Why Your Bar Needs Better Non-Alcoholic Drinks


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.

Festive Non-Alcoholic Drinks for Thanksgiving

Grapefruit Thyme Soda from Reclaiming Provincial

As much as I love cocktails, Thanksgiving (and Christmas!) also call for exciting non-alcoholic drinks. They’ll be a festive option for kids or people who don’t drink, as well as a fun choice for those looking to keep their alcohol consumption on the lower side. It’s a special day, so do something more exciting and attractive than just water or cans of soda. Here are some fun ideas:

Fennel Apple Spritzer ~ Fennel is one of my favorite accent flavors, and it pairs well with the sweetness of apples. This one is a sophisticated drink that won’t make adults feel like they’re drinking like the kiddie table.

Asian Pear Sparkler ~ I love Asian Pears! But the spice of ginger and herbal notes of rosemary make this more than just a fruity drink.

Grapefruit & Thyme Soda ~ These two flavors are a refreshing match that’s outside of the ordinary. If you want to booze it up, add some gin. Garnish with a sprig of thyme to make it look even more festive.

Puritan’s Pride ~ It wouldn’t be the holidays without cranberries. Apple and ginger, elevate the cranberry in this drink above its usual role as a relish on top of the turkey.

Tarragon-Spiked Lady Grey Iced Tea ~ For a less-fruity option, this iced tea uses Lady Grey (a variation on the more famous Earl Grey tea) along with tarragon and lime.

Mocktails and Non-Alcoholic Drinks That Don’t Suck

Cherry Teani from Horace and Lydia

The internet tells me that lots of people vow not to drink alcohol for the entire month of January. Something to do with New Year’s resolutions, I guess. If you’re a cocktail, beer, or wine lover doing the Dry January thing (Dryanuary?), you don’t have to be stuck with juice, soda, and Shirley Temples. Step it up, mocktails style!

I think it’s always a good idea to have an appealing non-alcoholic drink option at a party, bar, or restaurant. (Sorry, Coke and water don’t count as “appealing.”) Not only does it give pregnant women, designated drivers, and teetotalers something delicious to drink, but it also helps prevent hangovers.

Here are some fun mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks:

New England Buck* ~ A sage and juniper syrup along with ginger beer and apple cider make for a nice wintery drink that doesn’t taste like it’s for children.

Tuscan Fresco ~ This one is fruity without being like fruit punch, with a more sophisticated mix of peach, cranberry, and rosemary flavors.

Juniper and Tonic ~ It turns out, there is such thing as a virgin Gin & Tonic … and it’s not just having a Tonic. So people who like dry drinks don’t have to stick to water and tea when cutting out alcohol.

Sage Presse ~ Sage and meyer lemon are perfect winter companions for a culinary cocktail that just happens to not contain any alcohol.

Cherry Teani* ~ Teas have complex flavors just like spirits do, so they are a natural mixer for a mocktail. Mix smoky tea with cherries and vanilla for a rich experience along the lines of a Manhattan.

And if all that is too much work, then:

Bitters and Soda* ~ Add a few dashes of any kind of bitters to soda water for a more exciting club soda.

Cascal Fermented Soda ~ While these don’t taste like wine, they do have lovely dry flavors and complex combinations that will make wine lovers much happier than a can of Sprite ever could.

*These contain bitters, which is made with alcohol. Bitters is used in such a small quantity, that the amount of alcohol you’ll ingest is negligible. (I bet you’d get more alcohol from using mouthwash.) Non-alcoholic bitters exist, but are hard to find.