Hello friends! This Summer has been a total whirlwind of travel and parties and tasting events. It’s been amazing. One of the funnest things I did this year, was show up to booze focused tasting events and serve non-alcoholic mocktails.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a well crafted cocktail. Seasonal ingredients, locally produced spirits, fresh and innovative spins on classics all make me excited to imbibe. But my beloved is not a drinker, and he’s often stuck sipping a Sprite or other bland sugar bomb, while I enjoy my crafted cocktail. So this Summer, I set out to change a few minds about what a mocktail could be.
When I craft a mocktail, I try to keep in mind that a balanced cocktail has something sweet, something sour, something bitter, something weak, and something boozy in it. So, I remove the booze component, and focus on the other four. Sweet and sour are provided by the shrub, as they would be in a cocktail, and form the main flavor of the mocktail. Once a shrub is chosen, it’s just a matter of choosing bitter and bubbly ingredients to round out the experience.
For the bitter component, I reach for my bitters collection. 2-3 dashes in a glass will provide loads of flavor, but the alcohol by volume of the drink stays at less that .5%, which is within the non-alcoholic category. However, bitters are alcohol tinctures and should not be used if you’re making a drink for someone who cannot have any alcohol. So what are some other options? Muddled herbs such as rosemary, sage, or mint. Thin strips of citrus peel, especially lemon, lime and grapefruit have loads of flavorful oils that express easily when muddled with sugar. Or you can make bittered simple syrups using things like cinnamon, orris root, angelica, dandelion root, or burdock root.
Lastly, pick your weak component, which in this context is a non-alcoholic mixer, usually with bubbles. I tend to prefer a combination of seltzer water and something else. That something else can be freshly squeezed juice, your favorite soda, non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic wine, flavored fizzy water, or anything else that pairs well with your shrub and bitters combo.
Here’s what that might look like in action:
In a glass with 8-10 ounce capacity put one teaspoon of sugar. Using a veggie peeler, peel off two thin strips of lemon peel. It’s ok if some of the white pith is on this, as it will add a nice bitterness to the finished mocktail. Use the back of a spoon to crush the lemon peel into the sugar to draw out the oils and start dissolving the sugar. This shouldn’t take more than 15-20 presses with the spoon.
Add 1 ounce of Blueberry Cinnamon shrub to the glass and give it a good stir. Try to ensure the sugar dissolves fully. Then add 2 ounces of Vanilla Bean soda, I like Dry Soda because it’s not as sweet as a cream soda but has loads of flavor. Give everything a good stir, add enough ice to fill the glass, and top it off with seltzer water. Since the lemon peel is already in the glass, it acts as your garnish but you can add a lemon slice if you want to be extra fancy.
As summer winds down, and holiday parties start being planned for, it is my hope that you will find encouragement and have fun making mocktails for your guests that are just as delicious as the cocktails you’re serving.