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Unlike a Virgin

October 23, 2012 By:
Katie Loeb
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So what do you do when confronted with guests who don’t drink? As much as we all love entertaining, some folks just don’t tipple, be it for health reasons or whatever. Rather than only having soft drinks to offer them, why not take advantage of a whole new crop of non-alcoholic beverage recipes that even your non-teetotaling guests will enjoy? And these drinks aren’t just Faux-jitos or Virgin SomethingorOthers. They range from traditional refreshers like Mexican aguas frescas to more complex craft beverages, created by some of the country’s most creative chefs and mixologists.
 
The secret to making a delicious mocktail isn’t simply leaving the alcohol out. The base spirit usually plays a pretty significant role in how any cocktail tastes, so just going without it would be like claiming you made a vegetarian beef stew by leaving out the meat. It’s not vegetarian beef stew; it’s just a pale imitation of what it’s supposed to be. There are far too many delicious non-alcoholic bottled fruit juices and nectars, carbonated and non-carbonated mixers, herbs, spices and fresh fruit and vegetables to be combined in myriad ways to have to resort to ersatz imbibing. With a little creativity and a good palate, you can combine readily available ingredients into new and interesting non-alcoholic drinks that everyone will love.
 
One of the easiest ways to do this for a crowd is to make a punch. This has been the modus operandi at many a baby shower. But rather than doing that tired old lime or orange sherbet + ginger ale + pineapple juice concoction we’ve all suffered through at some party or another, why not try a refreshing twist on lemon or limeade, sweetened with an herbal simple syrup and made to sparkle with club soda, sparkling cider or ginger beer? Or perhaps a holiday-friendly punch made with cranberry juice as the base? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and what’s at the market.
 
If you’re really feeling ambitious, there are many excellent recipes available online from the very same sources you would normally seek out for high-end home culinary advice. Epicurious.com, Foodandwine.com, and Imbibemagazine.com all have extensive collections of non-alcoholic recipes available in their cocktails section. Although they might seem intimidating at first, if you read through them, the techniques used shouldn’t be any more difficult than either steeping a cup of tea, or making yourself a smoothie.
 
Lastly, while a delicious and well-crafted mocktail is a wonderful thing, all of these recipes could easily include your favorite spirits for those who do choose to imbibe. Vodka, being the blank slate of the spirit world, would work in almost any recipe. Gin is very versatile as well, and goes particularly well with citrus flavors and lighter juices. Tropical and fruity mixes cry out for rum. Brown spirits like bourbon, Irish whiskey or brandy are delicious with autumnal fruit flavors like apple or pear or with stone fruits like peaches or apricots. I’ve included some suggestions for which spirits to try with the various recipes for those of you that would like to serve these to guests of both persuasions.
 
Cheers!
 
Fresh Ginger-Lime Soda
Courtesy of Vincent Stipo, beverage manager, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia
Ginger-Lime Syrup
 
Take equal proportions of fresh lime juice, diced fresh ginger, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for about 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh and refrigerate.
 
To build soda: Top 2 ounces syrup with 6 ounces sparkling water over ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.
This drink can be made as a cocktail with either vodka, a citrus-forward gin like Philadelphia Distilling’s Bluecoat gin, or white or gold rum.
 
Julia’s Julius
Stipo created the following drink for his younger sister as an update of the classic Orange Julius.
2 ounces fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
Garnish: Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters (available at DiBruno’s)
 
Add orange and lime juices, simple syrup and egg white to a cocktail shaker and “dry shake” (without ice) for one minute to emulsify. Add ice, and shake again to chill. Double strain and allow meringue (frothy head on the drink) to set for about 15 seconds to prevent the bitters from sinking as you garnish.
 
Gently add a few drops of chocolate bitters onto the surface of the drink to garnish.
 
This drink would be delicious as an alcoholic beverage with the addition of 1.5 ounces. of orange-flavored vodka.
 
Hints: You can get a much better frothy head on this drink if you detach the spring from your Hawthorne strainer and add it to the shaker before you dry shake the ingredients. The spring will act like a whisk and create a stiffer meringue on the surface of the drink, Remove the spring before adding the ice for the second shake. Reattach the spring to the Hawthorne strainer before straining the finished chilled drink both through the Hawthorne and a small mesh strainer into a coupe glass, the “double strain” referred to above. Gently drip the bitters onto the surface of the drink so they are suspended on the frothy surface. If you want to really make it pretty, you can drag a toothpick through the bitters droplets to make a ring of hearts or other pattern on the surface of the drink.
 
Watermelon Cooler
Courtesy of Brian Kane, sommelier/manager, Zahav Restaurant, Philadelphia
1 ounce watermelon puree
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce rosewater pomegranate grenadine (recipe follows)
6 ounces of club soda
To build soda:
Combine the first three ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir gently.
 
Grenadine isn’t just for “cherry” colas and Shirley Temples. It’s a classic cocktail ingredient made from pomegranate juice. Grenadine at its most basic level is simply sugar-sweetened pomegranate juice. The word “grenade” in French means pomegranate, and it’s no coincidence that a widely known pomegranate-shaped piece of weaponry goes by the same name.
There are two methods of making grenadine from scratch. “Cold process” involves dissolving sugar into pomegranate juice by shaking or blending it until all the sugar is incorporated. The “hot process” involves boiling the pomegranate juice until it is concentrated by half and then adding sugar in an equal volume to the original volume of juice.
 
