There’s something special about a handcrafted cocktail – the attention to choosing the perfect ingredients, the rumble fest of the shaker martini, the elegance of fine glass and even the luxurious finishes. But there’s also something not so special about doing your workout the next day with a hangover. That’s why many athletes choose not to drink alcohol, whether in the weeks leading up to a race, during periods of intense training, or even long stretches.
But that doesn’t mean you’ve landed for life asking for water or handcrafted non-alcoholic beer at the bar. Mixing up a non-alcoholic cocktail allows you to roast your accomplishments in all the brilliance and splendor—without any of the hangovers.
Related: A nutritionist shares what he did for a month of no alcohol in his body
Essential ingredients for high-end mocktails
Let’s start our non-alcoholic adventure with some basic simple smoothies that I love to keep. A simple drink is one of the happiest things you have in your arsenal of kitchen hacks. This is a versatile ingredient for every occasion, every group, and every mood. In its heart, simple syrup consists of equal parts hot water and sugar (two cups of each is a good amount for a household piece), brought to a boil over very low heat until the sugar dissolves. You can choose the type of sugar based on the color of the final drink you have in mind: dark and amber juices come from brown sugars, demerara or raw sugars, while clear and light juices come from white sugars. (If you like to use sugar alternatives, try a little of your favorite sweetener added to your drink.) You can customize your simple drink’s flavors by steeping whole spices, tea, coffee, dried flowers, or whatever ingredient you think will flavor the drink your signature touch.
Here’s an example of a simple drink recipe—in this case, a mix of all things, dark, mysterious, leather bound and classic, old-fashioned to Manhattan or any drink where you can add a little bourbon or rum.
Simple dark drink recipe
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 2 cups warm water
Gently mix sugar and water and simmer over very low heat until sugar dissolves (about 10 minutes).
For a darker flavor, replace the water with coffee or tea. (Keep in mind that the caffeine in a simple drink will keep you awake just as much as the caffeine in any drink, so if you’re sensitive to late-night stimulants, use decaffeinated.)
Most of us either have a few forgotten bottles of bitters stashed away, or we’ve seen them line the counters at the neighborhood bar. This is a quick way to add that zesty touch to any drink, while still leaving out 99.95% of the alcohol. Yes, you read this correctly: gallbladder contains some alcohol. The alcohol content is similar to vanilla or almond extract, and you’d never use more than a drop or two of bitterness per drink, which makes the total alcohol content much lower than what you’d get in a bottle of kombucha. If the goal is to avoid all things 100% alcoholic, then skip it (or look for an alcohol-free version), or else a dash will go a long way.
The best mocktail recipes have a bit “wow”. Easy touches to add texture and flavor to a non-alcoholic cocktail come from adding ingredients like Luxardo cherry syrup, balsamic cuts, a teaspoon of your favorite jam, or even a drizzle of maple syrup. Choose what suits your mood and the last drink you have in mind.
Now that you have your ingredients, let’s start making some drinks!
Non-alcoholic cocktail recipes
Black tea “old fashioned”
In a blender with ice cubes (or use your own blender bottle):
- 2 ounces simple syrup
- 1 ounce brewed/chilled black tea
- 1 drop of bitter orange or 1 teaspoon of cherry syrup
Shake the mixture together and pour into a glass, or strain it for an “elegant” drink.
Garnish with fresh mint leaves or orange peel.
Always a favorite no matter the occasion or the weather outside, this fun and colorful soft drink is something kids and adults alike can love. This is also a great drink that you can make in large batches in advance, and have it ready when your guests show up. The recipe below makes approximately 14 servings.
In a large jug, gather together:
- 2 lemons cut into slices
- 1 medium orange, sliced*
- 1 sliced lemon*
- 1 cup fresh cranberries*
- 2 cups red grape juice**
- 2 cups cranberry juice**
- 12 ounce bottle of grapefruit soda
- 12 oz soft drink
Fill cups with mint leaves and ice cubes, pour the sangria on top and enjoy. If it is too sweet, add a little soda.
* Use any fresh seasonal fruit.
** If you want to make white sangria, just change out the clear juices instead of the red.
Related: Treat yourself to these non-alcoholic cocktail recipes
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