Our Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drinks That Deliver Holiday Spirit

Skip the 'nog in favor of these bright zero-proof seasonal libations.

December 21, 2019
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This is the receipe for Thanksgiving Mocktail

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

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The holidays are synonymous with making spirits bright. So in running with that pun, it's important to note that spirit-free drinks can pack as much punch as their boozy counterparts.

As I started searching for non-alcoholic cocktail recipes on the Food Network Kitchen app, I realized that taking alcohol out of the equation helps put the focus on the flavor profile and balance in a way that doesn't necessarily happen if you're focused on, say, champagne cocktails or rum punch.

For a fun, festive holiday drink idea, watch Megan Mitchell's Pomegranate and Mint Cocktail on-demand class. It calls for vodka, but is equally refreshing and bright without that boozy component. In the previously live class, Megan recommends ginger beer or ginger ale, if you'd like to add a bit of festive flavor.

Many of the recipes had ingredient lists that read like a thoughtfully composed craft cocktail, in which homemade syrups in flavors like blood-orange-thyme (pictured) mingle with mixers like non-alcoholic ginger beer, juice or flavored seltzers. I could see making a double batch of the syrup and letting guests play bartender to mix and match with a variety of non-alcoholic mixers and fresh fruit garnishes. It got me thinking about how seasonal fruits like winter citrus, pears and apples could mingle with warming spices such as ginger and cinnamon to deliver drinks with plenty of pizzazz without the booze.

Pleasing your guests, no matter their tipple of choice, is Entertaining 101. But it’s especially important to include non-alcoholic options around the holidays, when emotions run high and memories can be a powerful trigger for those who are sober (or trying to limit their consumption). But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative. Stock your holiday bar with plenty of seltzers, syrups and garnishes, and take inspiration from these seasonal sippers that are as festive as they are tasty.

Giddy Up with Ginger

Ginger, with its warming, spicy flavor profile makes it a go-to for winter holiday entertaining. This Sparkling Ginger Cider hits all the right notes with a double dose of ginger: peeled-and-sliced fresh ginger infuses the apple cider base, while a ginger ale topper brings an effervescent burst of spice on the finish. Non-alcoholic ginger beer packs an intense ginger-y bite, making it a delicious option to sip as-is but also a prime candidate for combining with other ingredients. Try it in a Mock Mule, mixed with lime seltzer and garnished with a fresh lime wedge and candied ginger. Keep Tiffani Thiessen’s three-ingredient Ginger Simple Syrup recipe on-hand all season to stir into all manner of mixers, like cranberry juice, flavored seltzers, apple cider or tea.

Pucker Up

‘Tis the season for tart-and-tangy fruits such as winter citrus and cranberries. Homemade cranberry syrup gives this Cranberry-Lime Mocktail a seriously sweet-tart flavor foundation and a gorgeous ruby hue. Bonus: the cranberry and limeade mixture can be batched ahead of time and then served with ice, seltzer, lime wedges and whole cranberries come party-time. Another make-ahead winner is Melissa D’Arabian’s Non-Alcoholic Sangria, where cranberry-grape juice steps in for wine and mingles with orange and lemon juices, cinnamon and fresh oranges and apples, before being finished with seltzer. This Mock Grapefruit-Pom Paloma packs plenty of pucker thanks to a duo of grapefruit and pomegranate juices, plus the sprinkling of pomegranate seeds look so pretty suspended in a coupe glass.

How do you Like Them Apples?

This Mock Apple Cider Sour gets plenty of pizzazz from a duo of apple cider and cranberry-raspberry seltzer, but the flaming orange peel garnish really takes it over the top. Giada De Laurentiis calls on both apple juice concentrate and sparkling apple cider to bring a nuanced fruit flavor to her spirit-free apple martinis, then bolsters it with a homemade cinnamon syrup that also helps anchor the crushed gingersnap cookie rim.

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