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Welcome to New Orleans

Creating a festive nonalcoholic cocktail reception for nondrinking houseguests

My favorite way to welcome houseguests and other visitors to New Orleans is to surprise them with cocktail hour or, depending on what time they arrive, a Bloody Mary or Mimosa welcome hour. New Orleans is, after all, such a welcoming place, so a welcome reception is one of the best ways to set the tone for the friendliness and hospitality to come. Recently we had houseguests that are non-drinkers, so instead of champagne, French 75s or some other alcohol-driven drinks, I filled a bucket with various non-alcoholic and dealcoholized options.

One guest really just isn’t a drinker, the other is dancing joyfully toward her six-year sunny side soberversary and I’ve been alcohol-free for a year and around nine-ish months at this point. I wasn’t certain if non-alcoholic and dealcoholized versions of beer, wine and spirits would be my sober guest’s cup of tea, so I wanted to offer a choice of both things that are like their spiked counterparts, as well as picks that aren’t trying to be like anything else.

Here’s what I came up with, including drinks that are from New Orleans- and Gulf Coast-based entities, those that are from national brands, but available locally and a some that aren’t yet available locally or nationwide, but can be ordered online.

Mockly is a woman-owned, New Orleans-based brand blended with fruit juices, herbs and spices. These refreshing sippers are a treat simply poured over ice or you can use them as a base for recipes with zero-proof spirits (or the real stuff for tipplers) or with a variety of additions, such as soda, fruit, fresh herbs. It’s available online and at various New Orleans groceries and liquor stores.

El Guapo is also a woman-owned, New Orleans-based brand of non-alcoholic bitters and cordials. The Lime Cordial syrup is delightful with ginger ale or, like Mockly, used as an ingredient in either a non-alcoholic or spiked cocktail. It’s available online and at various New Orleans groceries and liquor stores.

Dose Saffron Water is a sparkling water created by Haint Blue Brewing Co. out of Mobile, Alabama. It is a mellow, well-balanced bubbly water made with saffron, Himalayan salt and a little bit of sugar. Contact Haint Blue through its Instagram account (above) or Facebook account for availability.  

Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher is sparkling hop water made by Lagunitas Brewing Co. out of Northern California. It is sweet, refreshing and flavorful. I’ve found this in New Orleans at Whole Foods, but it’s widely available in grocery and liquor stores.

Sovi Sparkling Rosé is a delightful and dry dealcoholized sparkling rosé conveniently packaged in single serve cans. It truly tastes like the real thing and is made by a husband-and-wife, wine-lover and sommelier team out of California. (The company also makes my favorite dealcholoized red and recently launched a sparkling white.) Get it directly from Sovi or from The Dry Goods Beverage Co. and The Zero Proof.

My guests ended up choosing the Sovi Sparking Rosé upon arrival. The looks of delight on their faces when I handed them a champagne glass of sparkling rosé that they could enjoy without consequences sent me over the moon.

After clinking, we took our glasses with us on a tour of my house before retiring to the porch to sip. We enjoyed several of the other choices on the porch in the coming days each evening after sightseeing and otherwise rambling around and eating our way through New Orleans. My sober guest in particular mentioned time and again how much she loved being introduced to the concept of mocktails and NA replacement drinks, because it made her feel so much more included in the festivities. Welcome to New Orleans, indeed.            

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