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While the pandemic might limit our access to bars and big, boozy gatherings, many Americans are still drinking like we’re on the town. In a recent Consumer Reports nationally representative survey of more than 2,500 adults in the U.S., 23 percent said they drank more after COVID-19 hit than before.
Overall alcohol sales—boosted heavily by online delivery—were 21 percent higher in September 2020 compared with 2019, market research firm Neilsen says.
Still, if your New Year’s resolution includes staying away from alcohol, you’ve apparently got company. Using Google Trends, we found that searches for the term “nonalcoholic drink,” which peaks in late December and early January, are about 19 percent higher at the turn of this year versus the same period the year before.
“When I started doing Dry January in 2017, my friends rolled their eyes at me,” says Hilary Sheinbaum, New York-based author of "The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month." Over time, she's found that people have become more understanding. "And it's not just accepting of Dry January, but of stopping drinking for other and longer periods of time," she says.
Of course, you may simply prefer nonalcoholic drinks over booze. Either way, you can take advantage of a growing market in low- or zero-proof spirits. “It’s a product space that’s begun to explode in the last year,” says Douglas Watters, who in November opened Spirited Away, New York City’s first store dedicated to selling zero-proof spirits, bitters, wines and beers. "During the pandemic, this trend may have even more traction. When you’re working at home, you just close the laptop and shift into making drinks. In my case, an alcoholic cocktail every single evening isn’t what I want, or what’s best for me.”
Below, five cocktail pros share their favorite mocktail recipes to try at home. (Keep in mind that while these don't have alcohol, they do have a fair amount of sugar, so you should still treat these as indulgences) You can make these cocktails with basic kitchen tools and appliances such as a blender, soda maker, and juicer. Cheers!
Drink: Bright One
From Julia Momose
“This drink calls for ice, but you actually don’t need it if you pre-chill the ingredients and you’re adding sparkling or soda water," says Julia Momose, owner of Kumiko, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in Chicago. "The carbonation from the soda water lifts the flavors and adds texture."
1 oz. fresh-squeezed or bottled yuzu juice (yuzu is a Japanese citrus; bottled yuzu juice is sold year round at specialty grocers and online; fresh yuzu juice is only available during winter at specialty grocers and online)
1 Tbsp. honey
1 oz. Seedlip Spice 94, a nonalcoholic spirit
4 oz. sparkling water
Mix the juice, honey, and Seedlip together. Pour over ice, stir to chill and fully combine, and top off with sparkling water.
For a garnish, make a bouquet of herbs. Take a fresh bay leaf, plus some other herbs like sprigs of rosemary or thyme or mint. Make an incision in the bay leaf and slide the other herbs through the incision; the bay leaf is effectively the wrapper holding the bouquet. Rest it on the lip of the glass.
Julia Momose, Owner, Kumiko, a Japanese-influenced cocktail bar in Chicago
Photo: Sammy Faze
“My parents don’t drink alcohol. When I became a bartender, I wanted to create a more-inclusive dining and drinking experience, and include nonalcoholic drinks. There’s less of a stigma now. People were being judged for not drinking alcohol at bars, but now at last, it is seen as a choice.”
Drink: Billows & Thieves
From Julia Bainbridge
“Before I tried this drink by Mike DiTota, former bar director of The Bonnie in Queens, N.Y., I was skeptical," says Julia Bainbridge, a New York City-based journalist and author of "Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You're Not Drinking for Whatever Reason." "Iced coffee and grapefruit juice? Yes! The bitter-on-bitter combination of coffee with grapefruit juice just works."
3 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1⁄2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 oz. cold-brew concentrate, such as Grady’s
1⁄2 oz. black cardamom–cinnamon syrup (recipe below)
Small pinch of smoked sea salt
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
Make a black cardamom–cinnamon syrup: Use 2 cinnamon sticks, cracked; 3 black cardamom pods, cracked; 1⁄2 cup water; and 1 cup maple syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, toast the cinnamon sticks, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cardamom, water, and maple syrup and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Pour through cheesecloth or a fine strainer and discard the solids. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)
Combine the juices, cold-brew concentrate, syrup, and salt in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, seal the shaker, and shake vigorously for 20 seconds, until the shaker is ice cold. Double-strain and pour, ideally, into a coupe glass. Finish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
Julia Bainbridge, New York City-based journalist and author, "Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You're Not Drinking for Whatever Reason"
Photo: Theodore Samuels
“Serendipitously, I removed alcohol from my life around when alcohol-free beverage options started to get more interesting. It’s been a pleasure tracking and celebrating this innovation.”
