Dry January may be played out — and not just because many of us have already given up trying to abstain from drinking alcohol in the New Year. In fact, according to one poll, fewer people reported plans to adhere to Dry January in 2020 than in 2019, because more people this year are just not drinking at all. It’s an ongoing trend: N/A (that’s nonalcoholic, of course) beers spiked in popularity in the last year as more millennials are choosing “sober-curious” lifestyles.
And the Whole Foods list of 2020 food trends features “zero-proof drinks” including alcohol-inspired nonalcoholic beverages, as well as products meant to be used in place of booze with a mixer, such as those from Seedlip, Curious Elixirs, and Kin Euphorics. These spirits, and nonalcoholic cocktails integrating them that are no less strikingly crafted than their original counterparts, are popping up in sophisticated bars and restaurants across the world — and on kitchen counters and home bar carts too.
Want to reduce your alcohol intake for whatever reason, but still partake in festive cocktail culture? We’ve got you. Pretty-drink influencers shared with CNN Underscored their best mocktail recipes (warning: some in the N/A world don’t like the term “mocktails” and prefer “nonalcoholic cocktails”), and the basic tools you’ll need to make them. Ready, set, stir, sip. Repeat (without the slurring).
Colorado-based cocktail blogger Emily Arden Wells, aka @gastronomista, has been experimenting with nonalcoholic cocktails this January, both more traditional and less expected options employing some of the newer nonalcoholic spirits, like Seedlip, and other appealing ingredients. “You can find N/A syrups such as Orgeat and Velvet Falernum that give your mocktails extra body, flavor, and a more cocktail-like mouth-feel,” Arden Wells says. “One of my favorite finds is Crodino, an Italian nonalcoholic aperitivo that comes in little glass bottles and tastes like a bitter orange creamsicle. They are great on ice, or mixed into a N/A cocktail.”
Build — that means add one ingredient at a time, in order they’re listed on the recipe — in a low-ball glass over a king cube (that’s a big beautiful ice cube). Garnish with a piece of vanilla bean and an orange slice.
Arden Wells has found some good substitutes for alcoholic-drink mainstays. “Keep an eye out for products that mimic the flavors you like in cocktails in syrups, jams, and juices,” she advises. “I recently discovered sparkling pear juice, which is a great N/A substitute for sparkling wine, and elderflower syrup, a great substitute for St. Germain liqueur.”
Shake lemon juice, falernum syrup and Seedlip spirit in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe and top with sparkling pear juice. Garnish with a slice of fresh pear.
Arden Wells also loves the Seedlip version of a G&T, which, to be fair, requires access to fresh spring peas, but is strikingly beautiful and instantly transports you to an outdoor green space in the UK:
Build in a highball glass with ice. Garnish with fresh peas (also works with a lime wedge, if spring peas are just not happening for you).
And when Wells wants to enjoy a low-alcohol refreshment during Aperol spritz season, she turns to her own low or N/A version.
- 1 ounce W&P Italian Spritz Syrup ($19.95; amazon.com)
- 3 to 4 ounces soda water (instacart.com)
- ½ ounce Peychaud’s bitters ($14.92; amazon.com) Note: Some bitters are 35% to 45% alcohol by volume, so with drinks that call for a few dashes, there would be a scant amount of alcohol — meaning technically, this drink isn’t alcohol-free.
- Grapefruit express, or a grapefruit peel
Build over a king cube, syrup first, then soda water, and float the bitters on the surface of the drink. Express with a grapefruit twist — that means cutting off a slice of peel, twisting it gently with your fingers over the glass, then rubbing the inside of the peel around the glass rim — and either drop in the drink or discard.
Don’t forget about classic cocktails either, Arden Wells reminds us. “A virgin Bloody Mary or a virgin Piña Colada tastes delicious without the booze, and won’t give you a hangover!” Come warmer weather (or just a fantasy calling up of warmer weather, which Coloradans often need around this time of year), Wells loves to bring the tiki spirit home with a colada that can be made beautifully without rum or tequila, and subbing in ginger simple syrup for the ginger liqueur in her original recipe.
Shake (or blend), strain into a tiki mug, garnish with pineapple leaves, a slice of pineapple, and fresh orchids. (Don’t feel bad if you’re not a professional cocktail blogger and just don’t have fresh orchids on hand — the drink still works without it.) Enjoy!
New Hampshire-based cocktail designer and wild edibles forager Amy Traynor, aka @moodymixologist, notes that many popular cocktails can be crafted as N/A simply by omitting the hooch. She reworked a few of her favorite recipes as nonalcoholic for CNN Underscored.
Shake the first three ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with blood orange slices and a sprig of rosemary, if desired.