcoholic liquor, it’s easy to mix something up at home that has the balanced complexity of a craft cocktail sans alcohol.
Here are some basic steps to follow when ordering a mocktail at a bar, as well as a few recipes to make at home. Whether you’re pregnant, hosting someone who is, or simply taking a break from booze, here are the rules to making and ordering a mocktail everyone will enjoy.
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The base is the backbone to every drink. What you want is the best foundation for one of your five flavors — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami. Lemonade is a strong start for a tart drink, fresh juices are classic choices, and something more subtle like rose water allows more leeway for creating something entirely new.
Modifiers take the base and add another dimension. Grenadine is a classic way to sweeten a drink, fresh-squeezed lemon juice adds brightness, while thicker options like honey or maple syrup add flavor and texture. Shrubs, made from fruit syrup with vinegar, add sweetness and flavor as well as much needed acidity.
Garnishes are a vital part of cocktails, and not just because they make a drink look better. Garnishes add scent to the drink — a lemon peel or sprig of mint, for example. You don’t have to stop at the obvious, and herb garnishes can make a mocktail something to remember. A sprig of fresh rosemary is a personal favorite that can deepen a sour cocktail, while muddling fresh basil can add complexity to something sweet. Fresh fruit works for almost any cocktail, regardless of sweet, sour, salty, or bitter. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon are interesting alternatives to the typical citrus garnish.
Presentation counts. Whether it’s a Mason jar or a Martini glass, there’s no wrong choice as long as it matches the style of the drink.
Nothing is as important, however, as the drink inside the glass.
Frozen Mango Delight (makes four)
- 3 cups of ice
- 1 cup of mango puree
- 1/4 cup of sea salt
- 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
- Soda water
Blend ingredients for 30 seconds and serve in a tall glass. Top with soda water, and stir it in with a straw.
Açai Berry Lavender Cooler
- 1 ounce of lavender simple syrup (1 part water, 1 part sugar, 2 tablespoons of lavender heated slowly and cooled)
- 2 ounces of açai berry juice
- 6-8 blueberries
- 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
Add the lavender simple syrup, açai berry juice, lemon juice, pineapple juice, and blueberries into a shaker. Muddle the blueberries. Shake for 15 seconds. Add ice, then shake for another 15 seconds. Pour into a tall glass or Martini glass and garnish with a dehydrated lemon, berries, and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Dark Mint Delight
- 2 ounces of fresh cherry juice
- 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice
- Black cherries
Add cherry juice, mint stems, ginger, lemon juice, and black cherries into a shaker. Muddle. Add ice and shake for 15 seconds. Serve in a tall glass over ice with a mint and cherry garnish.