Alcohol Free cocktails (mocktails, if you must) have come along way, baby.
Alcohol Free Cocktails are not just for sober folks. There are tons of reasons you may be craving a refreshing, gorgeous, hand-crafted cocktail with no alcohol! Designated driver, traveling with the kids, trying to lose weight, or just don’t feel like drinking? We’ve got you covered with a Pineapple Jalapeno Mojito, Mojo Mule with Crushed Blackberries, Pina Colada Slush, Feelin’ Fancy AF Paloma, or a Like A Virgin Antipasto Bloody. And we’ve got all the basics to set up your bar.
Yes, you may be “off” on that on and off roller coaster relationship you have with booze, or maybe you’re on our own in a strange town and want to keep your wits about you, or you have a 5 am flight.
Ahhh..I could go on.
But you know why you’re not drinking when you’re not drinking!
“I’ll take “Potent Potables” for a $100, Alex.”
It’s not about the alcohol.
I’m currently on my summer break from drinking again. Second summer in a row. Who knew?
And like magic, I’ve discovered that the attraction of a fantastic cocktail (for me) is rarely the alcohol. There’s just something about the tinkling clink of the ice, the chilled crystal glass in my hand, the gorgeous fresh fruit and herb garnishes, and the nuanced flavors of a good craft cocktail.
That first sip, a deep breath, and I’m off to a grateful place.
And guess what?
Ho Hum on the Rum-dee- dum dum.
It has nothing to do with the alcohol!
And I’ve been experimenting with alcohol free drinks ever since. Many of these are gluten free, WHOLE30, or Paleo.
So what is a craft cocktail?
The answer can be nebulous and subjective.
But in a nutshell, it uses fresh ingredients, not prepackaged mixes and products, and no preservatives. (Think “clean drinking.”)
We’re talking about freshly squeezed juices, good soda out of a bottle (not a gun), hand made infused syrups, muddled fruits and herbs.
Drinks served in good glassware on a substantial napkin with pride and a smile.
Next level craft cocktails? I watched my bartender in my San Francisco hotel chip ice off a block with a pic for each drink he prepared.
(Seems that makes for a long night, not to mention a weaponized bar.)
But oh how appealing that was…like drinking off a glacier.
And not to be overlooked – the craft side of things.
That bartender was committed. He cared about the flavor and had a passion for the presentation
What do you need to up your bartending game?
The basic equipment of a good home bar.
Any of our favorite drinks can be made with what you have in your kitchen.
But if you want to create next level libations (and feel a little fancy,) you may want to invest in some of the basics below. They’ll last forever. Trust me, I’m a power user.
- Glassware– It’s gotta be easy to grip, even if it’s sweating. You want minimal design in the glass to give a clear view to the cocktail and ice, and yes, size matters. The glass should be sized appropriately for the drink and not so large that you’re drinking more water than not by the time you get to the bottom. I like tall and narrow or a good solid rocks glass. You can get a set at HomeGoods on the cheap!
- Metal Shaker– Temperature is everything. The best way to quickly chill whatever concoction you’re creating and beat up the herbs to release the flavor is to do it Bond style – “shaken not stirred.”
- Stainless Straws– Yes! How have I just now discovered these babies. You can keep them in the fridge so they’re ice cold but they chill quickly from your drink anyhow. I probably wouldn’t keep them in the freezer. Just think – winter, fire escape, tongue. Enough said? You can buy a package of 4 with a cleaning brush for $4 bucks at HomeGoods or on Amazon
- Muddler or mortar and pestle – No, it’s not just for chemistry class. I bought a stone one because it looks pretty on the counter and does a great job with smashing fruit and fresh herbs. You can just get a long handled one and muddle in your glass or shaker. I prefer not to do it in the glass.
- Long handled mixing spoons. You’ll want these to stir up all that pulverized fruit that ends up at the bottom. You can get a set of 3 different bottom designs for different glass types for about $9 on Amazon. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll use them for smoothies too.
- Citrus Juicer- This will be the best $15 bucks you spend. Since fresh fruit juices are the elixir of life, you’ll want to keep this handy. Black+Decker has a plastic one that will do just fine.
And, drum roll please. The game changer……
- Silicone 2 Inch Ice Cube Trays. OMG. I love the big, beautiful crystal clear and slow melting cubes these things make. Way to keep that cocktail cold. I saw them at my friend Jon’s and had to have them. I swear, I went immediately to my laptop and ordered them. Again, HomeGoods, Amazon, Target. Maybe $12 bucks and worth every cent. When I first got them, I actually went out and bought Crown Royal just for the ritual of pouring over them. (I know, off topic!)
