2020 has been enough to drive everyone to drink, all the drinks, all the days. But I try to at least be sensible some of the days. I think we know around here, I’ve got thoughts on mocktails. And I don’t call just any old booze-less beverage a non-alcoholic cocktail. I like my mocktails to work like a cocktail, using similar ingredients or techniques and meeting the same purposes as cocktails – in this case that’s adding to an atmosphere of conviviality and celebration whether it’s through a warming punch or something sparkling that recalls the flavors of Christmas.
I like to keep my holiday mocktail recommendations to things that are easy and simple, but still sophisticated, and that can be made with what you likely have – or easily could have – on hand.
Apple shrub sparkler
Why: Apples are a classic flavour for the season and the sparkling water is both sophisticated and festive. The homemade shrub adds an extra element of something special for your guests (and it keeps in the fridge for some time and also works great in salad dressings)
Pour 45 ml of apple shrub into a tall glass, fill with ice and top with sparkling water.
Optional: Garnish with a lemon twist and/or a dehydrated apple slice.
*to make the apple shrub grate 2 large apples and mix with about 1.25 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup sugar. Let sit in a cool dark spot for 3 – 4 days and then strain off the liquid. You can also add cinnamon sticks to infuse with the mixture. There are lots of recipes and variations on shrubs, so feel free to play around and find what works for you.
Why: it’s easy, simple and sophisticated and the verjus adds an interesting touch that guests might not immediately think of something to use in cocktails. A pleasant little surprise!
This drink comes courtesy of Good Drinks by Julia Bainbridge, which is a great source for a range of different styles of levels of non-alcoholic drinks.
cocktail by Adam Chase of Corvino Supper Club, Kansas City, Missouris
recipe reprinted from Good Drinks with permission of Julia Bainbridge
2 ounces white verjus (I used Bourgoin Cognac verjus)
2 ounces soda water
2 ounces tonic water 1 lemon twist, for garnish
Combine the verjus, soda water, and tonic water in a wine or spritz glass filled with ice. Garnish with the lemon twist.
Party tip: Batch for 6 Combine 1 1⁄2 cups verjus, 1 1⁄2 cups soda water, and 1 1⁄2 cups tonic water in a pitcher filled with ice. Divide among 6 wine glasses and garnish each with a lemon twist.
Why: Pomegranate season ends around November in most parts of the world, but they store well so you should still be able to find fresh ones in December for homemade grenadine – it will be a nice ‘homemade treat’ for your guests and the deep red color is perfect for the holiday season. Plus the spiciness of ginger beer is a nice alternative to the bit of spirits in a non-alcoholic drink.
Fill a balloon wine glass with lots of ice, pour over ginger beer and thendrizzle in homemade pomegranate. Ganish with a slice of fresh ginger and lemon twist.
Holiday Hand Warmer
Why: it’s nice to have something warm to hold onto during the holidays. Homemade honey cardamom syrup is something that’s easy to make ahead of time but feels a little fancy for your guests.
1 cup hot water
2 tsp Honey Cardamom Cinnamon Syrup*
Put syrup and juice of one lemon in a mug and top up with hot water and stir.
*To make the syrup: Gently heat 1 cup honey, ½ cup water, 1 cinnamon stick and 4 cardamom pods for fifteen minutes. Let cool and infuse for an hour. Remove pods & stick then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.
Pom Punch (warm)
Why: because warm pomegranate punch is a great replacement for the usual mulled wine that goes down great this time of year.
Recipe: (for 5 – 10)
1 liter pomegranate juice
1 cup apple juice
1 star anise
1 sprig rosemary
4 – 5 cloves
Heat all ingredients gently and let the spices infuse for 30 minutes. Remove star anise, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon stick. Serve in warm mugs with rosemary sprig & star anise garnish.
All of the recipes can be varried according to taste, either increasing or decreasing the sweetness or tartness. And no one will judge you if you want to make them more adult with a shot of your favorite spirit.
Finally, when you’re serving non-alcoholic drinks, don’t make them seem like an afterthought. Pull out the pretty garnishes and make them pretty.
Other ideas for making your mocktails more festive:
- Make them in a punch bowl or pitcher
- Up your ice game and order clear ice or freeze garnishes inside
- Serve drinks in cute individual bottles that guests can pour for themselves