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Simply Seasonal: Serve mocktails for safe celebrations

by Sue Barham
Special to the Daily
Special to the Daily Fancy drinks minus the booze are great for those under 21, pregnant women, designated drivers and those who simply don't want any alcohol.
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Prom. Graduation. Spring Fever. Rites of Passage. All reasons to celebrate, safely. Savvy party hosts will allow “mocktails” to put the cheer in teen celebrations. Mocktails, an abbreviation for mock cocktails, are festive, non-alcoholic party drinks. Colorful, with fancy garnishes, and often served in fine stemware, they are becoming enormously popular in restaurants as well as at individual events.

Indeed, Restaurant Hospitality magazine states that as many as one third of the patrons in full-service restaurants today are opting for drinks without the booze. Maybe that’s due to stiffer DUI penalties, or maybe people are taking a more serious approach to their jobs in these economic times. Whatever the reason, restaurateurs recognize that people go out to be entertained and to enjoy food and drink that they may not make at home.

“Teenagers are not the only ones enjoying mocktails,” said Brian Harker, Avondale’s bar manager. “Many of our guests choose not to drink alcohol. They are either underage, pregnant, designated drivers, or simply prefer no liquor. A drink with a catchy name and attractive presentation will be popular, whether it has alcohol or not.”

Josh Stevenson, bar manager at Larkspur agrees. “People request cocktails without the kick,” he said. “It has been fun coming up with creative drinks to serve this market. One of our most popular mocktails is the Hibiscus Orange Crush with honey-hibiscus acqua dulce, orange juice, and aranciata.”

We’ve come a long way since Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers!

A look at the Prohibition era shows some interesting liquor-less libations. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union created a “Department of Non-Alcoholic Fruit Products” to disseminate recipes for such drinks as the Prohibition Cocktail – a punch made of 12 oranges, six lemons, one pound of sugar, red food coloring, lemon ice cream, water and maraschino cherries. Church socials were famous for serving these super-sweet concoctions.

As Stevenson alluded, there are a wealth of ingredients that can be used to make delectable mocktails. Using blueberries or acai berry juice will yield a drink rich in antioxidants. Cutting a fruit juice mixture with soda water and garnishing with a slice of fresh pineapple is great for calorie counters; dieters know liquor is not a friend.

Creating mocktails at home can present more of a challenge than regular cocktails. Liquor usually offsets the sweetness of other ingredients and adds complexity. Take away the booze and you need to find a new way to layer and balance flavor.

You might start by adapting some well-known cocktails by taking out the spirit. A Salty Dog becomes a Salty Puppy with the removal of the gin, replacing it with soda water. Or try a CosMom (or Pregattini) with orange juice, orange syrup and tart 100 percent cranberry juice.

Master those and move on to the mixologists’ mocktails:

Larkspur’s Hibiscus Orange Crush

1/2 ounce honey hibiscus acqua dulce

2 ounces fresh squeezed orange juice

4 ounces arianciata (orange flavored sparkling water)

Combine orange juice and arianciata in a pitcher and stir. Pour over ice into a Collins glass. Drizzle the acqua dulce over the top. Garnish with orange wheels or edible flowers.

Acqua Dulce:

4 ounces honey

1 ounce hibiscus flowers (or substitute 2 Red Zinger tea bags)

12 ounces boiling water

Steep the ingredients and let sit overnight. Strain. Keep refrigerated.

Avondale’s Nojito

2 cucumber segments, peeled, about 3/4″ long

5 lime wedges

1 ounce ginger syrup

6 mint leaves

3 ounces soda water

3 ounces sprite

Muddle together cucumber, lime and ginger syrup, crushing and combining well. Add mint leaves and muddle lightly. Add soda and sprite and stir. Strain over ice into a tall glass. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Ginger Syrup:

1 cup peeled, chopped ginger

2 cups simple syrup (make by boiling equal parts sugar and water till sugar dissolves.

Combine ginger and simple syrup in a saucepan and simmer 1 hour. Strain. Keep refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Strawberry Lemondale

2 ounces strawberry puree

1 ounce rosemary lemongrass syrup

6 ounces lemonade

Shake ingredients together and pour over ice into a tall glass. Garnish with a strawberry slice.

Strawberry Puree:

1 cup strawberries, stemmed

2 ounces simple syrup

Place ingredients in blender and whirl till pureed.

Rosemary Lemongrass Syrup:

2 stalks lemongrass, peeled and chopped

2 sprigs rosemary

2 cups simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and simmer 1 hour. Strain. Keep refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.


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