Ingredients – The Basics of a Good Alcohol Free Cocktail
Some rules of thumb and things to keep on hand.
- Keep a fridge full of washed fresh fruit, and fresh herbs, as well as a freezer of frozen fruit. Creating your own fresh juices to order will produce much better flavor and texture. I avoid canned or bottled juices whenever I can and never use canned fruit.
- It’s easy to get carried away with added sugars and creamy ingredients, and bingo! You may as well have a dessert. Rely on the fruit to provide most of the sweetness and use agave or turbinado sugar sparingly to sweeten when necessary or to rim the glass.
- Avoid creams and milks and use coconut milk or lite coconut milk to get that creamy texture in your pina coladas.
- I use club soda as a base for most every cocktail. The fizzier the better, since the ice and fruit bases will quickly dilute it. I spend a little more on Fever-Tree, Schweppes or Canada Dry and avoid store brands. If I need a more subtle taste I will use LaCroix water.
- Keep fresh basil, rosemary and mint on hand. They can provide that perfect nuanced flavor in your drink and they make beautiful garnishes.
- Speaking of garnishes. We drink with our eyes. The sky’s the limit. A toothpick of blueberries and raspberries across the top of your glass, a spear of pineapple, a sprig of rosemary, a small wooden spear of olives and prosciutto in your bloody ( See recipe below).
Before We Start….
Every Day all Day – What’s Better Than POW (plain old water) for Hydration?
Because hydration is critical, and summer heat can catch up on us, I always keep a few basics around. So before we talk about mocktails, there’s this. Cuz how much iced tea can you drink?
Keep a beautiful pitcher of water, floating with limes, lemons, raspberries, or whatever is in season. Drop in some mint and some fresh ginger and you’re good. Thirst quenching, appealing and healthy.
My personal everyday all day go to beverage
Keep your Tervis or other insulated glass loaded all day. I like lots of Clubby, and a splash of tart cherry juice. Just enough juice to tint it pink. And sometimes I throw in a lime. Thanks to Nina for this one.
Old Reliable when the “bartender” is off duty
If you’re feeling uninspired as a bartender but want to sit back with a “cocktail,” pour yourself a Clubby in a nice old fashioned glass and add a few drops of Bitters. (It does contain alcohol). It also wills settle your stomach if you’re feeling a little off.
My 5 Favorite Summer Alcohol Free Drinks
Let’s get to it. I make dozens of variations on these Alcohol Free (AF) drinks. And often experiment with some of the new AF spirits and wines on the market. (I’ll post about those another day.) You’ll want to adjust to your own taste and to whatever is available seasonally where you are.
Kickin’ Pineapple Jalapeno “Mojojito”
If I were to have a signature drink, this would be it. Fresh pineapple, a kick of jalapeno, and some cooling mint. Fresh pineapple only makes it better. Refreshing and flavorful! Best alcohol free cocktail ever and most bartenders are happy to make it.
Kickin’ Pineapple Jalapeno Mojojito
- 1 cup of pineapple juice (I prefer the jarred ones.)
- Optional: 2 chunks of fresh pineapple. Cut it small. (Not canned, I’m begging you.)
- 1 jalapeno pepper - IMPORTANT: The heat is in the seeds so just add a few unless you like “el scorcho”
- 1 -2 tsp of Agave (or 1 tsp of turbinado sugar)
- 2 bunches of fresh mint leaves (about 10 leaves) - Reserve two sprigs for garnish.
- 3 limes- Juiced (If not using a juicer, you’ll need to double.)
- Soda water to top off the glass.
- (We’ll mix up one glass at a time so you can adjust to your own taste)
- Juice the 3 limes and set juice aside.
- Slice the jalapeno in very thin in rings. Reserve seeds based on how hot you want it! I use about 4 thin rings and keep about half the seeds.
- Muddle half of the jalapeno rings and the pineapple chunks if you are using them together.
- Tear up 3 mint leaves.
- Fill a shaker half way and add the muddled mix, torn mint leaves, 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, about 2 tablespoons of the lime juice and 3/4-1 teaspoon of agave. (You can add more later if it’s not sweet enough.)
- Shake it good!
- Add 2 perfect oversized cubes to your glass and pour the mixture from the shaker over it.
- Optional: Rim the glass with a slice of lime and then dip in turbinado sugar or kosher salt.
- Garnish with a sprig of mint, a chunk of pineapple and slice of lime on the glass.
- Enjoy!! Adjust the heat and sweet to your taste.
