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.

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. 

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!

Everything was perfect and very personalized! We still talk about experience and how nice it was. Definitely memories our family will treasure forever.
You were great and hilarious, and made everyone feel comfortable. Appreciate your time with me and helping pull this event together.
Thank you very much for your services. Everyone had a fantastic time and loved everything! Thank you again for a successful event and making me look oh so good.
Everybody had a ton of fun and we very much see this structure as a template we can use with clients and friends 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.
Great energy, sense of humour and very knowledgeable! Thank you for making it an afternoon to remember!
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!!
Thank you very, very, very much for the outstanding planning and support you gave in making this event an absolute success. People were just having a fantastic time and the set-up and style were absolutely brilliant. I think we got what we exactly wanted. I will reach out again!
I wanted to thank you SO much for your tutored wine tasting! It was so much fun. You were both informative and hilarious! Each person said they would definitely recommend you to anyone looking to do a wine tasting!
The Wine Sisters put on magnificent event in Unionville..... They did a superb job, both as Sommeliers and on the PR and overall event co-ordination ... Great job and we look forward to working with you on our event!

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