We are quickly approaching our halfway point, and I really can’t believe how fast the time has flown. I have found that having a plan in place, with plenty of refreshing sodas, tea and mocktail garnishes (think lime, fruit, herbs and bitters) in place, has been a big help.

I, like many people, typically enjoy a glass of wine while cooking, especially on Sunday evenings when I am meal-prepping for the week. My routine has been to put on NPR or a really great podcast, assemble all of my ingredients for a big batch of pasta or soup for workday lunches and pour myself a glass or two (or, let’s face it, three) of wine to sip while cooking.

This week instead of the usual Pinot Grigio pour, I created a drink inspired by the mocktails found on the website of Topo Chico, a Mexican sparkling water with an almost cult-like fan following. (Melanie here: I lived in Texas for 12 years and am obsessed with Topo! I’m so floored that it has become more widely available in New Orleans over the past couple of years.)  The bubbly water is available locally in its classic form, but also flavored with lime or grapefruit I found both selections at my local Winn-Dixie.

Topo Chico’s website has recipes for non-alcoholic drinks such as the “Suntan,” which has pineapple and coconut, frozen aqua frescas, watermelon limeade and (for non-Lent periods) the “Hangover Cure,” which has lime juice and BC powder to perk up those foggy mornings.

This past weekend, I used what I had on hand for a refreshing accompaniment to my Sunday afternoon cooking chores: Topo Chico Lime, fresh lime and Tajin, a chili-lime seasoning that is great with drinks (especially along the rim, as I did), in dishes and as a tangy zest addition to fresh pineapple and watermelon.

Take a look in your spice cabinet for inspiration for your own alcohol-free cocktails. Fresh ginger, berries, mint, lemongrass, citrus can all be great ways to flavor-up bubbly sodas, basic lemonade and iced teas. Get creative!  And keep going!


Store bought – Last week, Melanie taste tested Fre alcohol removed Chardonnay. Her verdict: It’s too sweet. She cut it with Perrier, which helped, but said it still had the lingering taste of overly saccharine apple juice. Rating: Would not buy again.

At the Bar – On Ash Wednesday, NOLA Brewing Company debuted its sparkling Hop’d Tea, available on tap and in cans at the brewery. Melanie says This hop-brewed tea is effervescent and delicious. Pro-Tip: Ask them to mix the Oolong and Hibiscus together for one tasty brew.

Mocktail Wire:

On Tuesday, several New Orleans restaurants announced the release of new spring mocktail offerings. Here’s the scoop:

Jewel of the South, Chris Hannah
Faux-ld Fashioned – Darjeeling Tea, Demerara, Oak Barrel Extract from Monin
Lenten Spritz – Pu-Erh Tea, Pellegrino Sanbitters

Toups’ Meatery, Bryson Downham
Hibiscus Lemon Soda – hibiscus lemon sherbet, lemon juice
Mull It Over – cranberry juice, mulled syrup, lemon juice

Bywater American Bistro, Rick Powanda
Tropical Rose – pineapple, lemon, rose syrup, tonic
We Want…A Shrubbery! – blackberry-grapefruit shrub, lemon, sage, soda

Compère Lapin, Jordan Deis
Strange Page – grapefruit, aji dulce pepper, raspberry, ginger, gentian

Copper Vine
Blackberry Honey Refresher – honey, lemon juice, blackberries, ginger beer



Check back next week when Melanie will offer up her updates, reviews, mocktail recipes and more.


If you want to take the challenge, go ahead and get started now — better late than never! It runs until Easter (April 12). Sign up for free on Ochsner’s #AlcoholFreeFor40 page. If you decide to participate, use the hashtag #AlcoholFreeFor40 and share your progress in the comments. For questions about the program, email Kimball at mkimball@ochsner.org or follow her on Twitter at @mollykimballrd.

Follow Melanie’s stone cold sober bon vivanting on Instagram at @melaniewarnerspencer.

Follow Ashley’s NOLA sober swizzle trip through mocktails and more at @taraashleymclellan on Instagram.