Since bars, restaurants, and other watering holes are experiencing on-again, off-again status thanks to COVID-19, some extroverts have learned to hang out via Zoom for their virtual Happy Hour escape.
It used to be when non-drinkers wanted to socialize with the cocktail crowd and not appear out of place or empty-handed, the drink of choice usually wound up being a Shirley Temple, ginger ale, or club soda. Today, there’s a mile-long flavorful selection of alcohol alternatives to pick from and keep your happy hour sober whether at home or at an outdoor establishment.
With recipes galore to make on your own or pretty bottled options to buy, today’s “mocktails” are enticing enough to register a combination of curiosity and desire. Blending complex ingredients such as dark chocolate or cruciferous vegetables with various fruits, these drinks create surprisingly palate-pleasing flavors without the resulting morning headache and sluggishness.
John Wiseman founded Curious Elixirs, a line of alcohol-free mixed drinks, in 2017. After coming to the conclusion that he was drinking way too much, Wiseman wanted and decided to invent concoctions robust enough to drink slowly, reducing the temptation to gulp them down like a thirst-quenching soda.
Aside from Curious Elixirs, brands like For Bitter For Worse, Ghia, and Gnista are aiming for the acquired taste of “bitterness.” Most labels of these 100-proof substitutes list the bitterest of plants – gentian, among their ingredients. Gnista, however, uses wormwood. Jennifer McLagan, author of Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, With Recipes, explains that without bitterness, your food and drink lacks dimension. She probably has a point. No grown-up wants to feel like he or she is tasting Kool-Aid while sipping from a Collins glass.
Shelly Elkovich, a founder of For Bitter For Worse, along with her husband Jeff Heglie, specializes in three bottled non-alcoholic cocktails: “Eva’s Spritz” is a tart sparkling mix which contains both rhubarb root and juice; the “Saskatoon” is a red wine alternative made with the Saskatoon berry, Douglas fir tips, and black pepper; and the “Smokey No. 56” began as a dare to conjure up associations of whiskey. After 55 attempts, Elkovich finally succeeded. Hence, the number “56.”
As long you’re in possession of items such as ginger ale, various types of fruits and juices, etc., and you’re an aspiring mixologist, you can make your own refreshing “quarantinis.” Imagine what will become your next favorite cocktail, minus the alcohol: a Margarita Mocktail or a festive Raspberry Fizz? Perhaps a Tomato-Lime Sipper in lieu of the notorious Bloody Mary? To tempt you, here’s a simple recipe for a Cloudy Tokyo:
- 5 ounces green tea, chilled
- ½ ounce coconut milk
- 5 ounces coconut soda, chilled
- Stir chilled tea and milk in a tall Highball glass.
- Top with chilled soda.
Who says you need to drink alcohol in order to have fun and keep your “spirits” lifted?