The Virgin Guide
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.
A decade ago, sophisticated 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 juvelnile glass that the patron could take home. But the careful curation between zero-proof drinks and food pairing were just a glit in the eye of teetotalers everywhere.
But in 2012, I knew we could do better than simply splashing some soda in a cranberry juice for abstaining guests. So I went in search of finding terrific recipes for well-curated, delicious, and inviting non-alcoholic cocktails. 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.
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."
- .75oz/22ml fresh lemon juice
- .75oz/22ml cherry-star anise simple syrup
- 2 dashes Bittered Sling Suius Cherry Bitters
- Gingerbeer, to top
Build ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice. Add the gingerbeer, stir gently and garnish with fresh cherries.
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.
- 1oz/30ml peach puree
- 1 handful fresh mint
- .33oz/10ml ginger simple syrup
- .33oz/10ml fresh lime juice
- Soda water, to top
- Mint for garnish
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.
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.”
- Handful fresh mint
- 1oz/30ml fresh lemon juice
- .5oz/15ml simple syrup
- 2 dashes rhubard bitters
- 2oz soda water
- 2oz tonic water
- 1oz cranberry juice
- Fresh mint and cranberries for garnish
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.
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.
- 1oz/33ml fresh cucumber juice
- 1oz/33ml apple juice
- .5oz/15ml honey simple syrup
- .5oz/15ml fresh lime juice
- 3oz/88ml jasmine green tea
- Cucumber slices for garnish
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.”
- 33oz/1000ml pear nectar
- 27oz/800ml apple juice
- 2.5oz/75ml ginger juice
- 4.5oz/125ml cinnamon syrup
- 1 tsp citric acid
- Soda, to top
- Cinnmon stick for garnish
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.