Tasty, And You Won’t Get Tipsy

In Sober Celebrations, chef Liz Scott takes the booze out of holiday treats—but not the flavor.

For people who don’t drink, the holidays are a minefield. Eggnog, rum cake, plum pudding, liqueur-filled chocolates—temptation, or outright harm, potentially lurks in every punch bowl and candy dish. And there are more such people than you may think. Not only recovering alcoholics, but also those who must abstain for medical reasons (including pregnancy or prescription drug interactions) or eschew alcohol on religious grounds or just don’t like the taste. A 2006 Gallup Poll reported that 36 percent of American adults say they abstain from alcohol completely and another 33 percent say they drink only occasionally. What recourse do they have?In her latest book, Sober Celebrations: Lively Entertaining Without the Spirits, (Cleveland Clinic Press, $24.95), veteran chef Liz Scott provides an answer—150 recipes for libations and food you needn’t be a teetotaler to enjoy. In 1998, when she herself entered an alcohol recovery program, one of the first things she realized is that “when you start looking at fine cooking, you more often than not find an alcoholic ingredient, whether it be a splash of wine or a sauce made with cognac.

“Since you’re telling us we have a disease,” she says, “what are we supposed to do? I found there was absolutely nothing to guide us on this journey, which is where I got the idea that I’m the one to write about this.”As in the parties she prepares for clients of her Sober Celebrations Catering Company, Scott, who lives in Plainfield, takes the alcohol out of popular gourmet dishes. Instead of red wine in coq au vin, Scott calls for a substitute she makes with fruits and vinegar. Traditional English trifle, a holiday treat usually spiked with sherry or fruit liqueurs, gets its kick from syrup drained from frozen raspberries mixed with a bit of raspberry vinegar. “To just leave alcohol out and not replace it with something else would be bad cooking,” Scott says. “If you’re cooking for a diabetic and the recipe calls for sugar, you wouldn’t just leave it out and not replace it with something.”

Scott has been cooking since she could walk. “My Sicilian grandmother raised me at her apron strings,” she says. After a stint at Bon Appétit, she earned a degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York and became a caterer and private chef for the likes of Brooke Astor and the DuPont family.

Before going into recovery, Scott created menus for clients with thyroid cancer and diabetes, “so I knew about cooking for the unwell.” At the Rutgers Summer Institute of Alcohol and Drug Studies in 1999, she delved into the neurobiology of addiction. In 2004, she won the annual Journalism Award from the Research Society on Alcoholism. In 2005, the Johnson Institute, a Washington, D.C., organization for addiction recovery, honored her for her first book, The Sober Kitchen: Recipes and Advice for a Lifetime of Sobriety.

Scott speaks at recovery events around the country. Earlier this year, she recalls with a belly laugh, a Seattle radio host called her “the Martha Stewart of the recovery world.”

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