‘Tis the season to not only be jolly, but to actually get together with others and go to holiday parties — things many couldn’t do last year. If you’re looking for a way to spruce up your seasonal “cocktails,” there are several drinks to shake up this winter (and none contain alcohol). Whether you want to get healthier, take a break from drinking for a while, get ready for Dry January, or give it up altogether, festive holiday mocktails (mock cocktails) can be the perfect solution.
Mixologist and Director of Beverage Applications for Master of Mixes Dean Serneels says if you are not as concerned with the experience of the drink — and are just looking to fit in with the festivities — he has a quick trick. “Simply fill a short rocks glass with ice and soda or cola,” he tells TZR in an email. “What makes it invisible to its alcoholic counterpart is the wedge of lime on the edge of the glass. But I wish we could separate the need to ‘mock’ cocktails and just have a unique complex beverage with no stigma.” He says many people are looking to not include alcohol in their lives and it in no way implies they have a “problem” with it. “It serves to prove that these people choose to be more in control of their experience,” he adds. “Plus, with wellness in mind, let’s not ignore the benefits of ‘not’ consuming alcohol.”
Health Benefits Of Mocktails Over Cocktails
Dr. Jen Caudle, associate professor at Rowan University, agrees that mocktails can be a great way to enjoy fun drinks without the alcohol. Alcohol can have many negative health impacts, she tells TZR in an email, including mood disturbances (irritability and feeling depressed after drinking), negatively affecting your sleep, and eventual dependency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), longer-term health risks from drinking alcohol include weakening of the immune system, learning and memory problems, and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. “Therefore, for some people, mocktails might be a great alternative,” adds Caudle. “But as with any food or drink, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients you are drinking to make sure you’re aware of things such as sugar content.”
When it comes to creating mocktails, Serneels says it’s all about creativity. “As we become creative with mocktails, we can also reach for ingredients such as tea and fresh juices that, sans alcohol, do have health benefits,” he explains. “I compare adding alcohol to fresh juice like deep frying fresh vegetables — most of the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables is wiped out.”
Whether you buy pre-made non-alcoholic drinks, like a “Nightcap” from Three Spirits (which contains lemon balm and valerian root), or stir up some mocktails yourself, the drink possibilities are endless. And the best part? No hangover the next day. To get some ideas, TZR spoke to Serneels and other mixologists for some of their favorite non-alcoholic holiday drinks. Bottoms up!
Serneels suggests a Sour Solstice for your holiday get-togethers. For it, you’ll need 2 oz. of cranberry juice, 2 oz. of Sweet and Sour Mix, .5 oz. of strawberry syrup, and 2 dashes of Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters. “Combine ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice,” he says. “Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini/coupe glass.”
“Mocktails are a way for anyone and everyone to enjoy holiday favorites, such as a coquito (Puerto Rican eggnog) — it’s a favorite drink this time of year,” Chef Diahann Smith of Florida Dairy Farmers tells TZR in an email. She says this traditional recipe has all the island flavors, sans the rum.
For it, you’ll need one can of evaporated milk, one can of condensed milk, one can of sweetened coconut cream (Coco Lopez or similar), one can of coconut milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 egg yolks, 1 tsp. vanilla, 2 tsp. cinnamon powder, ½ tsp. nutmeg, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tbsp. grated cooking chocolate, and 1/4 tsp salt. In a metal container, combine the egg yolks and sugar, mixing with a metal spoon until the mixture is creamy and turns light yellow, Smith explains. Then combine the milks, cream, salt, and yolks in a blender. Add the vanilla, cinnamon powder, and nutmeg and blend for an additional three to four minutes.
Smith recommends making this a day or two in advance so all the flavors blend together well, and you can store it in glass bottles or Mason jars in the fridge. You can then use the cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, or grated chocolate as garnish when it’s party time. Note: You can omit the eggs and sugar, but then Smith suggests adding a cup of heavy cream to enhance the thickness of the drink, as well as more of the spices to your desired taste.
Orange Agave Delight
Los Angeles-based Mixologist Matthew Biancaniello, author of Eat Your Drink: Culinary Cocktails, is working on a second book, which will be all alcohol-free cocktails. “Mocktails can pack a lot of flavor and enhance the dining experience without the booze,” he tells TZR in an email. “There is a wonderful opportunity here to explore flavor profiles, but also to experience a wonderful mood shift from all the great ingredients and herbs that can really make you feel great — and without the alcohol, you can notice it more.” He was first inspired to make cocktails at the Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel because people kept asking for Shirley Temples, he says. “I knew I could offer them something better than that,” he explains. “I would always start the dialogue after they asked for one with, ‘You know, that is out of season…’ and I would say real grenadine comes from pomegranates and they are not in season…”
A simple mocktail he recommends is an Orange Agave Delight. You’ll need 2 oz. of blood orange juice, 1 oz. of sparkling water, 3/4 oz. of fresh lime juice, 3/4 oz. of agave syrup (1:1 ratio of agave nectar to water), 1/8 oz. of ginger juice, 3 cucumber slices, and 3 basil leaves. Muddle everything together — except the blood orange juice and sparkling water — and then add juice, water, and ice. Shake and strain into a glass without ice and float a basil leaf on top.
Mock Mulled “Wine”
Abigail Gullo, director of industry for Seattle Cocktail Week, says that since the 1800s, "temperance drinks" have been just as important to the cocktail bar experience. “Just like cocktails, mocktails are not just about the liquid contained within — they are about taking care of your guests and giving them an elevated beverage experience,” she tells TZR in an email. “Mocktails can introduce new people into your room who previously felt unwelcome. You can also use mocktails to slow down and elongate your experience at a bar. And they’re a great way to keep your body and mind more healthy and happy, too.”
