We celebrate so many things with drinks - birthdays, weddings, work promotions, vacations, holidays, even the end of a long week! It does feel very celebratory to share drinks with people close to us, or even to quietly sip a drink while reading a good book or relaxing with our favourite Netflix binge.
There’s no reason to give that up because you don’t drink alcohol, or to always serve alcoholic drinks just… because. In fact, mocktails have been becoming more and more popular as a way to celebrate, relax and enjoy time alone or with loved ones. And today’s mocktails go far beyond the non-alcoholic punch and shirley temple’s of years ago (although sometimes a good shirley temple is exactly what you need). These days, you can find all kinds of recipes and ideas for refreshing drinks, hot or cold, with or without bubbles, fruity and not fruity, to make something really special for your next celebration, backyard BBQ, family get together or Friday after work.
Just keep waste in mind when you do!
Many mocktails are made using fruit, spices, herbs and other ingredients that can produce a lot of waste if we aren’t careful. Here are a few tips for preventing food waste when experimenting with mocktails:
Frozen fruit has the benefit of increased shelf life, which prevents waste, but also often tastes better than “fresh”. That’s because, unless your fruit is in season and locally sourced, it isn’t actually that fresh. It was harvested before ripening, then allowed to age (rather than actually ripen) during transport, storage and on shelves. Frozen fruit is harvested when ripe then immediately frozen, so it often has a better taste.
Frozen fruit also keeps your mocktails colder, longer. These days, you can find everything from pitted cherries to sliced lemons and limes in your freezer aisle.
If you’re trying a new drink recipe that calls for fresh rosemary, for example, you likely only need one sprig per drink but, of course, you can’t buy just one spring, you can only buy fresh herbs in bunches (unless you grow it yourself). Before you buy ingredients, make sure you have a backup plan in case you don’t like the drink, or you just have leftovers that need to be used.
If you can’t think of what to do with the fresh herbs, fruit, spices or other ingredients, a simple internet search of “recipes with ________” (insert ingredient name) will help you. Always plan for leftovers to prevent waste.
If a recipe calls for peeled cucumber, for example, simply leave the peel on to avoid that waste. On the other hand, if a recipe calls for a lot of fruit that will likely just end up at the bottom of a punch bowl and then get tossed out, maybe try a different recipe all together, or opt to put a few pieces of fruit in each glass before topping with liquid.
Getting into the habit of anticipating waste is one of the most important steps to preventing waste. As good as a new recipe may sound, if you can see in advance that it’s going to create a ton of waste, try another one.
It’s not just food we want to avoid wasting, but resources in general. The farther away our food is produced, the more fossil fuels that went into getting it into local stores. Opt for locally produced ingredients as often as possible to limit the amount of resources lost. During winter months, you can often still find locally grown food in the freezer aisle.
The cucumber slices in this mildly tart punch give it a freshness you really have to savour. Just make sure each glass gets at least one slice of cucumber as it’s the cucumber scent that really brings something special. It calls for a packet of sugar free lemonade powder, but you can use regular if you don’t like artificial sweeteners, or even replace about half the water in this recipe with fresh lemonade.
To make smaller quantities, use fresh lemonade and reduce all quantities. You can also use white grape juice instead of concentrate and simply reduce the water content.
For special occasions, this mock champagne is ridiculously simple to make and you can easily adjust measurements to make smaller or larger quantities. Using frozen berries instead of fresh not only reduces waste, but keeps drinks colder for longer. Great for baby showers! If you find it too sweet, you can swap some of the ginger ale for club soda.
There’s a little work to make the lavender syrup (unless you can find some in a specialty store) but it’s worth it if you want something really unique. The lightly floral scent combined with the lemon is meant to be savoured, and it’s worth planting a lovely lavender bush for yourself to get the lavender garnish. It turns a backyard BBQ into a decadent garden party, or a lazy brunch into a relaxingly fragrant celebration.
This syrup has “holidays” written all over it, but can really be enjoyed anytime of year. It uses shredded apple, so it’s great for using up bruised or overripe fruit. The syrup itself is meant to be mixed with sparkling water or tonic, but also mixes well with bourbon or whiskey, so you can offer it as either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink at parties and get togethers. That way, there’s something for everyone. Just keep in mind that the syrup needs to sit for a few days for the flavours to really come together, so this does require some pre-planning.
As a bonus, the tart flavour and fresh ginger are also pretty good at calming morning sickness.
This is a really festive mocktail that calls for rock candy swizzle sticks. Depending on where you live, you may need to look around a bit for these. You may even find them at a party supply store, or try making them yourself. Don’t skip out on those though as they make for a really pretty and unique drink that’s perfect for ringing in the new year, celebrating a big birthday, or even a cozy Valentine’s day at home.
The raspberry, mint and lime combination in this drink is so delightfully fresh and yummy, you’ll keep going back to this all summer long! For the fresh mint, you may even want to grow your own. Mint can be an incredible hardy plant that generally grows well indoors or outdoors and can even help repel pests. If you have leftover limes after making this, you can slice and freeze them for garnishes, or juice them and freeze the leftover juice to make this mocktail again and again.
What’s great about these mocktails is that many of them can also be mixed with alcohol, so if you’re hosting an event where some people will be drinking and others will not (or you don’t know everyone’s drinking preferences), you can offer both options, while giving your non-drinking guests something really special to enjoy.
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