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Bartending Techniques for non-alcohol drinks


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I know this forum is for spirits and cocktails, so I hope this topic won't be amiss.

I don't drink alcohol. Believe me, the world is a better place because I don't drink. Not just for me but for anyone who comes in contact with me. You're just gonna have to trust me on that.

Lately, I have been looking at techniques bartenders use to improve the taste of my drinks. I have seen a couple of topics where non-alcohol drinks have been discussed. What I'm looking for now are ideas to make my drinks taste better without adding any form of liquor.

For example, today I bought myself a cocktail shaker. I pounded a few ice cubes with my handy (clean!) meat mallet. Then I squeezed a half lemon into the shaker, poured in some simple syrup and shook vigorously for a bit. Strained that into a martini glass and twisted a bit of lemon zest over it. It's the best lemonade I've ever made.

What are some other ideas for improving my drinks?

Thanks,

Ellen

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I was always quite fond of pineapple juice, tonic, and bitters from the open bars at the Bar Mitzvahs I attended as a kid.

However, for best results, I'd go for some of the infused syrup recipes you can find on this forum. Most of 'em do call for a few percent alcohol to prevent spoiling, but not an awful lot.

You could probably do a pretty good mock-Cosmopolitan with a good orange syrup, though I'm at something of a loss as to how that might be produced.

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I can get bitters. That LLB sounds good. Thank you Shalmanese! And I already have pineapple juice so that's two new drinks. Thanks jrshaul. I will have to look at some of the infused syrups. I may have to experiment on an orange syrup.

Any more?

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You might consider taking a look at the 2011 Food & Wine cocktail guide: the "mocktails" chapter has some remarkably interesting ideas, though I haven't had a reason to try them out yet. The Black Tea Sour, for example, which uses tea in a straight-up sour recipe.

Also, muddle! Mint leaves, citrus, cucumber... I bet the Juliet and Romeo would be pretty good even without the gin.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I can get bitters. That LLB sounds good. Thank you Shalmanese! And I already have pineapple juice so that's two new drinks. Thanks jrshaul. I will have to look at some of the infused syrups. I may have to experiment on an orange syrup.

Any more?

Just making sure you realize that most traditional bitters are alcoholic (e.g. Angostura). They are strong enough flavored that you wouldn't use enough to render the final drink what I would consider significantly alcoholic but if you are avoiding alcohol completely, I would not use them. I've never seen the one linked above but it looks more like a non-alcoholic wine cooler than a real bitters.

Some people try to avoid even a drop while others aren't quite so picky. I just wanted you to have all the info.

Edit: added qualifying language

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Syrups are an excellent idea. I didn't drink for a really long time and what frustrated me about non alcoholic drinks was that they were always sweet. I much prefer a not so sweet drink. There is no reason that non alcoholic drinks cant be complex as the boozy ones. I mean....alcohol is tasty stuff, but so is the whole entire spectrum of fruits and vegetables and spices and such that exist.

I bet elder flower syrup would be awesome.

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Yajna Patni, thank you. That's how I feel about it. I don't want "kiddie" drinks and I want to learn to make drinks that taste good.

I am starting some syrups. Thanks for the ideas. Where do I find Elder Flower?

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I would just say that overall, it's important to strive for balance, and without the alcoholic components, it's easy for non-alcoholic drinks to become too sweet and cloying quickly. I would suggest to seek out flavors with some bitterness, astringency, or spicy, aromatic, smokey, or savory components (grapefruit / pomelo, tea and tisanes, tomato juice, peppercorns, lavender, infusions of herbs, etc.) to balance things out. Ginger or galangal juice has a nice kick, and I think works well with lemon or lime. If caffeine is Ok, I've seen people do things with flavored or smoked teas; a medium-smokey lapsang souchang could provide a little bit of a smoky taste.

Keep in mind that in the amounts they're usually used in, bitters shouldn't be an issue unless you must completely avoid alcohol (for religious or other reasons) - while bitters are highly concentrated in terms of alcohol content, usually only a few drops are used.

Ice, garnishes, etc. are all extra important with a non-alcoholic drink.

Despite the awful titles, you might get some inspiration or ideas from books like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Preggatinis-Mom-Natalie-Bovis-Nelsen/dp/1599214547

Edited by Will (log)
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I appreciate this topic being brought up as we also do not drink alcohol. Way too many drinks that are offered are much too sweet or fall back on being a glass of tomato juice or are so heavy that they feel like a meal. I end up drinking a lot of unsweetened iced tea. Since we are on day 25 of it being over 100 degree, I need to break out my beverage books and see what I can come up with.

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At my bar I see a lot of groups coming in with a member or two who don't drink alcohol. At most cocktail bars this can present an issue. My bar along with some others tries to avoid the issue.

Fresh fruit an veg is of course a massive source of flavour, get yourself a decent juicer and go nuts. Cucumber juice, mint, lime, elderflower & soda? great for summer.

Homemade syrups are great and pretty simple to make. Firstly just make a basic sugar syrup. I like to use 1:1 sugar and water. To flavour this use anything you like. Say for the aforementioned orange syrup, take 700ml (standard liquor bottle size) of the syrup add the peel of 5 decent sized navel oranges (with as little of the with pith as possible) and keep that covered on a low heat for an hour checking for evaporation occasionally. Strain it into a sterile bottle with a good lid and it will keep in the fridge for ages.

If you don't want to bother with making your on syrups, most localities have producers with a small range, as your local bartender. If the range doesn't satisfy you a safe bet is to get your hands on some Monin syrups. These guys ship pretty much all over the world and have a great reputation for quality.

On another note, pop down to any foreign grocery store and see what sparks your interest, good middle eastern groceries will stock floral waters which are always a hit along with some other cool stuff and the last time I went impulse shopping at a Taiwanese grocery near my bar I picked up a bottle of mulberry vinegar for a fiver. That stuff is awesome in drinks, alcoholic one or not.

Hope this helps. Cheers.

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Agreed on the syrups idea as mentioned above. I've gotten very tasty results from making Thai Basil syrup and Purple Shiso syrup... easy to do, very interesting flavors, not something you're likely to find commercially.

Actually, the Purple Shiso is as much a shrub as a syrup... it's a really neat effect... when you've muddled the hell out of the shiso leaves, and infuse that into hot simple syrup, the result is an ugly greenish brown... until you add enough acid back in, then it flips like a switch to magenta. I've been using cider vinegar as the acid, hence the shrubby-ness.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I think you are aiming at adult non-alcoholic drinks. Some people can tolerate the minute amount of alcohol that would be in the a few dashes of bitters, even high proof bitters. This would greatly extend your flavor options and quality over Fee.

Some pretty grown-up tastes:

Bittermens Grapefruit / Hop bitters

Bittermens Mole bitters

Scrappy's Celery bitters (but you had better like celery, and they are very potent)

Angostura (great with lemon and soda)

I would also explore tonic water with some acid to reduce the sweetness. Light, refreshing, and bitter enough to be interesting to the adult palate.

And I might experiment with some muddled herbs and bitter vegetables, such as radicchio.

Cucumber has a great flavor and muddles well.

Kindred Cocktails | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

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