Don't Drink and Drive: The artistry of mocktails is on the rise
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
In past years, The Citizen has written stories in November, alongside covering the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Red Ribbon campaign, about the importance of having a plan for transportation on nights you plan to drink. These have included interviews with police officers and local volunteers who have made it their goal to reduce impaired driving in Huron County.
This year, however, instead of focusing on a plan for nights that involve a few drinks, we’ve gone another way and taken a step back. What if there’s no drinking involved at all? This year’s focus is on the growing artistry of mocktails. All the taste and beauty of mixologist-approved cocktails, but with no alcohol.
One of the earliest examples is a drink many of us have had in our younger years while out to dinner: the Shirley Temple, made with ginger ale, grenadine and a Maraschino cherry.
Then there are the alcohol-free (or virgin) versions of some of the world’s more popular cocktails that involve a robust mixer, such as piña coladas, bloody marys or mojitos. Non-alcoholic beer (or near beer) would also fall into this category.
However, as many people have chosen to abstain from alcohol for one reason or another, restaurants and bars have quickly realized that expertly-crafted mocktails are a perfect way to keep from excluding these people in a group full of drinkers. Furthermore, tasty drinks with complex flavour profiles, simply free of alcohol, offer much more variety and exploration, rather than relegating those who’ve chosen not to drink that night to glasses of water or pop.
A simple Google search will reveal a wealth of information on mocktails, including recipes, which can range from simple to rather complicated. You can access mocktail recipes lists on websites from some of the most trusted and respected food and lifestyle magazines, including Bon Appetit, Town and Country and Marie Claire, among others. In fact, late last month, The New York Times wrote a feature story on the rise of alcohol-free drinks, with alcohol-free bars like Listen Bar in New York City, and alcohol-free bottle shops growing in popularity across the United States.
In The New York Times piece, the reporter quotes a study that predicts growth in the non-alcoholic drink market to $1.6 trillion by 2025. Meanwhile, further analysis found that the demand for non-alcoholic drinks on Amazon rose by 60 per cent between January and July of 2021, compared to the same period the previous year. Demand for non-alcoholic beer during that same time period increased by 85 per cent.
One person quoted in the story, who has shifted into the non-alcoholic craft cocktail market, said that non-drinkers had been ignored for too long.
Indeed, even some of the world’s foremost culinary minds have made expertly-crafted alcohol-free drinks part of their offerings.
Grant Achatz is the chef and owner of Alinea in Chicago, a three-Michelin-Star restaurant that has frequently been cited as one of the best in the world. He has also given his talents over to The Aviary cocktail lounge, also in Chicago, which has turned heads for its advanced, molecular approach to cocktails.
The bar has produced one cocktail cookbook, but last year, it published Zero: A New Approach to Non-Alcoholic Drinks. The book brings the bar’s unique approach to cocktails to non-alcoholic drinks and includes recipes to mimic the taste of many liquors without the alcohol, as well as recipes for traditional cocktails, modern cocktails and even wines.
Locally, many restaurants and bars have hopped aboard, providing alcohol-free alternatives that don’t leave guests wanting for taste or creativity.
Peter Gusso, the chef and owner of Part II Bistro, which began in Blyth before expanding to Goderich, eventually closing their Blyth location, has positioned his establishment as one of those leading the pack when it comes to mocktails, whether they’re on the menu or not.
Gusso and his team have offered a trio of alcohol-free offerings ahead of the holiday season.
First is the Blueberry Moscow Mule, a unique and alcohol-free take on the popular vodka-based cocktail.
Combine blueberries with one ounce of fresh lime juice, one ounce of simple syrup and top it with ginger beer.
The second offering is the Christmas Celebration Mocktail: One half-ounce of fresh lemon juice, one ounce of orange juice, one ounce of cranberry juice, a half-ounce of simple syrup, a half-ounce of grenadine and one egg white. (Egg whites are often used for texture in cocktails and mocktails, rather than flavour. They are best utilized in shaken drinks, rather than stirred.) Top it off with some grated nutmeg.
The third drink is a Sparkling Cranberry Mocktail, which includes sliced fresh ginger, fresh rosemary, dried cranberries and a half-ounce of grenadine, topped with half club soda and half ginger beer.
There are plenty of flavour-filled complex drinks out there that can make any night special, but without the alcohol.