Gullo says she loves making a mock mulled “wine” with cranberry, tart cherry (or grape), and pomegranate juices — 2 cups of each. Simmer on medium-high heat with mulling spices, sliced citrus (one orange, sliced), 3 cinnamon sticks, 5 to 8 whole cloves, 3 to 4 allspice berries, 3 star anise pods, and freshly grated nutmeg. Then turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. “Strain and/or remove the orange slices and spices, and pour into a mug or heat-proof glass,” she says. “Finally, add garnish with a star anise, an orange slice studded with cloves, and freshly grated nutmeg.” And if you’re looking for ready-made non-alcoholic “spirits,” Gullo recommends Wilderton and Dhos. “They can be used to make classic cocktails, like a Negroni, Sidecar, or Margarita,” she says.
For a sweet-and-sour drink, Serneels recommends the Fuzzy Sour. “Combine 2 oz. of water, 2 oz. of peach syrup, 2 oz. of juice from a single pressed lemon, and 2 dashes of grapefruit bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice,” he says. “Shake and strain over fresh ice and add orange zest and a peach slice as garnish.”
The Winter G & T
Clean G (Gin) is a non-alcoholic version of gin from CleanCo with an earthy quality. It has notes of juniper and citrus (lemon and grapefruit), as well as coriander and cinnamon. The Winter G & T is a cold weather twist on the classic Gin and Tonic and the blackcurrant cordial (which is non-alcoholic) makes it festive. You’ll need 2 oz. of Clean G, 3 oz. of tonic, and 1/3 oz. (to taste) of blackcurrant cordial (which you can also make yourself). Pour Clean G and tonic to a highball glass and then add cubed ice and orange wheels throughout the drink. Fill the glass with ice and top with the blackcurrant cordial. For an added kick, you can add freshly ground pepper as garnish.
If you want a healthier mocktail, Serneels recommends making a Pommed Basil. You’ll need 2 oz. of pomegranate juice, 2 oz. of mint syrup, 2 oz. of juice from a single pressed lemon, muddled basil, and ground pepper to use as garnish (as well as a raspberry, lemon wedges, and sage). Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice, then shake and strain over fresh ice.
OPTIMIST is a non-alcoholic spirit brand that can help you shake up many kinds of mocktails. Lisa Farr Johnstone, OPTIMIST co-founder, says that alcohol is just one ingredient we can choose to include, but it’s not necessary. “Let's move away from the 'mocktail moment' and recognize that the best bartenders are producing incredibly complex, balanced original creations in a glass that intentionally don't contain booze,” she tells TZR in an email. “These drinks aren't 'mock' anything.”
When you make this SMOKEY Margarita, you won’t even realize you’re not drinking tequila. For it, you combine 1 part OPTIMIST Smokey — which contains botanicals such as clove, ginger, and habanero — with 2 parts tonic or sparkling water over ice. Then garnish with pink peppercorns, jalapeno slices, or an orange peel.
“A coquito with Nutella combines the best tastes of the Caribbean islands with the savory goodness of Nutella and chocolate,” says Smith. “This recipe is a true win-win for chocolate lovers everywhere.” She recommends preparing it two to three days in advance so all the flavors meld together. You’ll need: 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of condensed milk, 1 can of sweetened coconut cream, 1 can of coconut milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 egg yolks, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup Nutella, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 bar of grated chocolate, and 1/4 tsp salt. Then, in a metal container, use a metal spoon to mix the egg yolks with the sugar until it’s creamy and turns light yellow. Next, combine the milks, cream, salt, and yolks in a blender. Then you’ll add the vanilla and blend for two more minutes. Add the Nutella and blend for an additional two minutes. Save the drinks in glass or Mason jars in the fridge and use the cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, or grated chocolate as garnish before you serve them.
Blackberry Lime Mule Mocktail
For this twist on a Moscow Mule, you’ll need 4 oz. of REBBL Blackberry POP, 2 oz. of REBBL Ginger Lime POP, 4 mint leaves, and 2 blackberries (for garnish). Muddle two mint leaves in the bottom of a glass or copper mug, then fill it with ice. Add Blackberry POP and top it with a splash of Ginger Lime POP. Garnish with the remaining mint leaves and blackberries. Instead of sugar due to ginger beer in a traditional Moscow Mule, a REBBL POP Mule Mocktail contains prebiotics instead, making it good for your gut.
If you’re looking for a warm drink, this apple cider tea (or punch, if you prefer) is just the thing. Kelso Norris of boutique cocktail bar Genever says she was pregnant when the bar opened, so she had an interest in creating more options on the menu: well-crafted mocktails. As for a fun wintery drink, she says to spend the money on good apple cider if you can. “It’s delicious and great hot or cold,” she tells TZR in an email. “I like to use Sleepy Time Tea and brew a cup of that and then mix it with warm cider. Garnish it with a clove-studded lemon wheel and enjoy. It’s a liquid hug.” For a punch, she recommends using an Earl Gray tea (or something with bright citrus notes). “If you’re okay with alcohol-free wine, use that to make a mulled wine,” she says. “Cook it over medium heat with your preferred spice blend, usually for 30 minutes, then let it rest to cool and strain. You can add sugar if you’d like and use the liquid to make a mulled wine spritz (adding soda).”
If you want to drink your dessert, this Banana Pudding drink is for you. Serneels says to combine 3 oz. of banana syrup, 3 oz. of half-and-half cream, and 2 dashes of chocolate bitters. Then combine the ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass and top with homemade meringue. For it, whip a couple of egg whites with Coco Reàl Cream of Coconut (a coconut syrup). “Once placed in dollops on the drink, it can be toasted just like the top of a lemon meringue pie,” says Serneels. To spruce it up more, you can also add some orange zest and a cherry. We’ll cheers to that!