What Are Mocktails? How to Make a Delicious Booze-Free Drink

Published September 26, 2022
Portrait of a woman with holding a paloma cocktail sitting on a bench

Enter into the world of cocktails for everyone: mocktails. Mock cocktails, or virgin cocktails, are a way to enjoy a drink that closely mimics the flavor and profile of a cocktail without any of the alcohol or boozy kick. Mocktails have come a long way from the classic Shirley Temple and kiddie cocktails, and now you can find shelves with bottles of nonalcoholic spirits. Learning how to shake up a classic mocktail or stir up a modern virgin mocktail is easier than picking something to stream tonight.

But, What Are Mocktails? Are They Virgin Drinks?

young woman enjoying fresh mocktail

Mock cocktails, mocktails, and virgin cocktails are all the same: a nonalcoholic mixed drink. You may even know them as kiddy cocktails, Quaker drinks, no-proof, or zero-proof cocktails. Whereas a traditional cocktail uses alcohol, virgin mocktails are alcohol-free. No wine, no beer, no liquor or liquors. With that in mind, you can use alcohol-free wine, beer, and liquors. Companies have come a long way in developing no-proof and zero-proof products that mimic products that typically contain alcohol. And they're far more than just a glass of juice with a pretty garnish.

Virgin mocktails can have fewer calories than typical cocktails, but some won't be much less. A virgin piña colada will have similar calories to a traditional piña colada, just one or two hundred calories less without the alcohol. However, you're skipping the sugars you'd usually find in alcohol. Mocktails are more than just blended drinks. You can make contemporary virgin drinks that taste like a traditional gin bramble or whip up a virgin classic cocktail such as a martini or old-fashioned -- all without alcoholic spirits.

And like their alcoholic version, mocktails are just as fitting and appropriate at parties, dinners, brunch, or even to order out at a bar. Although some may not carry nonalcoholic spirits, most bartenders are happy to whip you up something that skips the booze. With such a convincing look, you can easily pass your mocktail off as a traditional cocktail.

How Do You Make a Mocktail?

Young Adult Making Cocktails and having fun at Home

If you're wondering how to make a mocktail, you have plenty of delicious answers. To make a mocktail, put the cap back on the vodka and close your alcohol cabinet. With bubbles, juices, sodas, and alcohol-free drink mixes, you're not far from a virgin drink that'll change how you look at mock cocktails.

Like with conventional cocktails, you can still expect to muddle, shake, or blend a mocktail, or you can build a nonalcoholic highball or stir up a virgin drink -- all with the same drink-making methods.

Mocktails still use bar spoons, cocktail shakers, mixing glasses, and strainers. Just as the same routine follows for a decaf coffee, the virgin drink follows the same routine structure as its cocktail counterpart.

Nonalcoholic Spirits: A Modern Mocktail Ingredient

Today, liquor stores, grocery stores, and online shops carry a multitude of zero-proof liquors. You can find gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey alternatives for a no-proof Tom Collins, daiquiri, margarita, or old-fashioned to enjoy as part of an alcohol-free life, if you're taking a break from drinking, or you want to sip something highbrow between your cocktails. From silver to aged zero-proof tequila, London dry gin, silver and spiced rum, companies are finding new ways to channel all the flavors of booze without any alcohol content.

Not only can you find zero-proof liquors, but you can find alcohol-free orange liqueur, ginger liqueur, citrus aperitif (hello nonalcoholic Aperol flavors!), almond liqueur, coffee liqueur, sweet or dry vermouth, and even absinthe.

With all those ingredients alone, plus typically nonalcoholic mixers, very few cocktails are unavailable to be made into mocktails without modifications. The time is now for the mock cocktail renaissance. There's even nonalcoholic wine, sparkling wine, and beer, from lagers to IPAs to stouts.

Mock Cocktail Ingredients

green citric limes and a juicer to squeeze them

Of course, you may not have zero or no-proof liqueur on hand, but that doesn't mean you can't make up a virgin cocktail. Take a moment to take a quick stock of what nonalcoholic ingredients your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer hold. From citrus and tropical juices, such as orange, pineapple, lemon, lime, and grapefruit, to fizzier ingredients like plain and flavored club sodas, tonic water, sparkling apple or grape juices, and soda pops.

Tart juices, such as cranberry and cherry, make a tasty mocktail base. Coffee and teas make for excellent bases in warm mocktails. Don't forget lemonade, limeade, and iced tea. Practically anything you find in the beverage aisles at the grocery store can be added to your mocktail.

Simple syrups, plain or infused -- from cinnamon or basil to a spiced chili or apple simple syrup -- are valuable ingredients in mocktails. Even honey syrup and maple syrup easily add flavors to mocktails. Grenadine is another easy way to add a bit of sweetness and a pop of bright red color to your drinks. Don't overlook pear nectar or even purees you can shake into drinks. Most of the Bloody Mary mix you find on the market doesn't have alcohol, giving you a blank slate to craft the ideal virgin Bloody Mary.

There's a bigger world of nonalcoholic, zero-proof ingredients than you may realize. But once you see the options, the ingredients and ideas start to flow quickly. Last but not least, don't forget to garnish your mocktail. Virgin drinks deserve the garnish love just as much as cocktails.

Popular Mocktails

Are you looking for inspiration for nonalcoholic drinks to get you going, or want to rely on a few old classics? Consider these mocktails to get your gears going as you dip your toes into the virgin mocktail world, be it a sober lifestyle, or you want to explore the sober curious world.

  • Shirley Temple
  • Rob Roy
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Virgin Mojitos
  • Virgin Cosmo
  • Mocktail Mimosa
  • Mocktail Mule
  • Virgin Paloma
  • Club Soda Splash of Cranberry Juice and Pineapple Juice

When Do You Drink a Mocktail?

Citrus cocktail served in a trendy bar

Mock cocktails, unlike traditional cocktails, are fair game pretty much any time of the day. Maybe don't greet your boss with a virgin old-fashioned during your Monday morning meeting. Still, they're a great way to enjoy the flavors of a cocktail without the buzz afterward, decrease in productivity, or having to rearrange your afternoon schedule. No one wants to, or should, go to the gym after having a drink or two.

Indulge in a virgin mocktail whenever you'd typically find yourself making up a drink; Tuesday night as you're making dinner, Friday afternoon to celebrate the weekend, Sunday morning over brunch. Order a mocktail at a hotel or airport bar, during a wedding reception, or with your lunch during the week. Holiday parties, BBQs, or any social gathering are a great time to sip something without any spirit. No one wants a hangover, and it's a great way to have a memorable outing but still have an excellent drink in your hand.

Why Are Virgin Mocktail Drinks Popular?

Virgin mock cocktails are having a moment. Many people, including bartenders and those in the restaurant industry, are exploring a sober curious lifestyle. For some, this isn't a dive into a full teetotaler lifestyle but a conscientious decision to consume less alcohol or to drink with intention.

By their very nature, mock cocktails are accessible to everyone, regardless of age, current life journey, diet, or health. Virgin mocktails are even more accessible to the masses than regular cocktails.

Changing the Cocktail Game With Virgin Mocktails

A mocktail is a fun, and tasty, nonalcoholic drink option to keep the party going and the cocktail vibes strong, all without booze. More than just a little juice shaken up with ice, virgin mocktails put up a convincing argument to explore sober curious life -- or at least a great chance to explore how far the world of mocktails has come.

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What Are Mocktails? How to Make a Delicious Booze-Free Drink