Some of us are finding that we’re drinking more than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the next time you attend a Zoom happy hour, make a mocktail instead.
Fiona Beckett’s “How to Drink Without Drinking” has dozens of recipes for cocktails that don’t need alcohol but could confuse the teetotalers among us. The book uses sugar syrups, flavored waters and many items from the garden to make mocktails that hew close to the original drinks.
Here are five recipes from Fiona Beckett’s book “How to Drink Without Drinking.”
It might look incredibly sophisticated, but this cocktail is so simple it hardly deserves to be called a recipe. You can even make it without the alcohol-free spirit if you can find a good enough lychee juice (I like the Rubicon brand). But it really is so pale, pretty and delicious that you should definitely give it a go.
Scant 1 ounce Ceder’s Classic or other alcohol-free gin alternative
3½ ounce lychee juice, such as Rubicon
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
A few drops of hibiscus syrup for color (optional)
Edible flowers (optional) and 1 canned lychee, to garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all the ingredients except the garnish and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Cut the lychee almost in half and slide down on to the rim of the glass to garnish, then serve, sprinkled with edible flowers (if using).
Makes 1 drink.
St. Clement’s punch
For a long time this has been my go-to for a New Year’s Day brunch. Given the probable lateness of the night before, you might not feel like juicing all the fruit, particularly if you’re doubling up and making it for a crowd, so it’s fine to use a high-quality chilled ready-squeezed juice (not made from concentrate). I personally like to add a dash of Grand Marnier, which deepens the flavor without making it particularly alcoholic, but you can use an alcohol-free triple sec syrup like Monin, too.
18 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice
10 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
18 ounces homemade or real lemonade
2 tablespoons Monin Triple Sec Curacao syrup, Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur (optional, see above)
Slices of orange, lemon and pink grapefruit, to garnish
Pour the orange and pink grapefruit juices into a jug, top up with the lemonade and stir well. To give the punch an extra edge, add the alcohol-free triple sec syrup or, if you don’t mind a very small amount of alcohol, the Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur. Add a few slices of orange, lemon and pink grapefruit to the jug to garnish and serve.
Makes 6 drinks.
Although I love a G&T, I’m convinced that many of the things that make it so appealing — the tonic, the ice, the garnish, the glass — can be replicated in an alcohol-free drink. So much of a drink is about presentation. My local tapas bar, Bar 44, has recognized that and serves an alcohol-free G&T, which I quite often order when I’m in there. It comes in one of those huge goldfish-bowl-sized glasses with loads of orange and lemon slices and a few juniper berries floating around in it, which makes you feel like you’re having a proper drink. Here’s my slightly tweaked version. (The “N” obviously stands for “not.”)
4 to 5 ice cubes
2 slices each of orange and lemon
2 to 3 juniper berries
5 tablespoons Juniper Syrup (see below)
Tonic water, such as Fever-Tree Naturally Light, to top up
For the Juniper Syrup:
14 ounces granulated or caster sugar
17 ounces water
15 juniper berries, lightly crushed
Finely pared rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
Finely pared rind of 1 unwaxed lime
To make the juniper syrup, put the sugar in a saucepan and add the measured water. Heat over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the juniper berries and citrus rinds and bring up to just below boiling point, then simmer for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
Strain the syrup through a fine sieve into a wide-necked jug or bowl. Pour through a funnel into a sterilized bottle or jar, seal and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
To make the NG&T, add the ice to a large glass, followed by the slices of orange and lemon and juniper berries, then pour in the juniper syrup. Top up with tonic water and serve.
Makes 1 drink.
Tip: You can buy juniper-flavored spirit substitutes online instead of making juniper syrup, if you prefer.
I’m not convinced, as I’ve already mentioned, about alcohol-free wine — if you’re a wine drinker, it really doesn’t cut the mustard, but it does make a decent mulled wine, so much so that I found myself thinking when I first made this that I shouldn’t really have a glass before I went out to dinner, before I remembered it was alcohol-free. The key is to add elderberry juice to give the drink body, but it is quite bitter, so you do need to add sugar (I like brown sugar) to taste.
2 unwaxed oranges
1 bottle alcohol-free red wine, such as Rawson’s Retreat Cabernet Sauvignon
11 ounces elderberry juice (Biona is a good brand)
4½ ounces soft brown sugar
Orange oil or orange bitters (optional)
Stick the cloves into the rind of one orange. Pour the alcohol-free wine and elderberry juice into a small–medium saucepan (you want the liquid to cover the orange), add 4½ ounces sugar, the cinnamon stick and 2–3 drops of orange oil or a shake of orange bitters and bring slowly up to simmering point over a low heat without letting it boil. Take off the heat and leave for 30 minutes to infuse. To serve, reheat the mulled “wine”. Slice the remaining orange and place a slice into six to eight small cups or heatproof glasses. Pour over the hot mulled “wine” and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 drinks.
Tepache (pronounced teh-patchay) is a Mexican fermented pineapple drink that can be made from just the skin of the pineapple, but I think it tastes better and more fruity using at least some of the flesh, too. Piloncillo, which comes in solid cones, is the authentic sugar to use, available from Mexican grocery stores or online, but any brown sugar will do.
4½ ounces demerara or other brown sugar, preferably organic, or piloncillo (see recipe introduction)
18 ounces filtered water
Piece cinnamon stick or bark
3 to 4 cloves
1 small, medium ripe sweet pineapple, preferably organic
Ice cubes and soda water, to serve
Lime slice and/or mint sprig, to garnish
Put the sugar in a saucepan and pour over the filtered water. Heat over a very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the cinnamon and cloves, then leave to cool.
Wash the pineapple, then cut off the top and base. Quarter, cutting away the hard central core, cut into chunks and bruise lightly with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Pack as much of the peel and chunks as you can into a sterilized 2¾ pint preserving jar. Pour over the cooled sugar solution and extra water if needed to ensure that the pineapple is submerged. Give the contents of the jar a stir, then scrunch a piece of nonstick baking paper into the top of the jar to keep the pineapple pieces submerged. Secure a piece of muslin over the top of the jar and leave for 2 to 3 days at room temperature, checking it regularly.
Once you see the liquid starting to froth up, the fermentation has got going. Taste it and see how you like it at that stage, and if necessary leave it to ferment a bit longer (though not too long, otherwise it may acquire some alcohol in the process). Strain the liquid into a jug, then pour through a funnel into a sterilized glass wine bottle, seal and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Serve over ice with a splash of soda water, each garnished with a slice of lime and/or sprig of mint.
Makes about 1⅓ pints.
Recipes excerpted from “How to Drink Without Drinking” (2020) by Fiona Beckett. Reproduced by permission of Hachette Book Group. All rights reserved.