I’d consider myself a beverage fanatic. On any given day, you can catch me with a unique grouping of beverages — my trusty Hydro Flask filled with water and ice cubes that make the most annoying sound when I walk, a thermos of day-old coffee and another drink just for fun, most likely something fizzy or fermented, like kombucha. My latest drink obsession has been making mocktails, fueled by my love for fun drinks and recent discovery of a community of mocktail mixologists on TikTok.
I feel like most nonalcoholic drink options are limited to juice, soda or plain water. But sometimes you want an interesting, creative drink that won’t result in a debilitating hangover (just typing that word gave me flashbacks). More recently, I’ve noticed an expansion of zero-proof drink options in grocery stores, restaurants and even bars. I sense a culture shift happening to a more understanding and supportive attitude toward those who abstain from alcohol. From alcohol-free beer to gin alternatives and premixed mocktails, skipping out on alcohol can still be fun, flavorful and accessible. I wanted to share some of my go-to mocktail recipes that taste pretty darn similar to the real thing.
Grapefruit Moscow Mule
This drink gets most of its flavor from Saint Ivy’s Non-Alcoholic Moscow Mule beverage. I found this premixed drink at Whole Foods Market, and while the price for a pack of four bottles was ridiculous, I decided to be adventurous and try it anyway. Saint Ivy specializes in nonalcoholic, sparkling cocktails available in three flavors: Moscow Mule, Gin and Tonic and Mint Mojito. The brand created these drinks to help nondrinkers feel more included in social gatherings that typically involve alcohol, which is something I definitely support.
Ingredients (makes 1 drink):
- ½ bottle (6 fluid ounces) of Saint Ivy’s Non-Alcoholic Moscow Mule Sparkling Beverage
- 3 fluid ounces tonic water (I used Fever-Tree’s tonic water)
- 2 fluid ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- 1 fluid ounce lemon juice
- Lemon slice to garnish
- Grab your glass of choice. I used a copper mug, which is the traditional drinkware used for a Moscow mule. The copper material keeps the drink cold and enhances the flavor of the drink, according to Moscow Copper Co., the company that helped bring the classic Moscow mule cocktail and copper mugs to the U.S. in the 1940’s.
- Pre-chill your mug in the freezer for a few minutes or place one large ice cube in the mug.
- Pour Saint Ivy’s Non-Alcoholic Moscow Mule Sparkling Beverage, tonic water, grapefruit juice and lemon juice into the mug.
- Garnish with a lemon slice and enjoy!
Chamomile and Blueberry Mojito with Lavender Syrup
I created this second mocktail recipe with relaxation and stress relief in mind. While a mojito typically consists of rum, lime juice, simple syrup and mint, this nonalcoholic mojito has floral undertones from the muddled blueberries and sweet lavender simple syrup. It’s the more fun version of the warm mug of chamomile and lavender tea I often drink at night. Plus, the lavender simple syrup used in this recipe is pretty versatile: Try mixing some into your coffee to make a lavender latte or incorporate it into baked goods.
Ingredients (makes 1 drink):
Lavender Simple Syrup (makes ½ cup):
- ½ cup granulated cane sugar
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender (I used lavender from Penzeys Spices)
- 1 chamomile tea bag
- 6 ounces water
- ¼ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
- A few fresh mint leaves
- Juice of half a lime
- First, make the lavender simple syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot using medium heat.
- Gently stir the sugar and water mixture for about 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved.
- Turn down the heat and add in the blueberries. Stir for a few minutes before turning off the heat and adding in the dried lavender. Let the lavender and blueberries steep for 30 minutes before pouring the syrup into a strainer to separate out the lavender and blueberries (you won’t need them for the rest of the recipe).
- Next, boil water and steep a chamomile tea bag for 4 minutes. Place the cup of tea in the fridge until the lavender syrup has fully steeped.
- To make the drink, grab your glass of choice. Muddle the blueberries and mint at the bottom of the glass with a fork or spoon. Add a generous amount of ice on top of the muddled berries to keep them from floating to the surface. Next, pour in the iced chamomile tea, as much lavender syrup as you see fit and add a squeeze of lime.
- Top the drink with a sprig of mint before serving!
Experimenting with mocktail recipes is great and all, but what about the times when you’re out with friends and don’t want to drink? The zero-proof drink market is already saturated with a diverse selection of spirits, mixers and brews. However, I think there’s still room for grocery stores, popular beverage companies, bars and restaurants to improve and expand their alcohol-free options. Since the wellness beverage craze exploded during the pandemic, more brands are jumping on the bandwagon but often using the demand for more health-conscious drinks as an excuse to rebrand their existing products as exciting nonalcoholic beverages. By distinguishing certain beverages as alluring alternatives for nondrinkers, brands can charge more for these specialty items.
A prime example of this deceptive marketing is Santa Cruz Organic’s Radiant Rosé: a bottle of sparkling grape juice. The drink looks just like any other bottle of rosé but doesn’t have the same slight bitterness and distinct flavor of a sparkling wine. Santa Cruz Organic wins customers over with eye-catching packaging for their line of wine alternatives, yet the ingredient lists are nearly identical to their basic white grape juice product that costs less. Radiant Rosé is an adequate substitute for wine or champagne if you need something to toast with, but don’t expect it to dazzle your tastebuds and compete with your favorite sparkling wine.
Observing brands’ and supermarkets’ commitment to offering zero-proof products shows that abstaining from alcohol has become slightly more accepted, even though it might seem like we have a long way to go before all establishments begin serving the niche nonalcoholic drinks found at specific stores. I acknowledge that this acceptance of sobriety might not be apparent at a school like UC Santa Barbara where drinking is the preferred activity among students, but it seems that judgment toward nondrinkers has slightly decreased over the years. While the nonalcoholic beverage market improves and releases more affordable and creative products, my Moscow mule and mojito recipes can serve you in the meantime. Cheers!
A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the October 6, 2022 version of the Daily Nexus.