The Virgin Guide

two people, slightly out of focus, laughing and drinking white wine from a wine glass

Not only are these booze-free drinks invitingly delicious, they're also easy to make at home. 

by Erin Henderson

It's come to our attention that not everyone wants to drink alcohol. 

That was the opening sentence of this blog when it was written for The Wine Sisters initial website way back in 2012. At the time teetotalling revellers were still a bit unusual, reserved for those with child and designated drivers. 

My, how times have changed. 

Post-pandemic, we are now deeply invested in cleaning up the wayward habits a few years of lockdown snuck in. And that, of course, includes a temperance lifestyle partially or completely. Which means our "mocktails" are getting a sophsiticated, glow-up. 

A decade-ish ago, chic non-alcoholic drinks were still a bit unusual. Sure, the chain restaurants were happy to pump out frozen, sugary mocktails like Piña Coladas or Bahama Mamas, often in a juvenile glass that the patron could take home as a bonus. But the careful curation between zero-proof drinks and food pairing were just a glint in the eye of abstainers everywhere. 

You also may like: Frozen Piña Colada

In 2012, I collected the recipes below, because I knew we could do better than simply splashing some soda in cranberry juice for wagon-riding guests. I asked some of Canada’s savviest mixologists at the time to offer up easy recipes for booze-free bevvies. And I still use them today. 

Cherry Mule

Whether booze-filled or booze-free, good cocktails are all about balance, says Lauren Mote, the Vancouver-based mixologist mastermind behind Vancouver’s Bittered Sling.

“There is no reason why zero proof cocktails should be absent from menus,” she says – even then renaming mocktails as the more urban-sounding, ‘zero-proof cocktails.’

“In fact, it's the integral balance of flavours that becomes the key variable, not solely the use of spirits."

Build ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice. Add the gingerbeer, stir gently and garnish with fresh cherries.

Peachy Smash

When entertaining abstainers, show them a little love.

“Nothing is more boring than a cranberry soda,” says Shaun Layton, then the head barman at Vancouver’s hip L’Abattoir. Shaun, who said while he’s happy to make any drink a guest orders, prefers to create mocktails that are “long” and “built” (won’t you feel hip using your new barkeep lingo?) “Drinks that are refreshing, and not downed in one sip,” he said.

Smack mint to release the aromatics. Add the mint and the rest of the ingredients to a Collins glass. Fill with crushed ice, stir ,and top with soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Ruby Sunset

This is a very popular drink that we use quite a bit for our events at The Wine Sisters. So much so, that I think the below recipe is no longer exactly as was perscribed 10 years ago. That happens with recipes, lines get blurred over time and adapted to personal preferences and weak memories. Regardless, this is is a favourite tipple as it's invitingly refreshing and striking in colour. 

Confessing he’s not a huge fan of the term “mocktail,” (“it makes the drink seem lesser than a spirited drink”) Mike Fortier, who was the bartender at Toronto’s now-defunct Drake 150, said he favours edgier descriptors for virgin drinks. “Temperance drink lists or prohibition lists are fun spins on the term.”

Into an empty shaker muddle mint with lemon juice to release aromatics. Add simple syrup, bitters and cranberry juice. Fill with ice and shake until cold. Strain into a champagne coup and top with soda and tonic and granish with mint and cranberries. 

Mary Smith

Justin Taylor, who was the bar manager at Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar in Vancouver, created this light and refreshing non-alcoholic drink with as much care and attention as he would any other drink ordered at the bar. With it's healthy edge, we think it's a brilliant offering for baby showers and yoga retreats. 

Add ice to a large Collins glass, build ingredients over ice, stir to incorporate ,and garnish with cucumber slices.

Pear-Ginger Cocktail Punch

Whether imbibing or abstaining, a professional bartender will be happy to make you whatever drink you want, said David Wolowidnyk, the the Bar Manager at West Restaurant + Bar in Vancouver.  “Obviously, the person ordering a virgin drink wants to stay away from alcohol for whatever reason, and the duty of a professional bartender is to make sure that the needs of all guests are well taken care of regardless of what is ordered.”

Mix all the ingredients, except for soda, in a large pitcher and stir until combined. Fill a tall glass with ice, and pour in juice until 3/4 full. Top with soda and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

The below recipes and head notes were first published in 2012, and have only been modified for clarification, or to correct spelling or grammar.

Hear From Real People!

The event was a huge success! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the group was quite engaged. The wine was also delicious! Thank you so much! I hope we can work together on another event in the future!
Erin did a fantastic job with our group. We all really enjoyed the day. I have already recommended The Wine Sisters for my company events, as it was such a great experience for us.
Wow, Emily was absolutely fantastic! She was patient, explained the wines well, and was a delight to work with.

Thank you so much for everything I will definitely use your services again.
Our guests had a great evening and Erin made sure that everyone (even non-drinkers) enjoyed themselves! Thanks for making the bridal shower so memorable!
The unique programs and the tour we did with you was a huge success. Guests really enjoyed the afternoon!
I’m really pleased with how the event went. Everyone feels really happy with your incredible hosting skills and experience. We all DEFINITELY want to use The Wine Sisters again! Thank you so much!!
I had the pleasure of attending the Oceania Cruise event where you conducted a wine pairing. I have to say that your wine and food pairing made a typically ho hum travel information night, spectacular! I have never done a wine pairing. I was amazed at how food interacted with the wines.
[They] quickly engaged our group with our wine themed engagement party. Guests were lined up all evening for the experience. [They] very willing to involve guests in tasting discussion. We are all a little more wine savvy - thank you The Wine Sisters
You were such an awesome host and I appreciate all of the work you put into it. Thank you so much again!
Thank you very much for the amazing wine tasting. We all had the most wonderful time. The wines were excellent and your presentation was very entertaining and informative.

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