Some folks think that non-Alcoholic Summer Beverges have, by definition, to be boring and lifeless. Not true. If your experience with booze-free quenchers has been limited to Soft Drinks, punches and ‘-Ades’, you’ve probably never tried any of the options I’m offering today…
Let’s start with the obvious…
De-Alcoholized Wine and Beer were pretty awful, by and large, when they first hit the market a couple of decades back. About all you could say in their favour were that they were Alcohol-free and, therefore, safe to drink if you were the designated driver – or just really, really thirsty and they were really cold.
Bur now times have changed, and the coming of the Millennials has brought with it a greater emphasis on safe drinking. In keeping with the ancient principle that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the law of supply and demand, brewers and vinters have responded with a greater variety of Alcohol-free beverages and improved the quality, flavour and overall experience of alcohol-free products. The better ones are definitely worth trying if you’re not a fan of Alcohol, are pregnant, or otherwise wish to abstain for situational reasons – like when you’re the designated driver.
So, if you tried alcohol-free Wines and Beers when they first came out, and discounted them as a lost cause, you may find they deserve an second chance.
A substitute for that bitter, boozy edge…
The key to making satisfying alcohol-free cocktails and other mixed drinks is to simulate the presence of Alcohol with other ingredients that give your concoctions the same overall flavour and mouth appeal.
I always have a couple of special ingredients on hand that provide some zing without a lot of fanfare or a heavy-handed attack on the resulting flavour of the Beverage you’re mixing. The ‘secret’ ingredients are Club Soda and, most importantly, Tonic Water.
A little history on Tonic Water…
Why, you may have asked at one time or another, is Tonic Water called ‘Tonic’? Well… Back in the 19th Century, when Britain ruled an empire upon which the Sun never set, the Far East was an important part of the picture, and many British military and diplomatic folks were posted ‘out there’ to make sure trade flowed along uninhibited by local disturbances and that and the rule of law was observed.
One of the biggest problems the overseers had was Malaria, spread by the mosquitoes that plagued the tropics during Monsoon season. The cure was Quinine, a bitter substance boiled up from the bark of the Chinchona tree, which was taken orally. To make it more palatable, the Brits developed the habit of mixing their medicine with Gin and adding a spritz of Soda to further mask the bitterness. Thus was born the Gin and Tonic cocktail. Folks actually looked forward to taking their Quinine.
A good starting place…
The Quinine story was what gave me the idea to substitute Tonic for the booze component of some cocktails, and regulate the bitterness by adding various amounts of sweet, fizzy Club Soda.
The method works well with traditional cocktail styles such as Mimosas and Champagne Cocktails. The Quinine flavour of the Tonic Water is a pretty good stand-in for the zippy sensation that Champagne makes on your palate. Use a small amount of an appropriate Fruit Syrup or Fruit Juice in place of any specific Alcoholic ingredients usually called for, such as Kir in Kir Royal (see photo, top of page). It takes a light hand and a little experimentation to get the Alcohol-free versions right, but it’s worth it!
Have fun experimenting!
Not all traditional cocktails are susceptible to translation to non-alcoholic equivalents, but there are lots of opportunities to create new tipples using the Tonic-and-Club Soda technique. Experiment to your heart’s content – after all, you won’t get hammered! – and have a small but choice menu of new Alcohol-free ‘mocktails’ ready for the non-drinkers in the crowd at your next Summer BBQ Bash to try!
~ Maggie J.