Make a magnificent mocktail |

Make a magnificent mocktail

A good fancy drink doesn't necessarily need alcohol in it.
Photo from Getty Images

In his first book “Brainiac,” top “Jeopardy!” champ and noted teetotaler Ken Jennings talked about one of the knowledge areas he worked to brush up on before he embarked on his 74-game win streak: alcohol. Ultimately, he knew that even if he didn’t drink, having a solid knowledge of the topic could make the difference for him between victory and defeat.

This week, I could relate as I did my best to talk intelligibly with people who are offering to-go cocktails in Summit County. I did this in spite of the fact that I have never once had an alcoholic drink.

Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons not to drink whether you do it because of religious reasons, like I do, or you’re underage, committed to a sober lifestyle or serving as a designated driver. Still, I won’t deny that I have occasionally felt a twinge of jealousy looking at a friend’s fancy drink when I was sipping on a plain ol’ soda.

One of the trends that I’ve been happy to see catch on recently is how many restaurants are offering mocktails — alcohol-free cocktails — on their menus. In Denver, an alcohol-free bar is set to open in early 2021, but Summit County has plenty to offer those who want to enjoy a nice drink while staying fully sober. Most of the folks I talked with were quick to mention their alcohol-free offerings and offer tips on how to make your own at home.


Billie Keithley, the liquid chef at Breckenridge Distillery said a good mocktail is all about layering flavors, just like with cocktails. She recommends using a good craft soda or tonic water as a base and building up from there. With a nice club soda you can then add a little tartness with some citrus, sweeten it with a syrup and then add in additional flavors like herbs, extracts or other fruits depending on what you’re in the mood for.

At Apres Handcrafted Libations, co-owner Lauren Otto said they routinely add bitters into their mocktails, which could have some alcohol, but it’s negligible in the quantities that they’re using (bitters are considered a flavor extract similar to vanilla). The bitters serve as a counterpoint to the sweeter ingredients and add complexity to the flavors. They’re available for sale online.


Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered the joy of making and canning my own custom syrups. With one part water and one part sugar, a basic simple syrup is really easy to make, and elevating it to the next level with flavor is a pretty straightforward process. A flavored syrup will allow you to easily layer in flavors to a drink, and you can save a large batch for future use with a water bath canner.

Michael Beseda, the co-owner at Castaways Cove in Breckenridge, said his staff occasionally will take straight shots of their ginger syrup, and I can understand why. A good ginger syrup is easy to make and tastes amazing all on its own. You also can mix it in with a little lime juice and a club soda for a decent faux Moscow mule.

One of my favorite syrups to make is a blackberry syrup flavored with five-spice powder. It’s complex and complements a wide range of fruit juices.


In my old college stomping grounds of Greeley, there was a bar that made a “Greeleytini.” It consisted of a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer served in a martini glass with an olive, and that bar served way more of them than they had any right to. What makes the difference between a cocktail and a plain old mixed drink or a PBR? Presentation.

One of my favorite mocktails is a drink that my mom called a Sunrise. She’d serve it to us growing up when we were having fancy dinners, and I’ve never stopped enjoying it. It consists of one part orange juice, two parts 7-Up and a splash of grenadine. The drink looks like a tropical sunset when it’s prepared properly. Mom would always serve it in Hurricane glasses with an orange slice garnish to enhance the appearance.

This is the finishing touch for a good mocktail: Use a good glass and add some flair.

Mocktail recipes

Basic Beach

• 4 tablespoons hibiscus tea

• 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice

• 2 tablespoons cinnamon simple syrup

• 2 tablespoons ginger beer

• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

• 2 tablespoons soda water

Castaways Cove co-owner Michael Beseda said this combo makes a solid slushy with a bit of ice and a blender. They normally have this in their frozen drink machine.

Pina colada

• 1/2 cup fresh pineapple juice

• 2 tablespoons orange juice

• 2 tablespoons coconut cream

A classic recipe that can be garnished with some fresh pineapple or orange. Beseda recommends trying it with a dusting of cinnamon.

Recipes from Castaways Cove

Steven Josephson is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News.


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