Mouthwatering Mocktails: Exploring zero-proof options

Scan any bar menu, whether at the local watering hole or that upscale restaurant where you finally got a reservation, and you’ll likely notice a new section making its debut: non-alcoholic cocktails.  

Once written off as sugar bombs or poor imitations of their boozier counterparts, spirit-free beverages are anything but. In today’s landscape of sober-curious drinkers, crafting sans-alcohol options is more than just something for beverage directors to check off their list—it’s an opportunity to get creative. 

“From freedom of speech and self-expression to identity and beliefs, people are becoming more comfortable with being who they are,” says Chris Simmonds, owner of Ceremony Dry Bottle Shop in Norfolk. “​​The act of consuming non-alcoholic beverages is no different.” 

According to Jonmichael Tarleton, a bartender in 
Richmond, inclusivity is becoming a prevalent theme in modern dining overall. “Similarly to creating food menus that cater to all dietary needs, creating cocktail menus that do the same means you can serve a wider range of patrons,” he says.

And those patrons are expecting high-caliber non-alcoholic options. In other words, Shirley Temples are no longer the only kid on the block. For Masha Yelnikova, beverage director at Wren in Tysons, it’s a welcome challenge. “It’s our responsibility as bar directors to utilize creativity when composing mocktails,” she says. “It’s easy to fall back on a fruit punch recipe and call it a day. We need to keep pushing those boundaries.”

Plan an in-home happy hour and whip up a batch of these delicious favorites from experts Masha Yelnikova of Wren, Jonmichael Tarleton, and Chris Simmonds of Ceremony Dry Bottle Shop.

Winter Mule

From Jonmichael Tarleton

1 oz. fresh lemon juice

5 oz. honey

2 dashes cardamom bitters (non alcoholic)

2 dashes aromatic bitters (non alcoholic)

Ginger beer

Mint for garnish

Combine all ingredients well and pour over ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Stop And Smell The Berries

From Masha Yelnikova of Wren in Tysons

2 oz. Seedlip Grove 42

1 oz. honey or agave

¾ oz. freshly squeezed lime juice (optional)

4 muddled strawberries

1-2 mint leaves

Shake, strain, and enjoy over ice with a strawberry and mint sprig garnish.

Coffee Bean Old Fashioned

From Chris Simmonds, owner of Ceremony Dry Bottle Shop in Norfolk

2 ½ oz. The Spirit of Bourbon

¼ oz. maple syrup

2 dashes black walnut bitters

3 coffee beans

Orange peel

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass except orange peel. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over one single ice cube. Express the orange peel over the drink.

The Patio Crusher

From Masha Yelnikova of Wren in Tysons

2.5 oz. Seedlip Garden 108

4 oz. cucumber tonic 

1 oz. yuzu juice (if you can’t find yuzu, 
you can substitute grapefruit) 

1 fresh cucumber slice 

Combine all ingredients and pour over ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice.

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