January 17, 2018

What is a ‘mocktail’ and what are the best recipes?

From accomplished chefs to students at Colorado culinary schools, people with experience in the world of food know there’s more to a meal than the food on the plate. The atmosphere of the restaurant, the appetizers and desserts that come before and after, the drinks that accompany the dish and many other factors influence short-term enjoyment and long-term satisfaction.

Drinks are an especially important topic to consider. While the ability of beer, wine or a cocktail to compliment a meal is well known, the uses of non-alcoholic drinks are sometimes overlooked. Let’s dive into some details about “mocktails” and learn how they can play an important role in the restaurant experience.

A mocktail on a restaurant tabl.There are many mocktail options for a perfect meal pairing.

What is a mocktail?

A mocktail can best be described as a cocktail without the liquor, using juices, sodas, infused waters and many other non-alcoholic ingredients to provide flavor. Generally, a mocktail is made fresh at a restaurant’s bar, as opposed to a soda or other drink that is ready as soon as it’s poured from the fountain or container – although exceptions can easily arise. Modern mocktails tend to have a sense of sophistication that’s shared with their alcoholic counterparts and use a variety of ingredients to cover a spectrum of flavors.

Some of the most well-known and longest-lasting mocktails, all named for celebrities from the early and middle 20th century, are:

  • Shirley Temple: A ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, lemonade or other non-alcoholic base mixed with grenadine syrup and frequently garnished with a maraschino cherry. Named after the famous child actress.
  • Roy Rogers: A cola base, similarly mixed with grenadine syrup and garnished with a maraschino cherry. Named after the famous Western film actor and entertainer.
  • Arnold Palmer: A mix of iced tea and lemonade. The exact ratio and type of tea, whether sweet, unsweetened or something else entirely, is open to interpretation and local tastes. Unlike the other two drinks, which simply bear the name of a popular celebrity, champion golfer Arnold Palmer was known to make this drink at home and order it at country clubs after finishing a round.

Although simple in construction and strongly sweet, these three drinks can be seen as the forebears of of the modern mocktail. They were developed to provide a sophisticated cocktail experience to those who can’t or choose not to drink, offering them similar service and presentation without the alcohol.

Modern mocktails

Current mocktails go beyond the syrup and sugar of classic recipes to offer a wide range of flavors. These innovative recipes can be the perfect accompaniment for a dinner commonly served with an alcoholic beverage or simply enjoyed by themselves.

Chili-lime-pineapple soda

The chili-lime-pineapple soda recipe, shared with Bon Appetit and originally developed by the Seattle Seltzer Co., marries heat, sweet and citrus sour. It’s a relatively simple affair to make the infused juice and blend it with club soda – an important consideration for the many restaurants that don’t have a full soda fountain and all its accouterments on hand.

Mango mule

Some mocktails draw close inspiration from existing alcoholic versions. The mango mule swaps the vodka of the Moscow mule for honey syrup and mango puree, nectar or juice. It’s an excellent substitute for the established drink and stands well on its own, too. Food & Wine offered a reliable recipe.

Lemon-lavender mocktail

Although it lacks a catchy name, the lemon-lavender mocktail draws on lavender-infused simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and a touch of grenadine to create a nuanced flavor. The Merrythought has a quick recipe for both the drink and the syrup.

Virgin Mary

A Bloody Mary without the vodka, the Virgin Mary is full of sweet and savory flavors that offer a robust experience for everyone who drinks it. The Spruce suggested you simply use your existing Bloody Mary recipe and just leave out the booze.