Mix Up a Hangover-Free Happy Hour With These No-Booze Cocktails
Want to sip on something special tonight, but don't want the hangover for your long ride tomorrow? Pour one of these alcohol-free cocktails from Chef Biju Thomas.
There’s something special about a craft cocktail – the care paid to selecting the perfect ingredients, the pageantry of rattling a martini shaker, the elegance of a fancy glass and even fancier finishes. But there’s also something not-so-special about doing your workout the next day with a hangover. That’s why many athletes opt out of alcohol, whether for the weeks leading up to a race, during periods of heavy training, or even longer stretches.
But that doesn’t mean you’re relegated to a lifetime of ordering water or non-alcoholic craft beers at the bar. Mixing up a non-alcoholic cocktail lets you toast your accomplishments with all the glitz and glamour – and none of the hangover.
Essential ingredients for high-end mocktails
Let’s begin our non-alcoholic adventure with a few basic simple syrups that I love keeping around. Simple syrup is one of the happiest things to keep in your arsenal of kitchen tricks. This a versatile ingredient for every occasion, for every group, and for every mood. At its heart, simple syrup is equal parts hot water and sugar (2 cups of each is a good amount for a home bar), simmered at a very low temperature until the sugar dissolves. You can choose the type of sugar based on the color of the finished drink you have in mind: darker and amber-hued syrups come from brown, demerara, or raw sugars, while clear and light syrups come from white sugars. (If you want to use sugar substitutes, experiment with a tiny bit of your favorite sweetener added to your drink.) You can customize your simple syrup flavors by steeping whole spices, teas, coffees, dried flowers or whatever ingredient you think will give a drink your signature touch.
Here’s an example of a simple syrup recipe – in this case, a mix for all things, dark, mysterious, leather-bound and classic, from 0ld-fashioneds to Manhattans or any drink where you would add a splash of bourbon or rum.
Dark Simple Syrup Recipe
- 2 cups cane sugar
- 2 cups warm water
Gently blend sugar and water, and let simmer at a very low heat til all the sugar has melted (about 10 minutes).
For an even darker flavor, substitute the water with coffee or tea. (Keep in mind that caffeine in simple syrup will keep you up just like caffeine in any drink, so if you’re sensitive to late night stimulants, use decaf.)
Most of us either have a few forgotten bottles of bitters stashed away, or have seen them lining counters at the neighborhood bar. This is a quick way to add that spirited touch to any drink, while leaving out 99.95% of alcohol. Yes, you read that right: bitters have some alcohol. The alcohol content is similar to vanilla or almond extract, and you would never use more than one or two drops of bitters per drink, making the total alcohol content significantly less than what you would get in a bottle of kombucha. If the goal is 100% avoidance of all things alcohol, then skip it (or find an alcohol-free version), but otherwise a dash will go a long way.
The best mocktail recipes have a bit of a “wow” factor. Easy touches to add body and flair to a non-alcoholic cocktail come from adding ingredients like Luxardo Cherry Syrup, balsamic reductions, a small scoop of your favorite jam, or even a drizzle of maple syrup. Choose whichever fits the mood and final drink you have in mind.
Now that you have your ingredients, let’s get to building some drinks!
Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Recipes
Black Tea “Old Fashioned”
Into a shaker with ice cubes (or use your blender bottle):
- 2 oz simple syrup
- 1 oz brewed / chilled black tea
- 1 drop of orange bitters or tsp of cherry syrup
Shake together then pour into glass, or strain for a “neat” drink.
Garnish with fresh mint leaves or orange peel.
Always a favorite regardless of occasion or weather outside, this fun and colorful fizzy juice drink is something the kids and the adults can love equally. This is also a great drink to make in large batches ahead of time, and have ready when your guests show up. The recipe below makes approximately 14 servings.
In a large pitcher combine together:
- 2 lemons sliced in rounds
- 1 medium sized orange, sliced*
- 1 lemon, sliced*
- 1 cup fresh cranberries*
- 2 cups red grape juice**
- 2 cups cranberry juice**
- 12 oz bottle of grapefruit soda
- 12 oz club soda
Fill glasses with mint leaves and ice cubes, pour in sangria to the top and enjoy. If too sweet just add a splash more club soda.
*Use whatever fresh fruit is seasonal.
**If you want to make a white sangria, just change out for clear juices instead of red.