Welcome to Your Home Outdoors, our summertime series on tips and tricks that'll help you live your best life outside―no matter the size of your space! So pull up a chair, grab a glass of something icy-cold, and join us.
In the world of mixology, it can seem like alcohol gets to have all the fun. Club soda with lime isn’t a bad drink, but it just isn’t as exciting as...well, pretty much anything else being served at the bar. While booze is great for some, it’s not for everyone and it’s not right for every situation. Sometimes we need low-alcohol, all-day “sessionable” cocktails and sometimes we need to just say no. (No to alcohol, that is, not to a good time.)
There’s an endless number of delicious drinks to be made without spirits, and summer is the ideal time to start exploring, whether you like your cup filled with something sparkling and refreshing, or herbaceous and bright, or chock full of fresh fruit.
These no-alcohol cocktails are generally known as mocktails, a term I’ve always found somewhat pejorative. Why do non-alcoholic drinks have to be framed in the negative, as without? There’s nothing “mock” about a well mixed drink without booze; it’s not pretending to have gin in it, it’s not claiming that it’ll taste like whiskey. A drink without alcohol can and should be able to stand on its own, in its own category. Which is why I’m pleased as punch (get it?) that Caroline Hwang’s Mocktails: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails with Taste and Style is coming out this fall, and doing its part to reframe these drinks—and reclaim their moniker. With more than 80 recipes for classic and inventive drinks, her book is a tribute to the wonderful world of drinks that don’t want anything to do with booze, and are all the more fantastic-tasting for it.
I talked with Caroline about the inspiration behind her forthcoming book, her ratio for the perfect mocktail, and how to boost iced teas, lemonades, and even club soda with lime.
Sarah Whitman-Salkin: Why did you decide to write a book about alcohol-free cocktails?
Caroline Hwang: I wanted to create options for people who weren't drinking, whether it was for health reasons, pregnancy, sobriety, or by choice, but following the same rules and philosophy of cocktail making. I love a good cocktail but I also love a good drink even without the alcohol.
SWS: Is there a basic ratio for making great mocktails?
CH: I try to follow the tried and true cocktail ratio of 2 parts mixer (like juice or soda water) to 1 part sweet to 1 part acid/bitter/citrus. A person can play with the sweet by getting creative with the simple syrups, using different sweeteners like maple syrup or honey, and infusing herbs into fruit purees.
SWS: Iced tea, lemonade, and fruit juice spritzers are classic no-alcohol drinks. What are your favorite ways to amp these up?
CH: Play with different fruit, herb, and/or spice infusions, either in the simple syrup or steeped into the tea. It’s the easiest way to create a variation on a simple drink like a lemonade or an iced tea and make it into a fancier drink.
SWS: Are there drinks beyond these three that you consider mocktail classics?
CH: I always return to the non-alcoholic versions of a piña colada or a mojito as classics. Just because there isn't alcohol in them doesn't mean they can't be great.
SWS: In writing this book, what are some flavor combinations and cocktails that you discovered that you particularly love?
CH: Different kinds of milks, like coconut milk and condensed milk, add a depth of flavor. Combining different milks with fruits like Blood Orange Creamsicle (blood orange juice, condensed milk, and orange blossom water) or infusing pine needles into milk and making a faux milk punch in Pining Away (conifer pine needles, cashew milk, nutmeg and maple syrup) are some of my favorite combinations and drinks.
SWS: When making non-alcoholic cocktails, what are the ingredients you rely on the most to add flavor?
CH: Citrus! Herbs! Spices!
SWS: When thinking about garnishes, what are the rules you keep in mind?
CH: Again, I try to follow the same rules as cocktails, using the citrus wheels, wedges, and oils from citrus peels to amplify the smell and the flavor of the drink. I also use different salts and sugars to rim the edges of the glass so that your taste buds get hit in different places.
SWS: What are the bar tools you rely on the most?
CH: A cocktail shaker to fully combine all the flavors of your drink and a jigger to measure out the small measurements.
Without further ado, it’s mocktail time!
What are your favorite summertime drinks without booze? Let us know in the comments!