Temperance from the Tipple - Delicious Nonalcoholic Drinks to Share

The holiday season is full of lovely libations - eggnog, mulled wine, spiced cider, champagne, the list goes on.  Abstention during weeks of parties can not only be hard, but terribly boring. While everyone else is knocking back champers out of pretty flutes, you are left lingering in the corner sipping your lukewarm diet Coke out of the can, or worse - expected to bring your own drinks.

Booze is such a part of these celebrations that it's hard to enjoy a party without being subjected to some syrupy sweet disgusting drink.  Don't be a jerk by singling out your sober guests and relegating them to kiddie Kool-Aid.  At the very least, offer them sparkling water with a choice of sophisticated add-ins such as lime twists, basil leaves, and berry garnishes.  Generally, mocktails skew too sweet, so surprise your guests with a delicious, cosmopolitan (and not that Cosmopolitan, but see my Globopolitan below) drink that would rival a James Bond martini any day.  Offering up something with a nice balance of acidity and bitterness will tick the boxes of grown-up drinks.  Get creative and offer up a few choices - often a nonalcoholic base to which you can add liquor or soda is a great way to stretch your drink dollars.  

Having delicious nonalcoholic choices will also discourage guests from overindulging - drinkers will be more likely to switch to something soft midstream if there's some tasty options.  Here's some ideas and recipes to ensure the next time you need a designated driver, they won't hesitate to be your plus one to take your drunken butt home.

Stock up

The Globopolitan

The Globopolitan

Keep quality ingredients on hand - many ingredients in your pantry can come in handy for making nonalcoholic cocktails.  This includes:  vinegars (balsamic, champagne), vegetables (tomato/vegetable juice, olives in brine, etc.), fresh and dried herbs and spices (cinnamon, ginger, star anise, rosemary, basil), juices and nectars (pomegranate, guava, canned pineapple, etc.), and specialty syrups - I especially like ones from Jo Snow.  A variety of tea bags: white, green, black and herbal are great to have on hand - tea can add a note of tannin or earthiness to punches that wine or liquor would normally provide.   Other things I always have on hand are flower waters and extracts - a capful of rosewater or orange blossom water in a glass of sparkling water is the perfect seltzer for me.  Don't shy away from bitters either - most bitters and extracts contain a lot of alcohol but the small amount used will be diluted in a large volume of nonalcoholic liquid. There are also nonalcoholic versions, so keep those in mind for people who can have no alcohol at all.

Provide pretty glassware and delicious and colorful garnishes for your mocktails -  we eat with our eyes as much as we do with our mouths.

Near Beer and Alcohol Free Wine

Near beer has less alcohol than a capful of Nyquil and is a wonderful alternative to the hard stuff.  With so many good choices these days, it never hurts to buy a six pack for your next party. The old standbys from the big brewhouses here are O'Douls, Sharps, and Busch NA.  You can show your guests you care by researching a few other brands: St. Pauli Girl NA is a solid choice that you can get just about anywhere.  Don't be afraid to branch out though: Kirin, BrewDog, and many other breweries make nonalcoholic beers.

Alcohol-free wine is an entirely different situation. Generally speaking, I'd caution against these.  There are very few choices when it comes to alcohol free wine, with Sutter Home's Fre dominating the market and the lesser known, but better tasting Ariel coming in second. Dealcoholized wine is generally thin, watery, and metallic, but don't completely dismiss it.  Instead of focusing on the wine as the drink, use it as an ingredient in punches.


Punch is a great way to stretch ingredients in alcoholic drinks and if you are providing an alcoholic version, provide a boozeless one as well. Some great ideas:

  • Raspberry ginger sparkler - Opt for good quality ginger beer and freeze raspberries and pineapple juice in a mold.  Add gold leaf or gold sanding sugar for pizzazz.
    • Spiced apple brandywine - This one is courtesy of Liz Scott's Zero-Proof Cocktails and works great in a slow cooker as a winter warmer; just mix, heat, and serve:
      • 1 quart apple cider
      • 1 cup no sugar added 100% red grape juice
      • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
      • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
    • Globopolitan - Instead of vodka and triple sec, the Globopolitan relies on cranberry white tea and orange marmalade to mimic alcoholic flavors.  Watch the video below on how to make a single serving.
      • 2 quarts Cranberry juice
      • 1 can orange juice concentrate
      • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade (optional)
      • Orange and lime zest to taste
      • 3/4 cup lime juice
      • 2 cups cranberry or mixed berry herbal tea, brewed and chilled
      • 2 cans of lime seltzer,
      • 1 can of tonic water
      • Ice, cranberries and lime wheels to serve
  • Single Serve Cocktails

Sometimes punch is just a little too much.  I'm a fan of LaCroix sparkling waters in their endless flavor combinations.  The LaCroix website has some great drink recipes without the hooch.  Here's a few of my favorites, some with sparkling water, some not.

  • La Bienvenue - This sweet-tart herbal concoction is reminiscent of St. Germain and champagne, without the hangover.  Mix together and serve.
    • One can LaCroix peach-pear
    • Two tablespoons IKEA Dryck Flader elderflower drink concentrate
    • One sprig fresh rosemary
  • Rose's Rosé - If you love the taste of rose, this floral drink will be a regular in your repertoire.  Mix and serve
    • 1 tablespoon Rose syrup - Monin, Torani or L'Epicerie de Provence have delicious ones
    • 1 capful rosewater
    • 8-12 oz Sparkling water
    • Lemon curl garnish

Bottled Drinks

Bottled drinks are always an easy way to have a delicious drink for those abstaining and also serve as mixers for other drinks.  Offer sweet and non-sweet options for your guests.

Champagne Toast

When you are cracking open the bubbly for your midnight toast, don't forget the designated drivers and purchase a few bottles of sparkling ciders or Fre non-alcoholic champagne.  Grape ciders tend to be on the sweet side, but pear ciders give a little more complexity, and a great place to grab some decent, inexpensive ciders is IKEA.  One of the other things I often pick up is the Dryck Fladersaft - elderflower syrup.  The sweet+tart combination gives most drinks, alcoholic or not, a nice zing.

For more temperance inspiration, I highly suggest picking up Liz Scott's book Zero Proof Cocktails - it gives a plethora of nonalcoholic drinks; some new, some not and will have you and your guests reaching for the soft stuff a bit more often.  


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