Want to reduce your alcohol intake for whatever reason in 2021 but still partake in festive cocktail culture? We’ve got you. In light of an increasingly popular market of alcohol-inspired nonalcoholic cocktails and beverages (take Surely wines, for example), pretty-drink influencers shared with us their best mocktail recipes and the basic tools you’ll need to make them. Ready, set, stir, sip. Repeat (without the slurring).
Colorado-based cocktail blogger Emily Arden Wells, aka @gastronomista, has been experimenting with nonalcoholic cocktails this January, both more traditional ones as well as less expected options that use some of the newer nonalcoholic spirits, like Seedlip, and other appealing ingredients. “You can find N/A [nonalcoholic] syrups such as Orgeat and Falernum that give your mocktails extra body, flavor and a more cocktail-like mouthfeel,” Arden Wells says. “One of my favorite finds is Crodino, an Italian nonalcoholic aperitif that comes in little glass bottles and tastes like a bitter orange Creamsicle. They are great on ice or mixed into an N/A cocktail.”
- 2 ounces Crodino ($28.99 for 10 bottles; amazon.com)
- 2 ounces orange juice (instacart.com)
- 1 ounce vanilla bean syrup ($18; surlatable.com)
Build — which means to add one ingredient at a time in the order they’re listed on the recipe — in a lowball glass over a king cube (aka a big, beautiful ice cube). Garnish with a piece of vanilla bean and an orange slice.
Arden Wells has found some good substitutes for alcoholic drink mainstays. “Keep an eye out for products that mimic the flavors you like in cocktails in syrups, jams and juices,” she advises. “I recently discovered sparkling pear juice, which is a great N/A substitute for sparkling wine, and elderflower syrup, a great substitute for St. Germain liqueur.”
- 2 ounces Seedlip Spice 94 ($32; seedlipdrinks.com)
- 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice ($6.99; amazon.com)
- 3/4 ounce N/A Falernum ($16.99; amazon.com)
- 2 ounces sparkling pear juice (instacart.com)
Shake the Seedlip spirit, lemon juice and Falernum in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe and top with sparkling pear juice. Garnish with a slice of fresh pear.
Arden Wells also loves the Seedlip version of a G&T, which, to be fair, requires access to fresh spring peas but is strikingly beautiful and instantly transports you to an outdoor green space in the UK:
Garden & Tonic
Build in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with fresh peas (also works with a lime wedge if spring peas are just not happening for you).
And when Arden Wells wants to enjoy a low-alcohol refreshment during Aperol spritz season, she turns to her own low or N/A version.
- 1 ounce W&P Italian Spritz syrup ($17.13; amazon.com)
- 3 to 4 ounces soda water (instacart.com)
- 1/2 ounce Peychaud’s Bitters
- Grapefruit express, or a grapefruit peel
Note: Some bitters are 35% to 45% alcohol by volume, so with drinks that call for a few dashes, there would be a scant amount of alcohol — meaning technically this drink isn’t alcohol-free.
Build over a king cube, syrup first, then soda water, and float the bitters on the surface of the drink. Express with a grapefruit twist — that means cutting off a slice of peel, twisting it gently with your fingers over the glass, then rubbing the inside of the peel around the glass rim — and either drop in the drink or discard.
Don’t forget about classic cocktails, either, Arden Wells reminds us. “A virgin Bloody Mary or a virgin piña colada tastes delicious without the booze and won’t give you a hangover!” Come warmer weather, Arden Wells loves to bring the tiki spirit home with a colada that can be made beautifully without rum or tequila, and subbing in ginger simple syrup for the ginger liqueur in her original recipe.
- 2 ounces pineapple juice (instacart.com)
- 1 1/2 ounces coconut water (instacart.com)
- 1 ounce coconut milk (instacart.com)
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice ($10.99; amazon.com)
- 1/4 ounce ginger syrup ($21.49; amazon.com)
Shake (or blend), strain into a tiki mug and garnish with pineapple leaves, a slice of pineapple and fresh orchids. (Don’t feel bad if you’re not a professional cocktail blogger and just don’t have fresh orchids on hand — the drink still works without them.) Enjoy!
New Hampshire-based cocktail designer and wild edibles forager Amy Traynor, aka @moodymixologist, notes that many popular cocktails can be crafted as N/A simply by omitting the hooch. She reworked a few of her favorite recipes as nonalcoholic for CNN Underscored.
Blood Orange Turmeric Collins
- 1 ounce blood orange juice (instacart.com)
- 1 ounce lemon juice (instacart.com)
- 1/2 ounce turmeric syrup ($14.99; amazon.com)
- Sparkling water (instacart.com)
Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with blood orange slices and a sprig of rosemary if desired.
