If you’ve visited your favorite local establishment or attended a cocktail party recently, you’ve probably spotted the latest trend in beverages: low- or no-alcohol drinks, or "mocktails", that have all the flavor and enjoyment level of a traditional mixed cocktail.
Previously, those who opted to go alcohol-free were stuck with sparkling water and a lime wedge. Today, though, you’ll find flavored seltzers, house-made herbal infusions, fresh juices and all kinds of other no-booze “mocktails” that look and taste just as festive.
Tips for making mocktails
Whether you’re hosting a party or going out with friends, you can create an alcohol-free mocktail or ask the bartender to mix one up for you. (One note: tonics and juices, while alcohol-free, are not calorie-free, so pay attention to how much you consume.) Start with the base:
Sparkling waters, especially flavored ones, make a great base for a mocktail. You can also find tonic water that’s enhanced with flavors like elderflower, botanicals, spices, citrus, even cucumber. Kombucha, the lightly sparkling fermented blend of tea and juice is another good mixer. (Note that kombucha has a very small amount of alcohol, less than 0.5%.) Ginger ale or ginger “beer” is another highly flavorful option. Fruity or floral herbal teas, like hibiscus, chai, or chamomile are also great for mocktails. Add a flavoring:
Herbal infusions, simple syrups and cordials add a layer of flavor on top of your base mixer. You can make your own fruit cordial by infusing fruit, lemon juice, sugar and water for 24–48 hours, then straining. Play with the level of sugar to arrive at a mixture that’s fruit-forward and not too sweet. You can also infuse herbs like rosemary, mint and basil in water; simply crush the herbs to release their flavors, then immerse in not-quite-boiling water and steep for 30 minutes or more. Fruit purees or whole crushed fruits or vegetables (think berries, citrus, tomatoes) also add flavor. Go for the garnish:
Your imagination is the only limit here. Add tons of fresh fruit, citrus wheels or peels, herb sprigs, cinnamon sticks, whole berries, and more. The garnish elevates the drink from simply a glass of fizzy water to something fun and festive.
Some combinations to try:
- Cucumber tonic + muddled cucumber + fresh lime juice + rosemary sprig
- Sparkling cherry-lime water + frozen cranberries + lime wheels + handful of crushed mint leaves
- Ginger beer + plain seltzer + fresh lime juice
- Hibiscus tea + pineapple juice + peeled fresh ginger + sparkling water
If you’re looking to reduce but not eliminate alcohol intake, consider aperitifs (for example, vermouth or Lillet). These are often wine-based concoctions with 15% to 25% alcohol (compared to the 40% to 50% found in spirits such as whiskey, gin, and vodka). Aperitifs are delightful mixed with tonic or seltzer and served over ice with a citrus peel.
As you look to reduce alcohol intake, you’ll find plenty of fantastic options so you won’t feel like you’re missing out!
The alcohol-free trend
Some folks observe “Dry January” as a reprieve from overindulging in champagne and cocktails during the holiday season. Others give up alcohol during Lent. Some imbibe only on weekends or special occasions. Of course, many people stay away from alcohol entirely, for all kinds of reasons.
Even periodic abstinence from alcohol has positive health results. British researchers reported
that men and women in a study group who agreed to stop drinking for one month lost some weight, improved blood pressure numbers, and improved insulin sensitivity compared to a group that continued to consume alcohol.
The trend away from heavy alcohol consumption is, perhaps surprisingly, being driven by younger people who have tired of partying a little too hard. This so-called “sober curious” or “sober sometimes” movement is leading beverage companies large and small, global and local, to create alternative drinks that sometimes taste like spirits or beer, or that have their own unique flavor profiles and can be mixed with sparkling water or juice. A number of brands have emerged, especially out of the UK, and have been purchased by large global beverage companies — signaling that the trend isn’t expected to slow down.
Health benefits of limiting alcohol consumption
Reducing or eliminate alcohol intake has many health consequences. Alcohol can be abused, and its overuse leads to health problems including liver damage, pancreatitis and high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control
. It can cause impairment in driving and reduce our judgment.
Plus, alcohol contains empty calories
- One 12-ounce regular beer contains 153 calories
- One 1.5-ounce serving of 80-proof distilled spirits (like gin or vodka) contains 97 calories
- One 5-ounce pour of wine contains about 125 calories
- Generally, higher the alcohol percentage (proof) means more calories
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans
defines moderate alcohol consumption as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.Looking for a health partner to help you make healthy choices in all avenues of your life? Schedule an appointment online today with one of our primary care physicians, at a location near you!