Non-Alcoholic Mixology 101: How to Attract Guests With 'Mocktails'

By Brian Murphy, Foodable Industry Expert

Non-alcoholic drinks are on the rise, and mixologists are up for the challenge of mixing up delicious alternatives to the standard non-alcoholic beverages. A choice of iced tea and lemonade in addition to soft drinks should no longer be the exclusive options, as discriminating guests are venturing further down the road of craft beverages.

Guests choosing not to consume alcohol are demanding to not feel left out, or simply overlooked, for not holding up their end of the shifting societal norm (and increased check average). Indulge them, and while you are at it, make the people consuming their go-to alcoholic beverage take notice of your leadership stance on craft, non-alcoholic drinks in the process.

Pucker Up

Guests are loving all things sour, so explore the variety of sour sources out there and implement what is best for your establishment. Getting creative with lemon and lime in non-alcoholic drinks isn’t anything new, but many establishments rely a bit too heavily on the affordability and convenience of lemonade out of the dispenser or gun. It’s time to order some cases of citrus and offer a house-made lemonade or limeade. Don’t stop there, because plain old lemonade is boring. Refreshing, yes, but you need a wow factor when you pitch your delicious craft mocktail to your guests. A way to mix up the flavors in citrusy drinks is to get crazy with simple syrup.

Experiment with what makes sense with your menu, and consider things like Thai basil and peppercorn to make the lemonade more interesting. Chiles, spices, or herbs can take a typical non-alcoholic drink and make it something memorable. To make it even more refreshing, get some carbonation into the drink to create mocktails. Once the base is set, muddling berries, ginger, citrus, and then garnishing with herbs creates a drink guests will enjoy without the buzz, and still make servers happy when they are reviewing check totals at the end of the shift.

Kombucha provides a sour punch to non-alcoholic beverages, but use caution with as some brands have trace amounts of alcohol. Shrubs are an option to create all kinds of flavor combinations and can offer a delightful array of colors on your mocktail menu, as well. Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, can be made in-house and then stored for months at a time. Find recipes for shrubs online and pay close attention to the sterilization process when you soak your fruit in the vinegar and then again after you boil the vinegar with the sugar.

The beautiful thing about shrubs is the fact that you can use the fruit that isn’t “pretty” and create something beautiful in the process. Think beautiful hues of pinks and reds when you make shrubs with berries or plums. The flavor is intense. A little goes a long way, but a well-balanced drink, served in a quality glass and garnished well, will demand a few dollars more from guests than their go-to fountain beverage.

Juice Upgrade

Cold-pressed juice consumption continues to rise, so the use of good quality juices in non-alcoholic mixology makes perfect sense. The depth of flavors and combinations is nearly infinite when using juices composed of several fruits. The color of these juices in cocktails is also something guests will leave talking about. One important thing to remember is that you need a quality juicer that extracts the juice, but leaves no pulp — nobody wants a non-alcoholic drink with bits of beet pulp clinging to the side of the glass.

Once the juices have been sourced, play with combinations of flavors in the juice alone, then explore mixing them up to create a mocktail. Consider using a tomatillo, cucumber, celery, ginger, and horseradish mix as a base for a non-alcoholic Green Bloody Mary, for example. Finished and then garnished with pickled veggies, a drink like this offers a great brunch solution for health-conscious guests.

Tea Time

Teetotalers will rejoice when they find out you are offering a fresh take on iced tea beverages. The standard black tea has a place in the establishment for diners looking for the standard, non-carbonated option, but it is time to mix it up. Non-alcoholic mixology can be taken to amazing places with teas. The world of tea is vast, and flavor profiles range from grassy and tannic to fruity and acidic.

The floral notes in a jasmine green tea work very well with lighter, refreshing drinks, while the strong, smoky flavor a Lapsang Souchong provides can hold up to stronger pairings. Using darker teas as a base in non-alcoholic mixology offers guests the look of a cocktail, something that will resonate with guests that would otherwise not want to be seen with something so blatantly non-alcoholic.

Few other ingredients are necessary, but when they are on hand, like non-alcoholic bitters, fresh citrus, and soda water, you can be well on your way to creating delicious, healthy, and memorable beverages.