As a college student working at a restaurant in 2017, I was placed behind the bar one particularly busy evening. A pregnant lady inquired about any good mocktails I could make. I looked at her with a blank stare and replied, “Mocktails?”
Little did I know how mainstream mocktails would become in the years that followed. Now in 2024, more and more people (not just pregnant women) want good mocktail recipes. New research has illuminated the potential short and long-term health consequences of alcohol consumption that are perhaps more serious than we originally understood.
This, combined with the ever-increasing cost of living has many interested in re-thinking their alcohol consumption habits. Often there’s no better time for this sort of lifestyle shift or detox than the start of a new year, which is how “Dry January” came to fruition.
In this article, we’ll touch on the health benefits of Dry January and go through some basic mocktail crafting, ingredients, and some of the best mocktail recipes that I’ve pre-vetted so you don’t have to!
The holidays are over and it’s a brand new year. It is often a time when people around the world outline their plans and goals for the year ahead. For many, this may mean placing more emphasis on health and wellness.
Enter– Dry January. The first year of the month is a good time to re-think our consumption habits, which includes alcohol. Exploring the idea of a sober January is not all about weight loss, however. People, particularly younger generations, are more open to limiting their alcohol or even abstaining from drinking altogether for a variety of reasons including improving mental, physical, or even financial well-being.
Hence the increasing interest in non-alcoholic beverages and mocktails.
Dry(ish) January is another term that stems from this phenomenon. Sunnyside is a group behind this notion, which is a bit more lenient than a completely alcohol-free January but yet still encourages members to drink more mindfully, similar to intuitive eating.
Aside from New Year's resolutions, more and more people are “sober curious,” meaning they may be at a point of re-evaluating their drinking habits.
In this article, we’ll go through some popular mocktail recipes whether it be an alcohol-free version of a classic tipple or a more craft boozeless concoction.
You may hear mocktails referred to as low-ABV, alcohol-free, zero-proof, or simply a virgin cocktail.
A drink that is “low-ABV” means it has a lower alcohol by volume. In the US, drinks can be labeled as non-alcoholic if they have an ABV of 0.05% or less. Nonalcoholic drinks won’t make you intoxicated, but they aren’t suitable for children, pregnant women, or those with alcohol dependence or liver cirrhosis.
There are varied definitions of what constitutes “low alcohol,” but this European study suggests that low alcohol is considered an ABV between 0.05 and 1.2%.
For those who don’t fall into the above categories, a low-proof drink can be a great way to still participate in Dry January or build healthier habits. The point of the small addition of alcohol is primarily for taste.
Even though drinking alcohol is socially acceptable in most parts of the world, it comes with a few health consequences, especially when consumed over the recommended guidelines.
Most people are aware of alcohol’s negative effects on the liver. However, alcohol has varied effects on the body ranging from skin health to cancer risk. These risks are compounded with the introduction of binge drinking.
Heavy drinking increases blood pressure and can lead to blood vessel damage, which harms cardiovascular health.
In addition to other factors, alcoholic drinks contain extra calories and sugars that can contribute to weight gain.
Drinking alcohol is associated with dehydration, which is not good for maintaining plump and healthy-looking skin.
Heavy drinking has been tied to sexual dysfunction in men, so there is reason to believe that sex drive is impacted by consistent alcohol consumption.
Alcohol consumption has been tied to an increased risk for some cancers such as esophageal, colorectal, breast, liver, and cancers of the head and neck.
Perhaps the most obvious risk of consuming too much alcohol too frequently is developing alcohol dependence. Additionally, alcohol is a depressant, which comes with its own set of implications like increased risk for depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, alcohol kills some of those healthy microbes that keep us healthy. Gut health research is still emerging, but the gut-brain connection tells us a lot about the mechanisms behind how what we consume affects our health.
Sleep is one of the most underrated topics in health and wellness as it affects both physical and mental well-being.
Though alcohol is a depressant and can cause some to feel relaxed and drowsy, as a whole, alcohol harms sleep quality. When you’re either not getting enough total or not enough quality sleep, you’re inevitably not performing at your best.
Mocktails can serve as a tasty and exciting alternative to drinking alcoholic beverages. In addition to the health implications above, mocktails won’t intoxicate you. You can drive yourself home, you won’t feel poorly the next day, and you’re much less likely to say or do something out of character.
Plus, there is the social and inclusive aspect of mocktails in gatherings. When bars, restaurants, or hosts offer non-alcoholic drinks (other than water or soda), a gathering feels more inclusive for pregnant women, those in recovery, underage kids and adolescents, those simply focusing on their health, or people who don’t consume alcohol for any other reason.
I’m not here to demonize alcohol. For many people, drinking alcohol in moderation can be a part of a full and healthy life. However, I think it’s important that people are aware of the health implications and society as a whole could do a better job of normalizing not drinking it rather than drinking it.
While the taste of an alcohol-free spirit or drink is difficult to completely replicate, there are some ingredients every mocktail enthusiast may want to seek out. One way to think about it is plant-based meat versus meat. For the most part, you can tell they aren’t the same but one can serve as a pretty close replica to the other.
Presentation is key. Don’t skip this part, because that is what often adds to the novelty of an alcoholic drink at a bar. Use the nice glasses, funky ice cubes, rimming salt and sugar, etc.
