The New Mocktails: Six Non-Alcoholic Cocktails for Healthy Sipping
At LA’s Westbound, they’re called “Temperance” cocktails. At New York City’s Fowler & Wells, the section of the drinks list is titled “Pro-Prohibition.” Agern, another New York City restaurant, lists them as “Imitations.”
No matter what they’re named, a growing number of bars and restaurants offer creative drinks that omit alcohol, a category better known as mocktails. And after the excesses of the holiday season, these drinks offer a lighter note during “Dry January” and beyond.
“For various reasons, people don’t want to drink,” says Chad Walsh, beverage director at Agern, which offers a seven-course tasting menu complete with nonalcoholic pairings. Walsh relies on ingredients such as vinegar-based shrubs, herb-infused juices and even smoked whey or yogurt to add complexity and body.
Typically, “too sweet” is the curse of the mocktail, alongside “too boring.” But creative bartenders are changing that assumption, and the result is a wide range of quaff-worthy mocktails. While ideal for the designated driver or expectant mom, you may be surprised by how many people will gladly reach for a nonalcoholic sipper, especially if it’s presented in gorgeous glassware and garnished with care.
Courtesy Taha Ismail, Requin, Fairfax, Virginia
At this French-Mediterranean bistro from Top Chef alum Jennifer Carroll, house-made sodas that feature fresh-juiced produce are part of the show. But more elaborate mocktails are also available, like this pineapple-celery combo. Making this drink will be a snap if you have a juicer. (A food processor should also do the trick, though straining through cheesecloth may be needed.) A quick sprinkle of sea salt will allow the drink’s clean, delicate flavors to really shine.
- 1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
- 1 ounce fresh celery juice
- ¾ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce agave syrup (2 parts agave nectar, 1 part hot water)
- 2 dashes sea salt
- Celery frond and/or pineapple leaves, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients (except garnish). Shake well, and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish.
Add 1 ounce gin or blanco Tequila.
Courtesy Lee Hefter, Cut by Wolfgang Puck, Four Seasons Downtown, New York City
This is offered at Chef Wolfgang Puck’s first New York City restaurant, which opened in September. It originated, however, at Cut’s more-famous sibling, Spago, Puck’s celebrity-studded eatery in Beverly Hills.
Showcased in a wine glass and minimally adorned, it resembles a glass of deep-hued rosé. It strikes a great balance of fruity and floral, tart and sweet elements. For best effect, look for grenadine that includes pomegranate, or try making your own from scratch.
- 8 raspberries
- 1 ounce cranberry juice
- ½ ounce rose water
- 1 ounce lychee puree
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon grenadine, like Jack Rudy
- Rose petal or raspberry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, use a muddler or a spoon to crush raspberries. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake well, and strain into a red wine glass. Float rose petal or raspberry for garnish.
Top with Prosecco.
Courtesy John Allison, Lost Lake, Chicago
John Allison created this tiki drink based on Paul McGee’s Don’t Touch My Bikini cocktail. This version, a reference to designated drivers, keeps the tropical vibe with coconut syrup and fresh lime. Allison says don’t skimp on the garnish, a critical part of any good tiki drink. “A good drink doesn’t have to have alcohol in it,” he says. “But you should put just as much care into [it].
- 1½ ounces coconut syrup (equal parts coconut milk and simple syrup)
- ¾ ounce lime juice
- 3 ounces sparkling water, like Topo Chico
- Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters, to taste
- Mint bouquet, for garnish
- Pineapple slice, for garnish
In a Collins glass, combine the coconut syrup and lime juice. Top with 1 cup crushed ice. Mix with a swizzle stick or long spoon until combined, about 10 seconds. Add sparkling water and mix briefly again. Fill glass with more crushed ice. Dot the top of the drink with bitters, covering the surface and creating a “halo” effect on top. Slap the mint bouquet to release its aromatic oils. Garnish with the bouquet, along with any other tropical garnishes on hand. Serve with a straw.
Add 1½ ounces rum.
Courtesy Chad Walsh, Agern, New York City
It’s not difficult to make a shrub—a Colonial-era, vinegar-based drink that’s enjoying a revival. Bartenders love fruity, zingy shrubs because of the acidity and bite. They’re generally just three ingredients: sugar, vinegar and fruit (not all shrubs use fruit, but most do). Plan ahead: The drink needs to sit a few days. This refreshing, rosy mix will keep for one month in the refrigerator. You can also use it in salad dressings or as a glaze for meats. At Agern it makes an appearance in mocktail and cocktail form. “It’s delicious with Tequila or vodka,” says Walsh. “Or it can also be fun as a mixer in an Aperol Spritz-style apéritif.”
- 6 grapefruits
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
Peel grapefruits with a vegetable peeler, leaving as much white pith as possible on the fruit. Juice two of the grapefruits. Do not strain out the pulp. In a large, sealable container, combine the sugar, grapefruit peels and juice. Let the mixture stand in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Add vinegar. Close the container and shake well. Return to the refrigerator. Shake daily for three days. By the fourth day, the sugar should be dissolved. Fine-strain into a clean container, and discard the solids. Yields 16–24 ounces.
- ¾ ounce grapefruit shrub
- 5¼ ounces still or sparkling water
Stir together in a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a lime wedge, if desired.
Add 1½ ounces Tequila.
Courtesy Christi Brunner, The Brick, Kansas City, Missouri
Although The Brick changes its mocktail offerings seasonally, this nonalcoholic Moscow Mule with a twist is so popular that it stays on the menu throughout the year. “I started playing around with this when I was pregnant,” says Brunner. “It was great to actually have something fun to drink other than pop or water.” Opt for ginger beer instead of sweeter ginger ale. It adds spicy zing and backbone.
- 1 ounce pear syrup, like Monin
- ½ ounce lime juice
- 5 ounces ginger beer
- Orange wheel, for garnish
- Cherry, for garnish
In a Collins glass, mix together pear syrup and lime juice. Add ice, and top with ginger beer. Fold the orange slice around the cherry like a taco. Spear through with a toothpick, creating an orange flag. Use as garnish.
Add 1½ ounces vodka.
Courtesy Brad Goocher, Le Farfalle, Charleston, South Carolina
Sure, you could make this drink with store-bought lemonade, but fresh lemon juice adds acidity, flavor and citrusy aroma, so it wouldn’t be quite the same. In true Southern style, Brad Goocher suggests making this drink in a Mason jar, which seals for shaking and can double as a cocktail glass. But if a gleaming silver cocktail shaker and classic rocks glass is more your style, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
- 3 slices cucumber, plus 1 slice for garnish
- 5 or 6 mint leaves, plus 1 leaf for garnish
- 1½ ounces lemon juice
- 1 ounce simple syrup
In a cocktail shaker or sealable container, use a muddler or spoon to press the mint and cucumbers. Add remaining ingredients (except garnish), 1 ounce of water and ice. Shake well, and strain into a rocks glass, over fresh ice. To garnish, pierce a cucumber slice with the stem of a mint sprig and place atop the drink.
Add 1½ ounces vodka or Bourbon.
- 1The Detox
- 2Crackling Rose
- 3Don’t Touch My Car Keys
- 4Bitter Grapefruit Shrub
- 5Ginger Snap
- 6Cucumber-Mint Lemonade