Tips and Recipes for Tasty Nonalcoholic Holiday Cocktails

Cocktail experts offer ideas for nonalcoholic holiday beverages.

By Lauren Matthews November 20, 2012, 8:00 AM EST

Pumpkin Pie mocktail

Photo: Courtesy of GPP Life

1. Lay off the sugar.
“The biggest mistake people make when making drinks without booze is making them too sweet,” says Natalie Bovis, the self-dubbed Liquid Muse and author of Edible Cocktails: From Garden to Glass (Adams Media). “Pomegranate or yuzu juice gives a nice tart taste.”

2. Mimic alcohol's flavors.
Instead of gin-based cocktails, offer a drink that incorporates juniper-flavored syrup for a similar palate. Ian Ward of Pick & Rocks Cocktails in San Diego suggests a Rudolph Fizz:

Rudolph Fizz
3/4 ounce of fresh-pressed lemon juice
1 ounce of juniper-rosemary syrup*
1/4 ounce of orange blossom water
1 egg white
1 maraschino cherry

Pour the lemon juice, juniper-rosemary syrup, orange blossom water, and egg white into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled highball glass filled with ice cubes. Top off with soda water, and grate nutmeg over the top. Garnish with a cherry.

*Juniper-Rosemary Syrup
1 tablespoon of juniper berries
2 sprigs of rosemary
8 ounces water
1 cup of granulated white sugar

Slightly toast juniper berries in an oven, then, using a spice grinder, coarsely grind them. In a small saucepan or pot, combine the rosemary sprigs and juniper berries with the water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 20 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a jar. Add the sugar, cover, and shake gently until dissolved.

3. Serve a punch.
“A punch bowl is great for holiday entertaining because it facilitates service and is more convivial,” says Chad Solomon of Cuffs & Buttons in New York. He suggests turning organic apple cider into a warm holiday wassail. Cocktail expert Katie Loeb, author of Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails (Quarry) agrees: “You can serve the punch as a nonalcoholic option, and bartenders can add rum, brandy, or bourbon to it for drinkers,” Loeb says.

Cuffs and Buttons’ Holiday Wassail
1 quart organic apple cider
1 pint non-sweetened, not-from-concentrate pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon of whole cloves
1 teaspoon of allspice

Combine all ingredients into a pot and simmer over medium-low heat for at least one hour or until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Katie Loeb’s Holiday Cider
6 cups apple cider
2 cups Knudsen’s cranberry juice concentrate
2 cups water
1 cup dessert spiced syrup*
1/2 cup lemon juice
Strips of orange zest
Thinly sliced apple rings and raw cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a five-quart slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for two hours, stirring occasionally. Turn down to lowest setting once it has reached desired temperature. Ladle into mugs for serving. If adding alcohol, put 2 ounces of your favorite brown spirit (gold or dark rum, brandy, applejack or bourbon) into the mug and ladle the hot cider over it. 

*Dessert Spiced Syrup, excerpted from Shake, Stir, Pour: Homegrown Cocktails by Katie Loeb
3 cups water
6 cinnamon sticks
18 whole cloves
4 star anise
12 allspice berries
12 black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 cups sugar

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and add the spices. Allow to boil for three minutes. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Lower heat and allow the syrup to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Strain out spices before using and funnel into clean glass bottles for storage. Refrigerate for up to one month.

4. Spice it up.
“Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves all add zing to drinks with or without alcohol,” Bovis says. Or try pumpkin:

Pumpkin Pie Preggatini, excerpted from Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be by Natalie Bovis
1 tablespoon canned pumpkin
1 1/2 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 ounces milk
1 ounce Fee Brothers Spiced Cordial Syrup
2 graham crackers ground into fine crumbs in a food processor

Pour ground graham crackers onto a small plate. On a separate plate, pour a small amount of spiced cordial syrup. Dip the rim of a martini glass into the syrup, then into the graham cracker crumbs, and set aside. Vigorously shake milk, sweetened condensed milk, remaining spiced cordial syrup, and pumpkin into a mixing glass with ice. Slowly strain into a rimmed martini glass. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

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