- 10 to 12 fresh basil leaves (instacart.com)
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (instacart.com)
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup (instacart.com)
- 3 ounces sparkling water (instacart.com)
Thoroughly muddle basil leaves with lemon juice in a shaker. Add simple syrup and ice to shaker and shake until chilled. Fine strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water and garnish with fresh basil.
Grapefruit & Pomegranate Sour
- 2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (instacart.com)
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (instacart.com)
- 1 ounce honey pomegranate syrup
For the honey pomegranate syrup:
Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a grapefruit slice and sprig of rosemary if desired.
- 1 1/2 ounces water
- 3/4 ounce N/A triple sec syrup ($8.99; amazon.com)
- 3/4 ounce unsweetened cranberry juice (instacart.com)
- 3/4 ounce lime juice (instacart.com)
- 1/4 ounce honey syrup (a mix of equal parts honey and water)
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary for a wintry vibe or a lime wedge for a warmer-weather feel.
So there’s your starter inspiration. Keep scrolling for a list of home bar supplies you should eventually have on hand if you want to become a legit N/A mixologist — or just want your creations to be Insta-inspiring.
Lav Martini Glasses, Set of 6 ($29.99; amazon.com)
Every bar needs at least two simple, unadorned martini glasses for classic nonfussy presentations. And with this set you get a whopping six.
Viski Stemless Martini Glasses, Set of 2 ($17.99; amazon.com)
The stemless option is also appealing for serious martini drinkers and N/A indulgers alike.
Marie Coupe Cocktail Glass ($3.95; cb2.com)
A coupe is so sophisticated, and it’s perfect for both shaken/stirred drinks and sparkling/fizzy ones like mock Bellinis.
Speakeasy Champagne Glasses, Set of 4 ($4.96, originally $9.92; worldmarket.com)
This retro art deco version feels solid in your hand, not to mention it’s party-ready.
Venero Crystal Whiskey Glasses, Set of 4 ($34.97; amazon.com)
Versatile and affordable, these are good for any drink built over a big ice cube or on the rocks — and at this price they can double as your daily water glasses.
10-Ounce Crystal Whiskey Glasses, Set of 4 ($19.95, originally $22.95; amazon.com)
For those eternally looking for a new favorite glass for old-fashioneds, these are a beautiful crystal-cut style. They make whatever you’re drinking feel that much more premium, but if they get broken, it won’t break the bank.
Jsdoin Japanese-Style Double Cocktail Jigger ($9.99; amazon.com)
Shot glasses are fun for collecting, but true bar aficionados insist on a Japanese-style jigger, which marks measurements on both sides for perfectly built cocktails.
Cocktail Kingdom Buswell Stainless Steel Strainer ($19.99; amazon.com)
For drinks made by mixing in a glass, not shaken, you’ll need this strainer — and it also looks super professional in your kitchen. (You can use a beer pint glass or an empty shaker to stir if you don’t have a specific mixing glass.)
Barfly Cocktail Shaker ($19; amazon.com)
There are so many beautiful cocktail shakers out there. Start with at least one basic one that’s secure when shaking, easy to open and dishwasher-safe — like this one.
Mesh Strainers, Set of 2 ($8.99; worldmarket.com)
Strainers are particularly helpful for cocktails with muddled ingredients (like green herbs and citrus, as seen in the Basil Smash), advises Traynor.
Premium Quality Metal Lemon Squeezer ($16.99, originally $21.99; amazon.com)
This “makes quick work of lemons, limes and oranges,” Traynor says — and it comes in bright, cheery citrusy colors to boot.
Bar Spoon With Muddler ($9.95; crateandbarrel.com)
A cocktail-specific spoon isn’t a necessity, but it’s a fun extra and makes the process feel more like an occasion. This one has a muddler on the other end, also helpful for melding all the fresh deliciousness.
Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water (instacart.com)
Serious spirits-and-tonic drinkers will not settle for any brand less fine than Fever-Tree. Serious nonalcoholic imbibers can elevate their tonic concoctions with it too.
Twinings of London Loose Earl Grey Tea (instacart.com)
A number of N/A cocktails are tea-based — black tea adds body, complexity and richness. Many recipes will call for a tea bag, but this loose option comes in a pretty and reusable tin and allows you to measure out whatever strength you want — and make yourself a hot afternoon cup on any given day too.
Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherries ($24.99; amazon.com)
Standard-issue dive-bar maraschino cherries are fine, even charming sometimes. But these babies are next level, and the syrup that houses them can be used in a number of N/A recipes too.