In an age of self-care and sophisticated taste, the interest in mixing up zero ABV cocktails has never been higher. In the past, taking a break - whether for one month or nine, also meant foregoing the ritual of making a cocktail and the enjoyment of a refined beverage. Happily, a bounty of new options has emerged to fill the void. Mixing up a fancy drink to end your WFH day, to pair with dinner, or as a nightcap before bed still hits many of the same sensory and pleasure centers, even sans alcohol. But how do you go about it?
One exceedingly simple approach borrows from traditional cocktail making, while adding a small twist. You'll choose a base, build some heft into the drink, and balance the flavors. By layering in ingredients with heft, your drink will still have oomph to it - even without the alcohol, and you'll avoid the meh mocktail pitfall. To highlight the base spirit, try a 1 1/2 oz pour, and between 3/4 oz and 1/4 oz of each additional element. For bolder flavor and even easier mixing, start with 1 oz of each ingredient. And finishing with a splash of sparkling water, tonic, grapefruit soda, or ginger ale is almost always a good idea.
The easiest option might be swapping your spirit of choice for a non-alcoholic alternative. Companies like Fluere and Lyre’s have recreated whiskey, gin, rum, and even mezcal in their own bottlings. Or try something wholly new and unique like Seedlip – one of the first and most popular N/A producers, who took inspiration from gin production while leaving juniper out of it, crafting three botanical blends centered around spice, herb, or citrus. Once you’ve chosen a base, we definitely suggest trying it on its own, looking for flavors to enhance or contrast as you select your other ingredients. In doing so, you might find that they aren’t particularly well suited to being served neat. In comparison to a full proof spirit, they will probably seem lean in comparison, a matter that is easily remedied by building in some body.
Without the buzzy throat-tingling and chest-warming heart of alcohol, many alternative drinks read more fancy soda than cocktail. Incorporating "adult" flavors will move things in the right direction, ultimately though our favorite concoctions aren't the sweet things that can be chugged like a soft drink. Two easy ways to build that oomph back in are by using either bitter or acidic ingredients. Giffard Aperitif and Lyre’s Italian Orange are two of our favorite bitters, offering up their own unique take on Campari. For dried options, try Ghia Aperitif and Lyre’s Dry Vermouth. And for Kombucha fans, adding ¼ to 1 oz of a shrub will add that signature vinegar-like acidity, we are particularly fond of Som Cordials and their perfect mix of sweet and tart.
Now that your foundation has been selected and pleasantly bulked up, turn towards the final step, it’s the one we have the most fun with. Finetune your ratios, experiment with different flavor combinations and various bubbly things. The goal is to find balance, in both taste and overall sweetness. Because alcohol free spirits are lighter bodied and tend to be more delicate in flavor, they can be easily overpowered by fresh citrus. Start with a smaller pour, or try our current obsession - Supasawa, a crystal clear sour mixer that stands in for lemon and lime. It’s impossible to oversell what a game changer this stuff is, balancing the sweet of your cocktail, without overpowering your other ingredients. Dashing bitters, muddled fruit, fresh herbs, and cocktail syrups are all great ways to layer in more flavor.