Here, I’ve provided some ideas and recipes for creating non-alcoholic versions of a few classic cocktails.
You can use any kind of zero or low-proof gin you prefer here. Fever-tree tonic water is my favorite brand of tonic to pair with classic or alcohol-free gin, plus there are a few flavors to choose from. Add some fresh fruit and herbs for a crisp and refreshing alcohol-free G&T.
When I lived in England, I drank a good amount of cordial, which is something I don’t really notice here stateside. If you can find an elderflower cordial or a non-alcoholic version of St. Germain to add to your virgin G&T, I can recommend that flavor!
I do appreciate the sweet and tangy flavor of a margarita paired with Mexican food and I can’t be alone in this. In these cases, you can always omit the alcohol and still enjoy a themed drink alongside your meal. This recipe uses a jalapeno simple syrup for a spicy and sweet virgin margarita.
A mojito mocktail is one of the easier drinks to leave the alcohol out of. To make it feel even more authentic, use lots of crushed ice! This virgin mojito recipe uses a bunch of mint (obviously), lime juice, honey simple syrup, and sparkling water to reinvent this classic cocktail for everyone to enjoy.
Kids love this one because it’s basically a pineapple and coconut smoothie. That doesn’t mean it isn’t also popular with adults who would rather avoid a rum-induced hangover.
This recipe combines more than simply pineapple juice and cream of coconut to create a close replica of a traditional pina colada.
For those who are embracing a healthier lifestyle this year but still want to participate in drinking fun drinks, it is possible. You may want to lean more into spicy, smoky, or sour flavors to avoid excess sugar, but there is always room to play around with recipes and flavors to land on something that has a flavor and nutritional profile you’re happy with.
Earl grey tea mixed with fresh grapefruit juice, and honey makes for a sweet and complex beverage.
Matcha green tea has ancient beginnings in Japan and is now a trendy bright green drink sold in coffee shops and supermarkets. It has numerous health benefits and a unique earthy flavor.
A mojito with matcha green tea, mint, loads of crushed ice, agave (or maple syrup), and lime makes for a refreshingly healthy take on the classic mojito.
This drink could serve as an excellent nonalcoholic option for the holidays, especially when garnished with frozen cranberries and rosemary. As mentioned earlier, the fermented properties of kombucha make it a great gut health booster too.
To get the bright sangria color, this recipe utilizes hibiscus tea, which also has a few health benefits. Add in several slices or chunks of colorful fruit to boost the nutritional profile and taste.
Wintertime brings cozy nights and holiday celebrations for many, but not all of these occasions require a boozy drink to unwind or celebrate.
Amaretto is a delicious almond-infused liqueur that is excellent in hot chocolate. Ambari Nutrition’s blend contains 15 grams of protein and is low in sugar for a tasty and special nonalcoholic drink.
A Moscow mule in its cute copper mug is commonly associated with the holidays and wintertime. Mix together some ginger beer with lime in one of these snazzy mugs. Even add some tart cranberry juice if you please.
Here is a recipe for a nonalcoholic cold-weather punch with fruit juices and ginger ale that is just as tasty as the booze-infused version.
Everyone loves a Sunday brunch, but I can’t think of many things worse than a hangover on a Monday, so the drinks listed below are easy mocktails suitable for a boozeless brunch.
For the savory mocktail lovers, this vodka-free version checks all the boxes for what you want from a bloody mary. You can go as crazy as you want with the garnishes to make your drink resemble a full-blown meal.
This recipe utilizes beautiful blood orange juice, lime juice, and a nonalcoholic rose garnished with a sprig of fresh mint, rosemary, or thyme to lead you to not miss any alcoholic beverages at Sunday brunch.
This one actually doesn’t require too much creativity. The most straightforward way to create a booze-free mimosa is to combine fresh orange juice and sparkling water, ginger ale, or nonalcoholic sparkling wine. Some recipes call for sparkling citrus juices (like orange, lemon, or grapefruit) to balance the sweetness with tang.
If you’re limiting or stopping drinking alcohol this month, it’s important to embrace the fun of exploring mocktails during Dry January. If you keep experimenting with different recipes and flavors, it’s less tempting to slip into old patterns of opting for booze.
Hopefully, these mocktail tips and ideas help serve as a resource for healthier living. Whether it’s a part of a New Year’s resolution or a general lifestyle shift toward healthier habits, there are a myriad of benefits to swapping a few libations for non-alcoholic beverages this month and beyond.
Based on brief research, the virgin mojito and the virgin bloody mary seem to be two of the more popular mocktails.
Mocktails can be made with alcohol-free spirits or with similar ingredients to its cocktail counterpart just without the spirit added.
To give mocktails the bitter taste or burning sensation of alcohol will require ingredients like grapefruit or other fresh citrus juices and even chili and ginger for a kick.
Madison is a freelance health writer with a BS in Kinesiology from the University of Kentucky and an MSc in Nutrition from the University of Bristol. Her passion for holistic wellness and global cuisine drives her to create informative, health-oriented content.
Reviewed By: Dr. K. Huffman
Dr. Kevin D. Huffman, D.O., is a board-certified bariatric physician renowned for his expertise in treating obesity. With over 10,000 patients and a reputation as a national leader in bariatric medicine, he has trained hundreds of healthcare providers. Dr. Huffman develops protocols and training materials sought after by medical societies, pharmaceutical companies, patients, and hospitals.