Many teetotallers resign themselves to a life of limited drink options. This needn’t be the case as countless cocktail options are available to the creative, inventive and informed non-drinker. Boring soft-drink-filled evenings for designated drivers end here!
Alcoholic vs Non-alcoholic Cocktails
Many cocktails acquire a considerable amount of their flavour from the spirits and liqueurs that are used in making them. However, non-alcoholic cocktails, though not always identical replicas of the original, alcoholic version, can be made to have a no less delicious flavour of their own with the help of a few basic, inexpensive ingredients and tools.
Many would argue that the very essence of the cocktail is the spirit on which it is based but there’s no place for traditionalism when it comes to a modern, diverse and thirsty drinking audience.
All cocktails, whether alcoholic or not, are based on basic concepts. The first and most important of these is balance; few things are worse than a drink that leans too far in one direction, be it sweetness or sourness, strength or weakness.
Balance is a product of the above four elements and all the cocktail greats, from the Martini to the Manhattan, Mojito to the Cosmopolitan rely on this principle. The perfect cocktail is a balance of the right amount of sweetening and souring agent paired with a good combination of strong and weak.
Most cocktails rely on citrus as the souring agent, using either lemon, lime or grapefruit juice. Either sugar or sugar syrup (sirop de gomme) is used as the contrasting sweetener. Strength is normally supplied by the spirit and is weakened by shaking or stirring with ice. This obviously doesn’t apply to non-alcoholic cocktails and the strength/weakness balance must come from the proportions of the remaining ingredients.
Tools Of The Trade
Being on the wagon doesn’t have to be a bumpy, predictable journey. All that’s needed are a couple of basic pieces of cocktail equipment to make countless concoctions.
- A Boston Shaker consisting of a metal Boston tin and mixing glass
- A Hawthorn strainer
- A muddler or wooden rolling pin
- A long-handled bar spoon
- A cutting board
- A small paring knife for cutting garnishes
Certain cocktails are more easily recreated in non-alcoholic form than others. This obviously applies to drinks such as the Martini or Manhattan where alcohol forms the bulk of the content and flavour of the cocktail. However, drinks like the Mojito, Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, Mai Tai, Sea Breeze and Long Island Iced Tea can all be recreated in non-alcoholic form.
Virgin Bloody Mary:
- 250/8.5oz ml fresh tomato juice
- Half fresh lemon/lime
- 3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 tsp fresh Horseradish (optional)
- Celery Salt (optional)
- Celery stick to garnish
- In an ice-filled mixing glass build the tomato juice, fresh lemon/lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt, pepper, fresh horseradish and celery salt.
- Rather than shaking the mix, pour it back and forth between the mixing glass and the Boston tin several times. This chills the drink while preventing the tomato juice from becoming too frothy.
- Run a wedge of fresh lemon/lime around the rim of a clean hi-ball/collins glass before rolling the rim in a mixture of ground salt and pepper.
- Strain the drink into the ice-filled, seasoned hi-ball/collins glass.
- Garnish with a celery stalk.
- Adjust the mix to taste if necessary by adding Worcestershire sauce or Tabasco.
- Muddler/wooden rolling pin
- Barspoon/long-handled spoon
- Ice crusher
- Hi-ball/Collins glass
- Five or six sprigs fresh mint
- Half a lime, cut into wedges
- Two teaspoons/barspoons fine sugar/coarse brown sugar/sugar syrup
- Mint sprig and lime wedge to garnish
- Soda water
- Lemonade/apple juice/ginger ale
- In the hi-ball/collins glass, muddle the lime wedges with the sugar/sugar syrup to release the juice and aromatic oils from the zest.
- Add the mint sprigs and gently bruise with the muddler to release the aroma and flavour.
- Half fill the glass with crushed ice and stir thoroughly.
- If you prefer a slightly sweeter Mojito, now is the time to add a dash of lemonade/apple juice or ginger ale to taste.
- Fill the remainder of the glass with crushed ice, top with soda and stir thoroughly.
- Garnish with the fresh mint sprig and lime wedge.
Cocktails are about exploring the endless possibilities that exist for both drinkers of alcohol and those who prefer to/need to abstain. Alcoholic or not, blending and experimenting with various ingredients and flavours is an exciting way to add interest to your drinks with the help of a minimum of cocktail know-how.