The Mocktail: All Grown Up

Good news for teetotalers as well as those who just want to lighten up: Mixologists are putting as much thought and creativity into their alcohol-free cocktails as their regular ones. The results are delicious.

Photo by Laura Baer

As people become more careful about consuming alcohol even while remaining open to its pleasures, mixologists have responded by creating more sophisticated types of non-alcoholic drinks. For a long time, these buzz-free refreshments were somewhat mockingly called mocktails. Now bartenders are putting more thought and creativity into them, customers are responding, and the mocktail is earning respect.

“A non-alcohol cocktail is a cocktail. The only thing it is missing is ethanol,” says Joy Manning, a Philadelphia journalist who covers the subject. “As a bar owner or a host, the question is, do you want to sell a drink to everyone? If so, make a few alcohol-free drinks with the same level of attention and care you put into your alcohol-containing drinks.”

That includes serving the drink in the same high-end glassware as regular cocktails. In response to customer requests, Halifax, in the W Hotel in Hoboken, now lists one or two seasonally changing alcohol-free cocktails on its menu. The star ingredients include orange and pineapple juices, grenadine, blueberries, simple syrup, lemon juice, orange slices, maraschino cherries, basil, herbs and elaborate garnishes.

“We try to make our non-alcoholic cocktails as well-balanced and flavor-forward as possible while showcasing unique and seasonal ingredients,” says beverage director Carlos Arteaga.

At the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern, head mixologist Caitlyn Ritz designs booze-free beverages for baby showers and Sweet 16 parties, asking the same questions she would of any banquet host: “Do you want something sweet? What about fresh herbs or something spicy?”

For the customer, mocktails cost a few dollars less than cocktails, but are more interesting and attractive than commercial soft drinks, which cost a few dollars less. For the maker, the mocktail is still profitable. Everyone winds up happy.

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