July 21, 2022 by Sonja Edridge
Well, what is a mocktail? A mocktail is a playful drink (well it should be!) that’s non-alcoholic; a cocktail minus the alcohol. And making one that’s fun and tasty is super easy, with our help! Ordering a mocktail shouldn’t make you feel like a party pooper or, even worse, an afterthought, like when your vegan bestie gets served a plate of veggie side dishes as a main. Whatever your reason for preferring a mocktail, from mums-to-be to designated drivers, your drink should have all the special sparkle and magic of the main event. We have the best advice to flip your go-to boozy sip into one of the top mocktail recipes. Building a cocktail sans alcohol is easy once you know the basics so come and learn how to master a mocktail like a pro.
Top tips to turn any cocktail into a mocktail
When you’re building a cocktail, it’s all about the balance. Your taste buds register five flavour profiles — sweet, salty, sour, bitter and the umami. An alcoholic spirit can offer a few of these profiles built in and give your drink a depth of flavour. So, how does one navigate making a flavourful mocktail, if you minus the alcohol?
The trick is making sure you include a few key ingredients or elements that can transform your drink. It should have a good measure of sweet and sour, as well as texture. Bitter is also a great taste for a cocktail; just remember, bitter is not the same as sour. A lemon is sour, not bitter. Bitter is a sharper flavour, found in cocktail bitters of course, as well as coffee, olives and orange peel. Read on to find out more about balancing flavour profiles:
Sweet and sour: Start with balancing your sweet and sour for a perfect mocktail. For your sweet, keep a sugar syrup at hand. It also gives your drink the much-needed texture or thickness that the booze offers. It’s easy to make at home and blends well in a cocktail or mocktail in place of a sprinkle of sugar, which won’t dilute easily. If you want, you can add additional flavour profiles to your simple syrup, like orange zest or rosemary. For the sour part, add some freshly squeezed lemon, lime or grapefruit juice for that important je ne c’est quoi we all love in a cocktail to balance the sweetness. The sour elements you can try are cranberry juice or even just a dash of vinegar.
Bitters: If you a fan of an aperitif like a Negroni or an Old Fashioned then adding that bitter element is a must. Adding a dash bitters technically does mean you’re adding alcohol but it’s a fraction, about the same as adding vanilla extract into a cake. (Fun fact: Did you know vanilla extract contains alcohol?) Alternatively, if adding bitter is not an option, then brew some black tea for longer than usual, resulting in a tannic bitter liquid. Add a zest of orange and a dash of this mixture can sub in for your bitters.
Texture: By texture, we mean bubbles, soda water, seltzer or tonic water, which often includes a faint hint of saltiness too. Adding texture to a drink, mocktail or cocktail, makes it “thicker” on the palate and helps to slow down one’s sipping. Blending or muddling fruit can also add texture. Take a Mojito: when you muddle mint and sugar with lime zest, it gives the drink it’s classic texture. Fruity daiquiris like a Strawberry Daiquiri have all the texture blended into the cocktail.
What can I use instead of alcohol in a mocktail?
When you ditch the booze in a cocktail, you’ll need to make sure you add in that kick of flavour and texture that spirits give. Here are some of our favourite substitutes:
The fizz: Adding soda water or seltzer that’s unsweetened is an easy swap that gives the all-important texture and the savoury profile.
Tangy soda: A ginger beer or lemonade are ideal substitutes that give the fizz and the kick on the palate that mocktails need for balance. If these are too sweet for your taste, tone it down with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a top up of soda water or sparkling water.
Kombuchas and bitter ice teas: Look out for unsweetened teas and kombuchas, which add a serious amount of acidity, and some have a good fizz too. Kombucha is a fermented drink that will add a serious depth of flavour to your mocktail but, watch out as some can have marginal alcohol content, so check the labels before you buy, but a good splash of kombucha can add a delicious depth of flavour to any mocktail.
Non-alcoholic spirits: A trendy product that’s a great switch for a spirit is a non-alcoholic spirit, flavoured with botanicals like gin. You’d mix this classically instead of gin, but they work for vodka too.
Cocktails that won’t work as mocktail
Some cocktails can be pretty tricky to match like for like, where the booze is the star of the show, like an Old Fashioned that’s all whiskey with a dash of bitters. Here at The Mixer, we aim to please, so we’ve worked on sans booze mocktails so you don’t have to! Get going and learn how to make a virgin martini.
Must Try Mocktails
Picking a fave mocktail is quite a tough ask as we have so many easy mocktails in our pocket to share with you. Here’s our top picks for now:
Try any of these fruity gin cocktail sans the gin of course, with a dash of the non-alcoholic spirit we mentioned above.