After an indulgent festive period, Dry January is a popular option for those of us who have imbibed perhaps a little too enthusiastically or who want to start the year as they mean to go on. Try these teetotal tipples for a delicious alternative to alcoholic cocktails.
The recipes in this article are from Helen McGinn’s Teetotal Tipples.
Cocktails are one of life’s perkiest perks but here, we’re talking cocktails without the essential ingredient: alcohol. In which case, they’d better be good. Because if we’re taking out the ingredient that gives a drink its kick, what’s left is at risk of tasting a little hollow. So, to get around that, all of the recipes here rely on ingredients with plenty of flavour and in some cases, colour. And some of them are savoury rather than sweet, which seems to trick the mind (mine, anyway) into thinking the drink is more grown-up and sophisticated. The idea is that these drinks will be something you’ll want to sip slowly both before and with food.
Most of them are simple enough to knock up in minutes but a few require a little more faff (anything with a blender counts as a faff, due to extra washing-up). As for measurements, most are given in parts rather than specific amounts so that you can tailor them to whatever format – small bottle or can – your mixer might come in. Basically, there’s a booze-less drink to fit your mood whether you just want to chuck a few things in a glass and be done with it or to put something together that deserves a polite round of applause, even if you are on your own.
Some of my most memorable (and I use that term fairly loosely here) evenings have been kick-started with a Moscow Mule. I absolutely love them, especially when served in the traditional copper mug that seems to have become the only acceptable vessel from which to sip this American creation. The combination of ginger beer, lime juice and vodka gives it such a whack of flavour. Happily, the double whammy of lime and ginger makes it one of the best cocktails to mock. It manages to cope without the vodka just fine, as long as everything else is kick-ass. Here’s a recipe for one, but you can always crank up the quantities and make a jug of it if everyone else wants one (which they will, once they see your cool copper mug).
Handful of ice cubes
200ml ginger beer (Fever-Tree single-serve bottles are 200ml)
Dash of sugar syrup
Juice of ½–1 fresh lime
Sprig of fresh mint
Fill your copper mug or tumbler with a handful of ice cubes. Pour over the ginger beer then add a dash of sugar syrup and the juice of half a lime or a whole one if you wish (I tend to use half and save the other half for another drink later in the week). Stick in a sprig of mint on the side and give it a stir with a straw.
The great thing about this being a No-Jito rather than a Mojito is we don’t have to argue about which is the best rum to use (although, for the record, Havana Club 3 is the answer).
Anyway, this cool Cuban refresher is so simple to make and tastes amazing with or without the rum. The key green ingredients – fresh mint and lime – lift the spirits enough. You could add a tablespoon of caster sugar in place of the syrup, but adding a dash of syrup is a doddle and you don’t need to dissolve it.
Although it’s a bit of a faff, take a minute to crush the ice for this one. Bung a couple of handfuls of ice cubes into a freezer bag or wrap them in a tea towel and whack it about ten times with a rolling pin. Trust me, this is as effective after a bad day as any stiff drink. And I suggest using a good-quality soda water here rather than normal sparkling water – it balances all the flavours better.
About 10 ice cubes
1 fresh lime
Handful of small fresh mint leaves
Dash of sugar syrup
150ml soda water (small tins of Schweppes are 150ml)
Put about ten ice cubes into a freezer bag or wrap in a tea towel and crush as described above. Transfer the crushed ice to a tall glass and add the juice of half a lime (about a tablespoon). Add a handful of small mint leaves, preferably the tops of about four sprigs that you’ve gently squashed in your hand to release the fl avour before popping them in. Add a generous dash of sugar syrup (about a teaspoonful suits me) and top with soda water. Stir with a spoon before adding a slice of lime from the half you have left over. Put on some Cuban music and the night is yours.
SIMPLE VIRGIN MARY
As cocktails go, a Bloody Mary is right up there, near the top of my Favourite Cocktails list. And happily for me, my husband makes a bloody good one. We’re talking properly spicy, with lots of seasoning and a generous slug of vodka. It’s the only cocktail I would ever contemplate drinking before midday (and I’m including Buck’s Fizz, a terrible waste of Champagne in my opinion). Not that I often drink cocktails before midday, but there are occasions when only a Bloody Mary will do. I’ve mentioned New Year’s Day already, but when your Sunday needs a pre-lunch kick-start and you’ve got a house full of people, put a jug of Bloody Mary on the table and suddenly everyone wants one.
The reason a Bloody Mary works as a non-alcoholic drink is that, for a start, it’s got plenty of fl avour. With tomato juice as the base, you can pep it up with a dash of this and a pinch of that. When going for the virgin version, I keep it simple but you could throw pretty much everything at it – cayenne pepper, mustard powder, horseradish. Talking of fresh horseradish, it’s not what I’d call a staple in my house but I’ve usually got about five jars of horseradish sauce in the cupboard at any one time. Two of them will be open, one of them past its sell-by date and the others are duplicates because it’s one of those things I always buy because I always think we’ve run out. Anyway, in the absence of freshly grated horseradish, my husband adds a dash of horseradish sauce to his mix but I prefer it without. As for the rest, chuck in whatever you can fi nd from the list below but don’t worry too much if you’re an ingredient down: improvise and try a touch of something else.
For the tomato juice, I love The Tomato Stall’s pure tomato juice made from Isle of Wight tomatoes (£2.50 for 500ml or £1.50 for 200ml, www.thetomatostall.co.uk). Then I can spice it up according to taste. A really quick fix is pre-spiced tomato juice, like Big Tom (widely available, £2.69 for 750ml). It’s made from concentrate but has a good, earthy taste with plenty of punchy spice to it. You could, if you’re feeling really keen, make your own tomato juice by blanching four fresh tomatoes in hot water, peeling and de-seeding them and then blitzing them in a blender, but given that I like mine spicy, and more importantly I’m too lazy to do it myself, fresh juice from a bottle or carton does the job. Spice it up or tone it down as you please.
Handful of ice cubes
200ml tomato juice
Black pepper to taste
Pinch of celery salt (or salt flakes)
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Few drops of Tabasco
Freshly grated horseradish or a scant ¼ tsp from a jar (optional)
Slice of fresh lemon and a celery stick (optional) to garnish
Take a tall glass and fill with ice, then pour over as much tomato juice as you like. Add a touch of black pepper, a pinch of celery salt (or salt flakes), a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a few drops of Tabasco to taste and the horseradish, if using. Stir it around with a long spoon – or the celery stick.
Alternatively, chuck all the ingredients in a blender (except the ice cubs – just add those in after) and give it a really quick blitz before pouring it into a glass. Add a slice of fresh lemon. The celery stick garnish is optional (I happen to think (a) instant canapé and (b) you can stir your Virgin Mary with it).