There are plenty of reasons to not drink alcohol. I’m not going to list them because:
1) None of them are going to surprise you (we’ve all heard them.).
2) I am certainly not here to judge (I often joke that judging is not in a bartender's job description).
So here’s the conundrum: We’ve all been there. What does one drink when not drinking? Water? Boring. Tea? I guess? We are absolutely lucky in today's options for fun flavored seltzers, but who wants bubbles all the time?
In order to get the same experience without the booze, many people turn to mocktails - virgin drinks with all of the artistic flair of a good cocktail. Mocktails are becoming more popular, and any bartender worth their shaker will know how to make one that will please the palate just as well.
For those of us looking to drink something fancy on the couch: Here are my top five tips for a perfect mocktail.
1. Use your favorite cocktail recipe for mocktail inspiration.
Some alcohol brings a lot of flavor, but most don’t. Either way, I’ve found that most of the flavors that you get from alcohol can be easily reproduced in a spirit free form. For example, a tea made from juniper berries, rosemary and orange peel will give you the same feel as gin; A simple syrup made with brown sugar instead of white mimics the caramel flavor you’d find in rum (add cinnamon sticks and clove for any recipe calling for spiced.) Of course there are some comparable alcohol free spirits on the market currently, so feel free to play with those as well.
2. Use your bar tools and your fancy glasses.
Bartenders don’t shake martinis into oblivion just for funsies. In fact, a lot happens when you shake a drink. Yes, it chills the drink, adds body, and helps really mix ingredients together, but it also makes you feel almost powerful. I’ve taught many a new tender and several cocktail classes, and I assure you that it takes grace to shake like a pro - grace that does not come naturally to me, but through years of service I have obtained. Knowing how to shake a perfect martini is not a skill that you should turn your nose up at. That sheer layer of ice cannot be substituted by any other means. And your mocktail deserves the same love and attention.
3. Don’t skimp on the garnish.
Just because your drink isn't going to give you a buzz, it can and should still be balanced, and that includes the oh-so-necessary garnish (imho).
4. Consider teas and adaptogenics in your mocktails.
Adaptogenics and teas have been used in ancient and modern medicines for forever, and there’s a reason for their longevity. We all know that turmeric is good for the gut - and acai berries have relaxing properties, so why not add them to your fave mocktail? Apothekary.co has a line of super fun adaptogenics I used at Ash Alchemy's spa grand opening recently, even one so aptly named “whine-me-down”. It has relaxing properties that are similar to a glass of wine at the end of the day. Add a teaspoon in your cocktail shaker before mixing, it will bring beautiful color, a slight bitterness, and will no doubt help you feel mellow.
5. Most importantly: Have fun!
Food and drink is supposed to be nourishing, but because it’s so necessary, it’s easy for it to become boring. Especially in a world where people are sometimes looked at strangely for not picking up a cocktail everyday. So, think outside the box and try something new. Find a fruit or veggie at the grocery store that you’ve never tried, and look for a recipe. Or, ask a professional! (ME!)
Whatever the reason for not drinking, there are so many options we have at our disposal. We can take the stigma and turn it around. And, as a society, I think we can all recognize that a good mocktail can and WILL stand tall next to any decent martini.