Why Your Bar Needs Better Non-Alcoholic Drinks

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Your bar may feature a dozen rare bourbons and a housemade tonic clarified in a centrifuge. But if the non-alcoholic options boil down to seltzer and a virgin Rum & Coke, there’s still room to up your game. Bartenders can use the creativity and dedication to craft that makes for a good cocktail program to develop alcohol-free drinks that expand a bar’s appeal.

For Tales of the Cocktail, I talked to some bartenders about how (and why) bars should make good non-alcoholic drinks.

Pineapple Cocktails

PIneapple cocktail: Isla Bonita Punch

Isla Bonita Punch from Serious Eats

The weather outside may be frightful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix up a pineapple cocktail or to to conjure memories of sunshine. Here are a few to try:

Fever Pitch ~ Cachaca, basil and Green Chartruese combine with pineapple for an herbacious cocktail that’s topped with a nice egg white foam and dash of celery bitters.

Low Calorie Piña Colada ~ A regular Piña Colada has more than enough calories to make it a meal. This lighter version lets you enjoy the flavor and experience without feeling like you have to skip dinner.

Mulled Pineapple Cocktail ~ Who says pineapple cocktails are only for summer weather? This warm, spiced cocktail claims both winter and pineapple proudly.

Isla Bonita Punch ~ A fizzy, vanilla-laced pineapple punch is just what your winter party needs …. right?

Algonquin Redux ~ Rye whiskey, pineapple, Dolin Blanc vermouth and bitters make for a sophisticated cocktail that blends a classic flavor profile with a little pineapple magic.

Tangerine Cocktails

Honey Tangerine Smash from Food Fanatic

Honey Tangerine Smash from Food Fanatic

The weather may be gray, but your cocktails can look (and taste) bright — thanks to tangerines! Tangerines are in season, so go get some and put them in your cocktail tonight. Here are a few to try:

Tangerita ~ Using another citrus in your Margarita is a fresh new twist on an old classic. It’s a little bit sweeter without going into “too sweet” territory.

Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail ~ Add sparkling wine to a make-ahead concoction of chamomile-tangerine syrup, gin and a splash of balsamic vinegar for a fun picnic cocktail.

Rosemary Tangerine Cooler ~ Heating the sugar, rosemary and tangerine in a skillet or on a griddle before muddling with rum gives a deeper flavor to this deceptively simple cocktail.

Tangerine Gimlet ~ This recipe doesn’t merely swap in tangerine juice for the usual lime. With two kinds of bitters, mezcal on top of the traditional gin and a little ancho chile heat, it’s a sunny drink for a rainy day.

Honey Tangerine Smash ~ Get some bourbon and smash up some tangerines in it! Easy, fun and delicious.

A Busy Bar’s Guide to Complicated Holiday Drinks

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I wrote about holiday cocktails for Tales of the Cocktail. If you need to make eggnog, Tom & Jerrys or other high-maintenance cocktails for a crowd, this article has tips for you from bartenders around the country.

Holiday cocktails often call for delicate ingredients and labor-intensive techniques. But whipping, frothing and boiling a cup of cheer on the spot isn’t possible when you’re deep in the weeds. So what’s a bartender to do during this season of bigger crowds and complicated drinks? In a word: Batch.

DIY Chocolate Liqueur

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Delicately sweet with a hint of bitterness, a homemade chocolate liqueur (aka creme de cacao) is like an expensive dark chocolate bar in your drink instead of like a jigger of Nestle Quik. Give it as a Christmas gift or use it in holiday cocktails!

DIY Chocolate Liqueur
1 1/3 cup vodka
2/3 cup cacao nibs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a sealable glass jar, steep the cacao nibs in the vodka for 8 days. Bring the sugar and water to a boil. Once cooled, add this syrup and vanilla extract to the jar. Leave steeping for one more day. Strain and filter into a bottle or jar for storage.

The recipe I created and posted here was first published on Serious Eats in my DIY vs. Buy column.