Venture Into Full-Flavored Mocktails at Home or Out on the Town
Elevated drinks on the wagon
Skipping the sauce is far from novel, but only recently have mocktails earned their seat at the adult table. Creating space for no- and low-ABV drinks is not only more inclusive, it's a way for makers to stretch creative muscles and partakers to expand their beverage horizons. Complex flavors do not require ethanol, and legions of smarties in Austin offer plenty of proof.
If you're in recovery (kudos and keep going!), local 100% nonalcoholic watering hole Sans Bar (operating Fridays 7pm-1am at 1818 E. 12th) has your back with delicious zero-proof cocktails. Elsewhere, any bartender worth their salt will make a nonalcoholic (NA) cocktail if you just ask, and you too can craft a mocktail moment.
All About That Base
While cocktails start with liquor and build flavor from there, good NA bases include tonic, sparkling water, ginger beer, soda, agua fresca, coconut water, tea, or fruit juice. Fever-Tree specializes in high-quality mixers, but your favorite "sparkle" (Waterloo, Big Swig, H-E-B) works wonders. Austin-based Bloody Revolution's six Bloody Mary mix flavors reign supreme. Hillside Farmacy's soda fountain has four crafty flavors – like the Pickpocket with strawberry, basil, and balsamic – and optional CBD for chill vibes, if you're into that.
Nonalcoholic liquor is a relatively new field, but there are nearly 100 on the market. Seedlip made waves with its three distinct spirits (Spice, Garden, and Grove), and the wiz kids at Nickel City, Roosevelt Room, and Best of Austin: Restaurants Best Mocktails winner Drink.Well sling some lovely Seedlip-based bevs. Slow Luck, created by Austin bartenders, is a distilled nonalcoholic spirit with a nice "mouthfeel" and notes of citrus, florals, and spice. It's on the menu at Midnight Cowboy, Olamaie, Cavalier, and Canje, where they've got a passion fruit dream drink.
Layer the Flavor
You can drastically change a drink's flavor with just a few drops of the right elixir. The most famous mocktail in history is probably the Shirley Temple, but the iconic child star hated that neon red sugar bomb. Commercial grenadine is gross, so an easy fix is to DIY or sub raspberry or Luxardo cherry syrup.
Orgeat is a milky syrup made with almonds, sugar, and orange flower water, used for its sweet, nutty taste. Shrubs, made with vinegar, sustainably boost flavor. Bitters and tinctures are made with high-proof spirits, so skip them for zero-proof, or consider a dash or two for low-ABV. Kick up fruit-based bevvies with chamoy, an Asian/Latin saucy condiment made of dried chiles, lime juice, and fruit (usually mango, apricot, or plum). Hot sauce is remarkably nuanced, so try Yellowbird's Plum Reaper in a drink. Put fresh herbs like basil and mint and borage to work. Have a juicer? Ginger beer and carrot equals mocktail mule.
L'Oca d'Oro always has some low-/no-ABV delights, and manager/bartender Mallory Valentine shared her recipe for apple cider shrub, a perfect way to usher in fall flavors.
Dry doesn't mean dull: Pageantry is part of the fun, so don't skip the flair. Tiny umbrellas, speared olives, edible flowers, lime wheels, salt/sugar rims – all muy importante. Bust out your fancy flutes, scour thrift stores for fun schooners, and don't worry about matching, because you're the captain now.
Find some funky martini glasses? Try Trisha Yearwood's Tea-Tini Mocktail: Shake together a handful of ice, unsweetened tea, and lemon simple syrup. Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with a lemon strip.
It's just as important to offer the same seasonality and creativity in nonalcoholic bevs as you would leaded ones – elevate all of the ingredients, not just the spirits, and keep on cheers-ing.