How to make awesome mocktails for Dry January

January is a great time to dip into the world of non-alcoholic drinks

A new year often brings resolutions and restraint when it comes to food, money and, increasingly, alcohol.

Dry January has been gaining popularity in recent years as a time to retreat from holiday excess and rethink drinking habits. What began in the U.K. as a public health campaign in 2014 has spread across the pond, with North Americans taking up the challenge to lay off the booze for a month or more as well.

But giving up alcohol doesn’t mean giving up celebrations, outings and delicious drinks, says cocktail expert Samantha Wall, who teaches wine, beer and spirits education to NAIT Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students.

“We’ve really seen a resurgence of the mixologist.”

“We’ve really seen a resurgence of the mixologist,” she says. “Everyone wants to be a bartender or know a bartender.”

And just as chefs cater to a variety of health concerns and preferences, so too are mixologists happy to accommodate non-drinkers, says Wall.

“It’s no longer just for religious or health reasons that people are choosing not to have alcohol.”

Safety concerns around drinking and driving are also playing a bigger role. “The designated driver wants to drink something other than a Shirley Temple or club soda. You’re still looking for those same flavour profiles [that are in cocktails]. You just remove the alcohol.”

For the home bartender, creating tasty, beautiful mocktails is a cinch. Here are some easy tips and recipes from our pro.

7 tips for creating and serving great mocktails

NAIT Samantha Wall, certified sommolier, Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management isntructor

  1. Fresh is best. From juices and fruits to herbs and garnishes, use only the freshest ingredients for the greatest taste, says Wall.
  2. Drink with your eyes. Visual appeal is just as important for the drink in your glass as the food on your plate. Think about interesting colours, appealing textures and beautiful vessels. Wall particularly loves using leaded crystal glasses with lots of facets to catch and reflect colour and light.
  3. Concentrate flavours. Add a punch of flavour and aroma by using bitters. While they do technically contain alcohol, they're used in such miniscule amounts – a drop or two – that they add virtually none.
  4. Be inspired by food. Think about complementary flavours in fruits and herbs when creating mocktails. Wall suggests peach and basil, blueberry and mint, or ginger and strawberry, for example.
  5. Be creative. “Don’t think, ‘I’m just making a drink.’ Think, ‘I’m creating an experience,’” says Wall. Avoid boring basics like 7-Up and ginger ale, she adds. Use interesting mineral waters and sodas infused with exciting flavours.
  6. Garnish with care. “If you want to add another flavour component, a garnish is a great way of doing it,” says Wall. Make sure it’s fresh (see tip #1) and beautiful (see tip #2).
  7. Enjoy with no regrets. Try as many mocktails as you like, without a costly cab ride home or the pain of a nasty hangover.

4 great mocktail recipes

Lavender Lemonade

lavender lemonade mocktail for dryuary
In a glass filled with ice, combine

  • 1 ounce lavender simple syrup  
  • 2 ounces lemon juice

Top up glass with soda water and garnish with lemon wheel.

Blueberry Smash

blueberry mocktail for dryuary
In a drink shaker, combine

  • 8-10 blueberries
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • Honey, syrup or simple syrup

Muddle ingredients together.

Add 1 ounce lemon juice.

Shake and strain into glass filled with ice and top with sparkling water.

Garnish with blueberries and rosemary sprig. For a twist, use several mint leaves instead of rosemary.

Paloma (virgin)

virgin paloma mocktail for dryuary
In a drink shaker half-filled with ice, combine

  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup or agave
  • Pinch of sea salt

Shake and strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice and top with soda.

For a twist, use watermelon or blood orange juice.

Sober Mule

sober mule mocktail dryuary
In a drink shaker half-filled with ice, combine

  • 1-2 ounces cucumber juice (just peel and press a cucumber)
  • 1/2 fresh-squeezed lime
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

Shake and strain into a mule cup filled with crushed ice. Top with ginger beer.

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