Having scaled back my alcohol consumptionÂ over the past few yearsânot just during Dry JanuaryâIâm always on the lookout for substitutes that still give me the feeling of a really good drink, just without the hangover. Who has time to deal with the next-day boozy brain fog?
Lately, Iâve gotten intoÂ mocktails, after discovering a new-found appreciation for the alcohol-free libations on a recent trip to Dubai. Because the vast majority of the principality doesnât imbibe due to religious reasons, its bars and restaurants pretty much all create mocktail menus filled with next-level concoctions that are as interesting and mindfully designed as any of their alcoholic counterparts. That is to say, this isnât just juice served with a fancy straw.
Curious to learn more about the art of making these booze-free beverages, I met up with Tim Q, head bartender at Koubba Bar, a low-key watering hole that overlooks the Persian Gulf. Originally from China, Qâs tended bars in the United Arab Emirates since 2008. âThe mocktail culture at that time wasnât that much in Dubai,â he says. âNow, itâs a lot different. People are avoiding sugar and theyâre looking for healthier options.â
This isnât just juice served with a fancy straw.
Wanting the same, I asked him for his pro tips and a few go-to mocktail recipes that are healthy and easy to make at home since Iâm more into staying in than going out these days. His first piece of advice? âPlay according to the seasonâsome popular ingredients right now are berries, apple, cinnamon, rhubarb, celery, and cucumber,â he says.
From there, itâs all about creating couplings that work as well together as, say, Tom and Gisele.
âUsually I combine two flavors: celery and cucumber, cucumber and apple, apple and basil,â Q shares. âThose will make you something interesting.â
Finally, like so much of life, itâs about finding balance. âFor me, itâs very simple,â Q says. âClassic flavor theory: sweet and sour. I usually mix two ratios of sour with one ratio of sweet. That means two parts citrus and one part sugar (which is any sweetness).â
And as someone whose bartending skills begin and end with being able to pour a beer into a glass, I can attest that you donât have to be a mixologist to make a killer mocktail. All you need are a few fresh ingredients and a shaker set. Best of all, creating your own totally qualifies as an arm workout.
Scroll down for three satisfying mocktail recipes that are super-easy to make at home.
Memory by Cooper
Makes one serving
Fun fact: This mocktail’s a non-alcoholic twist on a basil and elderflower martini. Its name is a nod to Robert Cooper, creator of the St. Germain Elderflower liqueur that inspired this drink. (He passed away in 2016.) For this mocktail, as well as the other two below, you can make your own syrups and shrubs using natural sweetenersâhe suggests agave nectar or maple syrupâas alternatives to sugar. Here’s how if you’re going the DIY route.
1. Slap basil leaves between palms and add to shaker with ice. Then, add syrups and juice.
2. Shake to combine.
3. Pour into martini glass.
Makes one serving
1. Muddle berries in the bottom of your shaker.
2. Pour shrub, apple, and cranberry juice into shaker with handful of crushed ice.
3. Shake to combine.
4. Strain into tall glass over ice and top with lemon juice.
Makes one serving
1. Muddle cucumber and apple in shaker.
2. Add ice, juice and syrup to shaker and combine.
3. Strain into short glass and serve over ice.
If you want to give teetotaling a try (even in the short term), read this story about the health benefits of skipping alcohol. Plus, what happened when this runner extended her Dry January.