Some of you might have participated in Sober November or perhaps a Go Sober October, both dedicated to spending a month booze-free, hangover-free and with more money in your pocket. Others of you might vow to drink less in the new year or make a resolution to not drink ever again. There are friends and family in my world who can’t and shouldn’t drink alcohol and some who have given it up for good.
During the holidays, wine, beer and cocktails are all around us. We socialize with booze, clink our glasses of eggnog and mulled wine with a hearty “Cheers!” and “Happy Holidays!” New Year’s Eve is coming up, another occasion for imbibing with the bubbly. In the U.S., many holidays have become occasions to drink. St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, July 4 – they all involve partying with cocktails, it seems.
But what about the abstainers and the Designated Drivers? What drink will you hold when raising a glass in celebration? The whole “craft” cocktail scene has really taken off with bartenders making their own bitters and elixirs, shrubs and tinctures and craft distilleries abound. It’s an exciting time for the cocktail world and hanging out in bars is more interesting than ever. As a result, on the “mocktail” front, we’re way beyond the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers days, far evolved from the era when those who don’t drink or don’t want to drink alcohol have to settle for just plain juice, a sweet soda or plain old club soda with lime. Talented bartenders now create interesting drinks for those who don’t want alcohol and distillers are making alcohol-free spirits as well. Some cocktail menus have whole sections listing no-alcohol drinks.
In my liquor cabinet, next to the Aquavit and Plantation pineapple rum, I have two bottles of Seedlip distilled non-alcoholic spirits, one called the Garden 108, “a floral blend of hand-picked peas and homegrown hay” with herbs. It’s wonderful with tonic or some seltzer and a squeeze of lime. The other is Grove 42, a citrus and spice spirit made with three kinds of oranges. They also have Spice 94 made with Jamaican allspice and cardamom with barks and citrus which I have yet to try. The flavors are nuanced and complex, interesting enough to use in all sorts of drinks and you’ll be able to wax poetic about those drinks right along with the craft cocktail connoisseurs with their fancypants modernist libations. I’m one of them, I admit. Find out more at www.seedlipdrinks.com. Curious Elixers is another company that makes a bottled, no-booze cocktail. www.curiouselixirs.com
If you’re looking for some recipe books, I have "Dry: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails and Clever Concoctions" by Clare Liardet in my collection and every drink I’ve made from it has been excellent. The Seedlip founder, Ben Branson has "The Seedlip Cocktail Book" as well and "Zero Proof Cocktails: Alcohol-free Beverages for Every Occasion" by Liz Scott is another good resource. Here are a few recipes, two using the Seedlip spirits for when you get some of that and two from "Dry: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails and Clever Concoctions," then a bonus Paloma from Toro in Boston.
Happy New Year, everyone!
This bubbly refresher is great for when everyone else is sipping Champagne
1.5 ounces Seedlip Grove 42
2 ounces verjus
.5 ounces honey
Place all in a flute glass and top with chilled seltzer
2 ounces Seedlip Spice
2 ounces cold brew concentrate
.5 ounces simple syrup
3 coffee or espresso beans
Shake and strain into a coupe glass
From "Dry: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails and Clever Concoctions" by Clare Liardet
After Eight Martini
This takes a bit of work to make the chocolate ganache but it’s well worth the effort.
1 T. chocolate ganache (see recipe below)
3.5 T. heavy cream
2 T. simple syrup with mint (see recipe below)
Mint leaf garnish
For the chocolate ganache (you’ll have a lot leftover for later)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dark chocolate, grated
Place the cream in a pan and heat slowly, just to boiling. Add the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Store in a sterilized container in the fridge.
For the mint syrup:
7 ounces sugar
.75 ounces water
2 sprigs of mint
Put the sugar and water into a pan and place on low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer, add the mint and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain into a bottle.
To make the drink:
Put a tablespoon of ganache into a pan with the cream and mint syrup and heat gently until the ingredients are blended. Cool, then pour into a shaker with ice cubes and shake. Pour all into a chilled martini glass and garnish with mint.
6 ounces pomegranate juice
2 t. cherry concentrate
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Pour the pomegranate juice and cherry concentrate into a glass of ice and stir well. Shake in the bitters and add more to taste if needed. Twist the orange peel over the top and place into the drink.
I also like this alcohol-free Paloma from Toro in Boston and NYC.
1.5 ounces lime juice
1 ounce grapefruit juice
1 ounce agave syrup
Large pinch of sea salt
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over ice into a Collins glass and top with soda.
The Go Portsmouth NH website has a list of New Year’s Eve gatherings including Earth Eagle Brewings Green Hour when they’ll bring out the Absinthe fountains and provide an array of tasty Absinthe. The Portsmouth Gaslight has a Great Gatsby party going on, too. Check out their website for additions. Visit www.goportsmouthnh.com/what-to-do/holiday-happenings/new-years-events/
Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner, reviewer and Seacoast resident who now lives in Austin, Texas and Belize. She can be reached at email@example.com.