The cold process delivers a brighter, fruitier end result. Boiling and reducing the juice concentrates the flavors and creates a richer, jam-like syrup as well as a more viscous end result. Since fresh fruitiness and richness are both delicious, I combine both methods to create a best-of-both-worlds final result. A small amount of pomegranate molasses adds viscosity and acidity, and the rose flower water adds a lovely floral background note. An ounce of overproof vodka makes it shelf stable and helps retard bacterial growth.
 
For this recipe I use pomegranate juice that is not from concentrate, with no sugar added. You may have luck finding this at Eastern European or Middle Eastern markets. Organic unrefined sugar adds some roundness to the finished syrup, but regular white processed sugar will work fine if that is all you have available.
 
Homemade Grenadine 
(cold process) from Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails by Katie M. Loeb (Quarry Books)
2 cups pomegranate juice 
cups organic sugar 
1 tablespoon rose flower water (I use Cortas brand) 
1 ounce 100 proof vodka 
Pour the pomegranate juice into a large container or jar with a tight-fitting lid. 
Gradually add sugar, stirring gently to prevent clumping. 
Screw on the lid and shake vigorously until all of the sugar has completely dissolved. This requires strong arms and shoulders, but eventually all of the sugar granules will be completely dissolved into the juice. 
Add the rose flower water and vodka, and stir to combine. 
 
Homemade Grenadine 
(hot process) from Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails by Katie M. Loeb (Quarry Books)
2 cups pomegranate juice 
2 cups organic sugar 
2 ounces pomegranate molasses
Grenadine (from cold process preparation above) 
 
Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced by half.
Slowly add the sugar and whisk until completely dissolved.
 
Add the pomegranate molasses and whisk again to incorporate. Simmer gently for 3 more minutes then remove from heat and allow to cool for at least one hour
 
When the hot syrup has cooled, combine it with the cold batch and whisk until the consistency is even.
Funnel into clean bottle(s) for storage. 
 
This makes just enough to fill one standard 750 ml wine bottle. A clean, screw-capped wine bottle that has had the label removed and been run through boiling water to sterilize it would be perfect for this purpose. If you have the extra space, you can keep this refrigerated almost indefinitely.
 
Zahav Ginger Soda
Courtesy of Brian Kane, sommelier/manager, Zahav Restaurant, Philadelphia
1 ounce ginger clove simple syrup
¼ ounce verbena simple syrup
½ ounce lime juice
 
Add syrups and lime juice to an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with club soda to taste and stir to combine.
 
This spicy mix would be delicious with any type of rum. With Gosling’s Black Seal rum, it would be an interesting twist on a Dark and Stormy! Vodka or gin drinkers would enjoy this as well. Just add 1.5 ounces of your favorite spirit.
 
Ginger-Clove Simple Syrup
2 cups water
cups peeled and thinly sliced ginger root
8 cloves
3 allspice berries
Bring water, ginger root, cloves and allspice berries to a boil. Allow to boil for an additional 3 minutes. Strain and then mix with 2 cups of sugar until dissolved. Allow to cool before using. Keep refrigerated,
 
Verbena Syrup
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
cups fresh lemon verbena
Bring water to a boil, and add sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add fresh verbena and stir. Remove from heat and allow liquid to cool. Strain the herbs out before using. Keep refrigerated.
 
Cranberry-Key Lime Punch
Adapted from Southern Living magazine
1 12-ounce can frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
½ cup sugar
½ cup Key lime juice (either fresh-squeezed or pasteurized)
cups club soda or seltzer
Fresh cranberries and key lime wheels for garnish
 
Add sugar to thawed cranberry juice in a large punch bowl. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add Key lime juice and club soda. Stir until combined. Float fresh cranberries and Key lime wheels in punch to garnish. To serve, ladle into ice-filled cups.
 
This punch would be a delicious holiday cocktail with the addition of vodka or, for brown liquor fans, a light bourbon such as Maker’s Mark or a Canadian whiskey like Crown Royal.
 
Virgin Hibiscus Cosmopolitan
Courtesy of hgtv.com
cups water
¼ cup honey
6 hibiscus tea bags (recommended: Red Zinger)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
½ cup coconut water (Vita Coco is a readily available brand)
Diet lemon-lime soda, chilled
Garnish: Thinly sliced lime wheel
 
Put the water and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the honey; remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Steep the tea for five minutes; remove the tea bags and let the mixture cool completely. 
 
Pour the tea mixture into a cocktail shaker and add one cup of ice. Pour in the coconut water and lime juice, put the lid on and shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into four chilled martini glasses, top each glass off with a splash of lemon-lime soda and serve immediately. Float a thin lime wheel on the surface of each drink.
 
To make an adult version of this drink, add 1.5 ounces of citrus or raspberry vodka per serving.
 
Cóctel
Courtesy of Sam Jacobson, executive chef, Sycamore and NoBL restaurants, Lansdowne
3 ounces pear nectar
ounces lime juice
2 ounces simple syrup
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper Lime wedge
 
This spicy autumnal concoction is one of the most popular mixers at Sycamore BYOB, If adding spirits, cut back on the simple syrup to taste.
 
Combine kosher salt, cinnamon and cayenne in a small container. Shake vigorously until well combined. Moisten edge of a martini glass with the lime wedge. Gently dip the edge of the glass into the combined spices to rim the edge. Shake all liquid ingredients with ice and serve in the spice-rimmed glass.
 
This delightful drink would pair well with almost any spirit. 1.5 ounces per drink of vodka, rum, reposado tequila or bourbon would all be delicious choices.
 
Katie Loeb is the spirits mahoff for Special Sections.
 

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