A colleague was ordered by her doctor to avoid alcohol for a month. After the initial horror subsided—this is New Orleans, for crying out loud—we gave her a send off happy hour toast of bubbly and offered sentiments of strength and fortitude in the coming weeks. Whether for medical reasons, an effort to shed a few pounds, pregnancy or upping your game at work, for a sporting event or some other endeavor, many of us abstain at some point.
Abstaining from alcohol is a tactic I personally employ when I have a presentation or a particularly busy production schedule for the magazines I edit. Last month in fact, I was forgoing adult beverages through the workweek to stay sharp for several important meetings, events and projects. The prospect of giving up the happy hours I look forward to a few times per week had me feeling a bit glum however, so I bought a six-pack of club soda and tried my hand at creating a few festive, delicious “mocktails.” These fruity, fizzy non-alcoholic concoctions were so tasty; I didn’t miss the booze and have incorporated them into my regular routine.
Lemons and limes are a good base fruit to have on hand, but I also like to experiment with seasonal fruits and herbs. My go-to is simply club soda with the juice of half a lime and a wedge for garnish. When I’m feeling more ambitious, I pair club soda with muddled blueberries and two sugar cubes. Another good blend is blackberries muddled with lemon juice and sugar cubes, then mixed with club soda. Drop blackberries into the glass for garnish. It tastes like fizzy blackberry lemonade. In both cases, I like to use a small strainer to separate the juice from skins, seed and the like, because I think it results in a more attractive presentation. Each of these drinks is quite refreshing and I think would be further enhanced with the addition of a bit of mint muddled into the fruit and juice.
It’s easy and fun to create something at home (and to take it to the next level, get a book such as the 2012 missive, “Mocktails: The Complete Bartender’s Guide”), but for a real treat, go to the pros. When out on the town, ask your favorite bartender to whip up something special for you. Many of the city’s craft cocktail bars hire bartenders at the top of their field. They are knowledgeable, talented and scientific in their approach to drink recipes. For their non-alcoholic versions of your favorite cocktails, true experts not only omit the liquor, but also include ingredients that honor the flavor of the original drink. If your bartender is especially busy however, cut him or her a break and stick with something easy and fast.
Having a cheerful non-alcoholic beverage on-hand when you are entertaining is also a way to ensure that guests with aversions to alcohol or who are abstaining for any reason will have something delicious to enjoy, without having to ask for special treatment.
Do you have a favorite mocktail recipe? Share it in the comments.
(Melanie Warner Spencer is now on WWL Channel 4 once a month talking all things New Orleans Bride. Catch the first segment on Thursday, Oct. 23, during the 8 to 8:30 a.m. segment, where she’s dishing up wedding cake trends.)