Drink: Spicy Persimmon Fizz
From Chris Marshall
“In the nonalcoholic space, you certainly can replicate alcoholic drinks," says Chris Marshall, founder and owner of Sans Bar, an alcohol-free watering hole in Austin, Texas. "But as with this recipe, you also can try new things, play with new flavors like chai, Earl Grey, and lapsang souchong tea."
1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled and cut into pieces
1 oz chai simple syrup (recipe below)
1⁄2 oz. water
1⁄2 oz. lemon juice
DRY Blood Orange Botanical Bubbly (available online)
Make the chai simple syrup: Combine 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring periodically until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil, remove from heat. Remove the tea from 2 chai spice tea bags, add it to the sugar mixture. Let it steep and cool to room temperature, then strain into a glass jar. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)
Place persimmon pieces, chai simple syrup, water, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until light and foamy. Pour into a wine glass and top with DRY Blood Orange Botanical Bubbly. Garnish with a persimmon slice.
Chris Marshall, Founder and owner, Sans Bar, an alcohol-free watering hole in Austin, Texas
Photo: Alicia Leigh Photography
“When I stopped drinking, there weren’t many places in the alcohol-free space for me to go to socialize. Then I became a sobriety counselor and I found my clients were having the same problem. So in 2017 I started Sans Bar. What I love about it is, if you were to walk in—pre-COVID, that is—you would not know that you were in an alcohol-free space.”
Drink: Beet Therapy
From Lauren Paylor
“Beet juice already has natural sweetness," says Lauren Paylor, a bartender based in Silver Spring, Md. and owner and co-founder of Focus on Health, an organization that promotes health and wellness among food and beverage industry workers. "With the addition of a bit of spice and some acidity, this beverage can be enjoyed both at the beginning and end of your day. Play with the proportions to meet your preferences.”
4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 oz. beet juice
3⁄4 oz. ginger syrup (recipe below)
2 oz. club soda
One piece candied ginger (optional)
Make a ginger syrup: Juice 8 to 10 ounces of ginger (approximately two 6- to 7-inch pieces of ginger). Depending on which juicing method you use, this should yield 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 cups. Pour the juice in a saucepan in a 1-to-1 ratio with granulated cane sugar. Simmer till the sugar dissolves, then cool before using. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)
Pour the lemon juice, beet juice and ginger syrup into a glass. Top off with the club soda. Garnish with the candied ginger. (If you juice the beets yourself, you can dehydrate the leftover beet solids in the oven, then float them in the drink as a garnish as well.)
Lauren Paylor, Bartender based in Silver Spring, Md. Owner and co-founder of Focus on Health, an organization that promotes health and wellness among food and beverage industry workers
Photo: Farrah Skeiky
“I lost about 30 pounds when I started to take better care of myself. When we experience progress, we should share that with others. So, I helped start Focus on Health, which has a philosophy that rests on five pillars of health: physical, mental, financial, social and environmental. With our January initiative, ‘Mindfulness Matters,’ we’d like people to take the concept of Dry January—taking better care of themselves—and try to sustain it after those 31 days.”
Drink: Three Spirit Penicillin
From Douglas Watters
“The traditional version of this drink, made of two types of scotch, ginger syrup and lemon juice, is one of my favorite wintertime cocktails," says Douglas Watters, founder and owner of Spirited Away, a New York City store that sells only nonalcoholic “spirits.” "For the nonalcoholic version I squeeze a whole fresh lemon, which is entirely too much for penicillin purists, but YOLO, you only live once.”
2 oz. Three Spirit Nightcap (a nonalcoholic spirit, available online)
1 oz. honey-ginger syrup (recipe below)
1 oz. fresh lemon juice, or whole lemon, juiced
Lemon peel (optional garnish)
Candied ginger (optional garnish)
Make the honey-ginger syrup: Peel and thinly slice a 6-inch length of ginger and place it in a saucepan with 1 cup each of water and honey. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Let the mixture steep overnight in the refrigerator, then strain with a cheesecloth. (Refrigerate leftover syrup for later use.)
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake hard. Strain over ice-filled whiskey glass.
Douglas Watters, Founder and owner of Spirited Away, a New York City store selling only nonalcoholic “spirits.”
Photo: Douglas Watters
“I’ve always been a cocktail enthusiast. Particularly this year my tastes have trended toward low-alcohol content drinks, but I found they were only available online. I envisioned my store at the end of the summer, and was able to make it happen because rents in Manhattan were down due to the pandemic.”