Mocktails. Virgin cocktails. Whatever you want to call them, the terms used for nonalcoholic drinks can feel … impotent. Or at the very least, they’re embarrassing to shout out loud to a bartender. But some nonalcoholic drinks can actually stand up to the real thing.
If you’re participating in Dry January, it’s tough to quit your favorite cocktails cold turkey and it’s only natural you’d want to replace them with something that gives you a decent level of satisfaction. But the options aren’t always the best, since most virgin cocktails simply replace alcohol with fruit juices, resulting in a saccharine drink. There’s a growing push for more bars to offer nonalcoholic drinks that offer a little more creativity, but in the meantime you can get your own creative juices flowing.
Regardless of whether you’re taking part in Dry January, you have every right to skip the booze, no explanation necessary. And if you don’t feel like ordering another Coke or a virgin strawberry daiquiri, we’ve got some alternatives that you can order from just about any bartender. Cheers to that.
Iced Coffee + Mint Syrup
This sounds weird, but you’ve got to give it a try. Most bars serve coffee, and many will pour it over ice for you. Toss in a little mint syrup, and the intermingling bitter, sweet and fresh flavors will punch you in the mouth.
Tea Hot Toddy
Even though it’s not usually on the menu, bartenders often keep tea bags behind the counter. Ask for a hot toddy made with tea instead of booze, and you’ll get a mixture of tea, lemon, honey and spices like cinnamon and cloves.
Syrup + Soda
You can interpret “soda” as any type you like ― club soda, cola, ginger ale, or any other soda the bar offers ― but stick with club soda if you’re cutting back on sugar. You’ll notice most bars carry a variety of flavored sugar syrups ― vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut and peppermint are among the most common. Create a combination of any of the above soda and syrup pairings and you’re good to go.
Honey + club soda
Coffee syrup + club soda or cola
Ginger syrup + cola
Bitters + Soda
There’s a catch to this one: Bitters are alcoholic, but the amount of alcohol is minuscule. So if you’re cutting out alcohol entirely, skip the bitters. If you’re OK with a negligible amount of alcohol making its way into your drink, we can promise you won’t feel any effects.
Just about every bar has Angostura bitters (they’re the foundation of a good Old-Fashioned), and some bars will carry other flavors, including rhubarb, celery and even chocolate bitters. Add just a few drops to a club soda, and you have a fantastically herbaceous flavor.
Tonic + Citrus
The presence of quinine in tonic makes it taste a little bitter, which is why tonic is sweetened. So if you add a little acidity in the form of lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juice, you’ve got a perfect balance of bitter, sweet and sour flavors.
Soda + Herbs
Most bars have tons of fresh mint, and if you’re lucky they’ll also have rosemary and thyme. Ask the bartender to muddle your favorite herbs with some citrus and toss it into an ice-cold glass of soda water. It’s heaven.
Rosemary + ginger ale
Thyme + lemon-lime soda
Ginger Beer + Mint Syrup
Just make sure you’re asking for the nonalcoholic kind of ginger beer, because an alcoholic version does exist. Ginger beer packs a more powerful fresh ginger punch than your typical ginger ale.