Mojo Mule with Muddled Blackberries
I’m a huge fan of the Moscow Mule. This is clearly one of the most refreshing summer drinks ever and one of my favorite alcohol free cocktails. And even if you’re saying “nyet” to the vodka, you’ll love this one. Spicy, tasty and COLD! If you have copper Moscow Mules cups this would be a good time to get ‘em out and stick them in the freezer. PS- I’m told that the ginger makes this a winner for pregnant moms too.
- 2 limes
- 12 ounces of ginger beer. Use a premium brand like Fever Tree or Gosling. They have more kick!
- 2 sprigs of fresh mint – torn except one to garnish
- Optional : ½ – 1 teaspoon of agave (to taste)
(We’ll mix up one glass at a time so you can adjust to your own taste)
- Juice the limes. (If juicing by hand use 3)
- Add half of the lime, half of the mint, and the agave to the bottom of the cup.
- Fill with ice about half way up.
- Top off with the ginger beer and stir.
- Garnish with lime, and mint.
- If the ginger beer is too strong for you, add a couple ounces of club soda and stir.
Pina Colada Slush
When you’re sitting by the pool and channeling the Caribbean, only one thing will do. It’s Pina Colada time. Freeze it up for a slush and there will be “no worries, man.”
- 2 cups fresh frozen pineapple chunks. Make your own- they are just better!
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk – use low fat to keep calories down.
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- Put the pineapple juice in the bottom of a high speed blender or Nutri-bullet.
- Add the coconut milk and frozen pineapple chunks.
- Blend until smooth and creamy. You may need to stop and mix with a spatula a couple times.
- If too thin, just add ice and blend some more. If you like it sweeter, add a touch of agave.
- Garnish with pineapple wedge.
- HACK: Feeling especially tropical. Add in ½ ripe banana
Fancy AF Paloma
Feeling fancy? Pull out the stemmed glasses and mix this one up. This is great made with blood oranges but they are seasonal. So use any fresh orange (no cartons please!) and add in a little red grapefruit to get that beautiful deep pink color.
- 1 fresh orange (Blood orange if available)
- 1 red grapefruit (If Blood orange not available)
- ½ lime – juiced
- Club soda to top off
- Juice the orange, lime and red grapefruit separately.
- Add ice to 2 glasses
- Pour ½ of the OJ, a splash or two of the grapefruit juice, and half of the lime juice over the ice.
- Top with club soda
- Garnish with lime.
- Enjoy and talk about polo.
“Like A Virgin” Antipasto Bloody
There’s nothing like a little Sunday morning munch and brunch. And this one could be “in lieu of brunch.” It’s a meal in a glass. I was obsessed and had to make it at home. Picture a wooden skewer of prosciutto, salami, hard cheese and olives. OMG. Who needs appetizers when it’s all right here?
For your skewer:
2 pieces each of your favorite ingredients. I like thinly sliced salami, prosciutto, small chunk of pecorino romano or other strong cheese, large green olive, black olive, pepperoncini,
Make garnishes by threading onto short bamboo or wooden skewers.
For additional garnish, 2 celery stalks set aside
½ lemon cut in wedges
For your bloody:
3 cups tomato juice
½ – ¾ teaspoon of prepared creamy hot horseradish
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon celery salt
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt to taste (not too much- the garnishes are salty!)
Tabasco sauce to taste
½ lemon cut in quarters
Mix all Bloody Mary ingredients in one small pitcher and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, fill 2 glasses halfway with ice.
Fill with Bloody mix,
Add skewer across the top, add celery stalk with leaves, and one lemon wedge on side of glass.
More and more bars are shoring up their non-alcoholic offerings. But if you don’t see something, just ask. I check out the specialty cocktail list, and then have them make it AF. They rarely mind, and sometimes have suggestions for their own specialty. There’s always AF beer and sometimes even wine, but with a little creativity, you can have something appealing and tasty.
Coming soon– I’ve been testing lots of AF products, and will share my findings with you soon. And watch for my printable of these and other alcohol free cocktails.
If you try any of these recipes, please comment in the white comment box below and tell me about it.. I’d also love to hear about some of your favorite AF drinks.
Just thinking about going alcohol free? Check out these related blogs :
Blame it on the Booze- 5 Reasons It May be Time to Break Up With Booze
Raise the Bar- 5 Great Alcohol Free Craft Cocktails
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Thanks for coming by. Xox Cyn
Thanks so much for the fabulous post! I’m off and running on my spirit free drinks! (I’ve heard AF cocktails called “free spirits”. ) I love that! Cant’t wait for your post on zero proof (or close) spirits, bitters etc.
I’m investigating them right now. Feel great taking a break from alcohol! Sleeping so much better!
Onward free spirit!
Thanks so much for stopping by! I am doing a restart too! More to come, cynthia