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By Ron Fisher

You’re having guests for dinner and you remember that one is pregnant, or one does not drink for some reason or another, or, because of the distance to be travelled, one has opted to be a designated driver. Don’t these folks deserve something better than a ginger ale or a seltzer with a twist of lime?

Enter the mocktail, a rather sheepish name for an interesting drink, albeit one without booze. Better to call it a ‘Cocktail Without’.

When you build most cocktails, you typically have a spirit, a modifier and something else to enhance the flavor. For example, in a Manhattan, there is rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. The spirit does a lot of heavy lifting in a traditional cocktail, but a non-alcoholic drink can’t rely on that, so you need some sharp flavors to pick up the slack. It also has to be attractive, quite frankly, if only to show off a bit.

Google ‘mocktail’ and you will find a variety of interesting concoctions. In many cases, the recipes are very complicated, introducing a range of flavors and mixtures (lychee-passion fruit purée) to make up for the lack of alcohol. Tasty, to be sure, but not very practical. <ROTR> found some recipes that don’t require any advance preparation and which have ingredients that are fairly easy to come by. Making them involves muddling – mashing up the ingredients in a glass – which is more work than just pouring liquids, but these drinks look good, taste great, and are well worth the effort.

Cucumber Lemon Cooler

6-8 slices of cucumber, cut into small pieces

1½ oz. lemon juice

1½ tsp. light brown-sugar syrup (dissolve sugar in an equivalent amount of water)

6 oz. club soda

The trick with this drink is to get as much juice out of the cucumber as possible. If you have a juicer, or some type of press, it’s easy – juice the cucumber. If not, you’ll have to muddle the cucumber in the bottom of a thick-walled, tall glass. A muddler looks like a small baseball bat, and instead of holding the knob, you grab the barrel and use the knob to do the mashing. If you don’t have a muddler, you can use the handle of a large wooden spoon, or any other blunt instrument that you can safely hold. Muddle the cucumber to a soupy pulp and strain the juice into a separate tall glass. Add the lemon juice and sugar syrup and stir. Fill the glass with ice and club soda, and garnish with a cucumber wheel. This is a light and very refreshing drink.

Virgin Ginger Rogers

¼-½ tsp. light brown sugar

10-12 mint leaves

1 piece of ginger, ¼ in. thick and the diameter of a quarter

¾ oz. lime juice

6 oz. ginger ale

This time, we are muddling mint, trying to get the flavor out of the leaves. Put the sugar into the bottom of a tall glass, then the mint leaves, and muddle, using the sugar as grist to scrape the mint. When the mint leaves just start to fall apart, add the ginger and lime juice, and muddle until the ginger begins to crumble. Strain the liquid into a tall glass, add ice, and then fill with soda water. Garnish with a sprig of mint or a lime wedge. This drink has great color and the sprig of mint really gives it pizazz.

Nola Mule

5 oz. ginger beer

2 oz. pineapple juice

1 oz. lime juice

2 tsp. simple syrup

Here’s one you can just mix and serve. It comes from the bar at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix (a wonderful place to enjoy a cocktail, either inside or out). Make sure that you use ginger beer, which has a much stronger kick than ginger ale.

Lastly, as a cocktail writer — an advocate of drinking — I would like to make a brief comment about those folks who have decided to step away from alcohol. It is perhaps the most important decision they have ever made, it was not done easily, and anything we can do to help is a small task indeed. If it means taking a minute or two to muddle some mint or a cucumber so that they can feel part of the crowd, it is time well spent.

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