Drinks offered to abstainers at New Year’s Eve parties are all too often nothing to celebrate. Club soda with a sad sliver of lime or a can of Diet Coke are poor rewards for serving as the designated driver.
This year, your nondrinking guests don’t have to put up with boring beverages. The craft cocktail revolution has trickled down to nonalcoholic beverages, resulting in “mocktails” that can be just as interesting—in taste, if not in effect—as their boozy counterparts. The best combine freshly squeezed fruit juice with a sweetener and herbs or spices. They may be topped with sparkling water for a festive fizz or served warm for a toasty fuzz. Your alcohol-drinking guests can add their poison of choice.
Good mocktails require the following elements:
- Quality ingredients: Fresh fruit, springwater, fresh herbs, and natural sweeteners
- A cocktail shaker, shot glass, and muddler (if you wish, you can substitute a tall, sturdy glass with a strainer; a measuring cup with ounces; and a wooden spoon)
- Ice, both in cubes and crushed, unless you’re making hot drinks
Herbs, sweeteners, and spices recreate some of the flavors alcohol adds to a cocktail. Muddling—mashing ingredients with the back of a spoon or other blunt-edged object—releases the flavorful oils in citrus peels and herbs. Shaking mixes bits of ice into the strained drink, providing texture and a nicely chilled beverage.
Fancy mocktails require a little more effort than pouring a glass of soda, but aren’t your designated drivers and dedicated nondrinkers worth celebrating?
All recipes by Cathryn Domrose, unless noted
10 juniper berries (you can find these in your grocery store’s spice section)
2 teaspoons rosemary leaves
3 ounces fresh lime juice
Good-quality tonic water
2 sprigs of rosemary
- Lightly crack juniper berries with a mortar and pestle, or use a rolling pin. Add to shaker with rosemary leaves and lime juice.
- Muddle until rosemary is crushed, then strain into two highball glasses filled with ice cubes. Add tonic water. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.
Serves 2. Prep time, 5 minutes.
Mock Mango Mojito
1 fresh mango, peeled and cut into cubes
2 teaspoons molasses
3 ounces springwater
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
8 sprigs mint
- Purée mango, water, and molasses in a blender.
- Muddle 6 sprigs of mint, lime juice, and sugar in a cocktail shaker until mint is crushed and sugar is mostly dissolved.
- Strain into highball glasses, stir in a generous spoonful of mango purée, and add crushed ice. Top with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint.
A large batch of mango purée and mint-lime muddle may be made ahead of time and combined in a pitcher, then poured into ice-filled glasses and topped with sparkling water and garnished before serving.
Serves 2. Prep time, 10 minutes.
Hot Ginger-Thyme Lemonade
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
Juice of 2 or 3 lemons (about ½ cup)
4 slices of ginger, 4 sprigs of thyme, and 4 slices of lemon peel for garnish
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Pour over grated ginger and thyme leaves and allow to steep for 10 minutes, then strain into a small teapot, pitcher, or jar. (This step may be done ahead of time. Gently reheat mixture before serving.)
- Add honey and lemon juice and stir to combine.
- Pour into mugs and garnish with ginger slices, lemon peel, and thyme sprigs. Makes four 8-ounce drinks.
Serves 4. Prep time, 10 minutes, plus 10 minutes to steep.
Spicy Cilantro Mockarita
3 ounces fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)
2 ounces agave syrup, or 1 ounce agave and 1 ounce orange-flavored syrup
½ teaspoon grated orange zest (omit if using orange-flavored syrup)
6 ounces springwater
1 quarter jalapeño pepper without seeds
1 small handful cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
½ teaspoon each of sugar, salt, and chile powder for dusting rims of glasses
- Combine sugar, salt, and chile powder on a small plate. Rub rims of two martini glasses with a slice of lime and dip into spice mixture to coat.
- Carefully slice 6 thin strips from the jalapeño pepper—you may want more or less depending on your tolerance for heat and how hot the pepper is. A little goes a long way. Reserve 2 strips and chop the other 4 into fine dice.
- Add jalapeño to shaker with cilantro, lime juice, and agave syrup. Muddle in the bottom of shaker until cilantro is thoroughly crushed.
- Add springwater and enough ice so the liquid just covers it. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain into prepared martini glasses. Garnish with cilantro and jalapeño strips.
Serves 2. Prep time, 10 minutes
(Adapted from Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails by Eric Prum and Josh Williams)
3 ounces fresh grapefruit juice (about 1 small grapefruit or ½ of a large one)
1½ ounces simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water stirred until sugar is dissolved)
2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
2 sage leaves, plus 2 for garnish
- Crush 2 sage leaves and grapefruit zest in your hand, then add to shaker. Add grapefruit juice and simple syrup to shaker.
- Add crushed ice to just above the level of the liquid and shake for 3 seconds. Strain into 2 flute glasses and top with sparkling water. Garnish with remaining sage leaves.
Serves 2. Prep time, 5 minutes.
Cathryn Domrose has written about science, health, and fitness for more than 20 years, most recently for Nurse.com, a national publication for nurses. She lives and cooks in San Francisco.