Refreshing virgin drinks—no hangover required.
Years ago, I got hooked on an aperitif of San Pelligrino mixed with pinot noir juice from Navarro Vineyards. It was a sophisticated spritzer—like a cranberry and soda but with panache.
Then mixologists burst onto the scene and made my two-ingredient alcohol-free beverage look about as exciting as instant iced tea.
Enter today’s “mocktails”—zero-proof cocktails—as elaborate as lobster bouillabaisse. I had two outrageously good mocktails recently at Oakland restaurants: a tart nimbu pani (Indian lemonade), from Juhu Beach Club, and a flowery ibisco spritz from Lungomare.
But what first hooked my interest was the pomizzle, a fall refresher from the Walnut Creek Yacht Club. Chef-owner Kevin Weinberg began offering signature mocktails after an expecting mom at the restaurant requested a virgin libation.
Duly inspired, the Yacht Club tapped into its bounty of just-squeezed juices and ready-to-go syrups for its popular cocktail menu. House-made mulled syrup spiked with cinnamon and allspice, zingy “Zen ginger syrup,” and cranberry-jalapeño shrub became the inspiration for clever mocktails such as the pomizzle and mojo rising.
“These aren’t just fruit punch drinks,” says Weinberg. (See recipe below.)
Lungomare currently serves the summery berry phosphate, a tangy berry blend with a hint of tarragon.
And at Juhu Beach Club, chef-owner Preeti Mistry’s nimbu pani reigns supreme. It’s a house-made lemonade flavored with toasted cumin, black salt (an acquired taste for many), and cilantro.
Now, if you must have iced tea, Mistry will fix you her version of an Arnold Palmer—half nimbu pani, half Darjeeling.
Ingredients: 1/4 cup pomegranate juice —2 tablespoons orange juice —3 tablespoons lime juice —1/3 cup mulled syrup (recipe below)
—Bitters, preferably non-alcoholic. Directions: Shake all ingredients except bitters with ice, and strain into two glasses (preferably metal) filled with crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs. For mulled syrup: 1 Granny Smith apple —1 cinnamon stick —1 orange peel —6 allspice berries
—2 pieces star anise —6 cloves —8 black peppercorns —2 cups sugar —2 cups water. Directions: Bring all ingredients to a boil, simmer 5 minutes, and let cool in pot. Note: You can also use this base for hot cider.
2 quarts lemon juice
1 quart simple syrup (recipe below)
1 quart cold water
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon black salt (optional; available in Indian grocery stores)
Cilantro water (recipe below)
Lightly toast cumin on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Once cool, grind cumin in spice grinder until fine. Whisk together lemon juice, simple syrup, water, ground cumin, and black salt. Adjust sweetness/tartness to your taste. To serve, pour lemonade over ice and drizzle cilantro water on top. Recipe makes 1 gallon.
For Cilantro Water
Place 1/2 cup cilantro stems in blender (preferably a Vita-Prep) and add 1/4 cup of water. Turn on high and puree the cilantro. While blender is on, slowly pour in another cup of water.
For Simple Syrup
Combine 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool.
5 cups of water
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
2 teaspoons dried lemon peel
1 1/4 teaspoons dried chili
1 ounce dried cranberries
Zest of 6 lemons
2 1/2 ounces dried hibiscus
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice to dissolve sugar. Let cool, strain, and store in refrigerator. For each beverage, pour 1 part syrup and 2 parts soda water over ice. Recipe makes 2 quarts of syrup
You can purchase citric acid, dried hibiscus, and dried lemon peel online or at specialty grocers such as Whole Foods or Berkeley Bowl. Most Mexican grocers carry a good and reasonably priced selection of dried herbs.
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons cranberry-jalapeno shrub (recipe below)
2 tablespoons Zen ginger syrup (recipe below)
1 Egg White
Shake with ice and strain into two glasses (preferably coupe glasses). Garnish with lemon.
For Zen Ginger Syrup
1/2 pound ginger, peeled and grated
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
Bring all ingredients to a boil, simmer 10 minutes and let cool in pot. Strain and store in refrigerator. Keep up to 1 month.
For Cranberry Jalapeno Shrub
1 pound dried cranberries
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 jalapenos (seeds and white removed, if you don't want it too spicy)
Bring all ingredients to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Blend just for a few seconds in blender. Put in clean jar or container. Keep up to 1 month.