Get into the Spirit (Free)
Spread Holiday Cheer with Creative Non-Alcoholic Drinks
The holidays bring people together and while many are in a festive mood, that doesn’t mean everyone wants to or can imbibe. Yes, you spend hours crafting your bar menus to come up with the perfect mix of cocktails, beer and wine, but these days, that should also include a small section of spirit-free drinks, also known as mocktails.
Having a few spirit-free drinks on your menu can help ease the stress of the holiday season, which already runs high with work commitments, visiting family and more.
“When you come up with thoughtful, non-alcoholic drinks people can order, it breaks the ice,” says Matthew Poli, beverage director of Nashville’s Catbird Seat. “People feel relaxed as they’re enjoying a drink that looks as good as the cocktails and they feel included.”
During Thanksgiving, Poli makes a cranberry shrub with fresh cranberry and sugar that gets balanced with red wine vinegar or chardonnay vinegar and creates a spritz with club soda, tonic or lemon juice. Another fun holiday drink he makes is a riff on a Flip. He takes raisins or figs, and simmers that in verjus—a highly acidic juice—with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, demerara sugar and vanilla bean or extract. That gets a dry shake with a whole egg, then an ice shake and serves the frothy eggnog-like drink with fresh shaved nutmeg in a coupe for added elegance.
“It offers people an opportunity to enjoy something that has depth of flavor & complexity”
- Ryan Hoffman, Entente bartender
This time of year yields many ingredients you can tap into, especially things everyone is familiar with, like apple cider.
“I like to spike apple cider with traditional holiday spices like cinnamon, clove, anise and ginger, add a bit of honey and water, then simmer slowly in a crockpot and serve warm,” says Nic Behrends, bar manager and mixologist at Juniper Spirits & Oysters in Chicago.
Ryan Hoffman, the head bartender at Chicago’s Michelin-starred Entente, always features seasonal spirit-free drinks on his menus and will likely include a spirit-free mulled wine for the holidays with verjus, clove, cinnamon and star anise.
“It offers people an opportunity to enjoy something that has depth of flavor and complexity,” Hoffman says, “but without alcohol.”
This way, everyone can get into the holiday spirit, free or otherwise.