Take a break from the booze with these non-alcoholic cocktails and drink recipes.
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Don't get us wrong, there's nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional cocktail, but sometimes you just don't feel like drinking alcohol and dealing with the unpleasant hangover it can cause. On those occasions, knowing how to make an alcohol-free cocktail or mocktail can make all of the difference—because, let's face it, sometimes a glass of sparkling water just doesn't cut it.

Mercedes O'Brien is the queen of creative boozy concoctions, but even the Atlanta-based brains behind cocktail kit service Sippn at Home knows how important it is to make a killer alcohol-free cocktail. Dry January—aka Dryuary—became popular in 2013, and since then, there's been a growing interest in drinking less and the alcohol-free movement. In fact, according to data from Nielsen, non-alcoholic beverage sales have increased 33 percent to $331 million over the last year.

O'Brien agrees. "I've been transitioning more into non-alcoholic drinks. I think it's only going to rise more in popularity," she says. Whether you're hosting someone who doesn't drink or you don't want to drink, non-alcoholic cocktails don't have to be boring. Here, O'Brien shares several ways to make non-alcoholic drinks—aka mocktails—that wow without the booze.

How to Make Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

When it comes to whipping up a mocktail or a non-alcoholic cocktail, flavor is key. Crafting superior flavor can be achieved in a myriad of ways, including the use of a non-alcoholic spirit, grabbing a good garnish, and reaching for a tasty mix-in like a shrub or flavored syrup.

1 Try a non-alcoholic spirit

If you want to closely replicate an actual cocktail, reach for a non-alcoholic spirit. Seedlip was one of the first distilled non-alcoholic spirits, and many more have joined the booze-free party. O'Brien is a fan of Ronsin, a non-alcoholic take on rum with a smoky molasses flavor. "I've made a non-alcoholic dark and stormy (ginger beer and rum) that always goes really well," she says. Other zero-proof spirits to check out include the Swedish Gnista and Spiritless Kentucky 74, a barrel-aged drink inspired by bourbon.

2 Reach for a shrub to liven up your mocktail

Shrubs are vinegar-based fruit syrups that are a sharp combination of sweet and tangy. O'Brien likes to make her own in the fall with cranberries, but brands like 18.21 Bitters make a variety of interesting combinations, including blood orange and ginger. All you have to do to make a fun drink is mix the shrub of your choice with soda. "Serve it in a highball," O'Brien says. "You're going to want something tall with it because of the acid component, and you'll need a lengthener (like soda)."

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3 Upgrade a non-alcoholic beverage with a garnish

One of the things that people get wrong when mixing non-alcoholic drinks is disregarding the garnish. "Make it look like a cocktail as much as possible. Treating yourself to that visual experience is really nice," O'Brien says. Herbs and cherries are classics, but also try dehydrated citrus wheels and fruit skewered on glitzy cocktail picks.

4 Glassware matters

The way you package an alcohol-free drink is almost as important as the actual drink itself. "It makes you feel like you're not at the kids' table," O'Brien says. Treating these drinks the way you would a cocktail helps the drinker have a full experience. If you're making a faux margarita, for example, put in a margarita glass with a festive salt rim. Even Martinelli's sparkling apple cider tastes better in a Champagne flute.

5 Don't be afraid of a bitter mocktail

Want to avoid a sugar bomb? Think bitter. Q Mixers makes a refreshingly dry tonic water that can be enlivened with a syrup or juice. The brand's grapefruit tonic pairs excellently with Aecorn, a non-alcoholic spirit reminiscent of Aperol that will debut in the United States soon. O'Brien likes Sanbitter—a carbonated beverage with flavors similar to Campari—and Jack Rudy's tonic syrup, which you can add to the soda of your choice.

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6 Use interesting syrups

"You have to have a strong player, and being innovative with what you're bringing to your drink plays a huge part," O'Brien says. Making a fun syrup can help your alcohol-free drink shine, and it's something that you can use for alcoholic drinks, as well (if you're making both).

If you can, O'Brien suggests going to your local farmers market and using what's in season. Even carrots can be turned into a syrup. "I would just replace any water content in a syrup with the juice of whatever fruit or vegetable that you would want," O'Brien says. If you'd rather buy something, 18.21 makes syrups in interesting flavors like lemon basil and spiced honey.

7 Try verjus in a non-alcoholic drink

One secret weapon to keep on hand for zero-proof drinks is verjus. Verjus is a tangy juice that resembles wine and is made by pressing unripe red or white grapes. It's sometimes flavored with spices and herbs. "You could do a red verjus spritzer with cranberry and rosemary," O'Brien says. "I'll also use it as an acid substitute in my cocktails by swapping out lemon or lime to give the drink a tanic, ripe, grape feeling to it."

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8 Master the non-alcoholic margarita (or another drink of your choice)

If you want to make non-alcoholic drinks a part of your routine, you better master at least one mocktail. Believe it or not, it's relatively easy to make a zero-proof margarita that tastes just as good as the real deal. You can use a non-alcoholic spirit, like Ritual's Tequila Alternative, and combine it with some fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and a lime wedge. Serve it over ice and you're good to go!

Mocktail Drink Recipes

Need some non-alcoholic beverage inspiration? In addition to the tips above, give the following non-alcoholic drink recipes a try.

Grapefruit Spritz
Credit: J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

1 Grapefruit Spritz

This citrusy spritz is reminiscent of an Aperol spritz—minus the booze, of course. Drink one with brunch, or sip it instead of your usual happy hour go-to. And don't worry: if you don't have Angostura bitters on hand, any citrus bitter will make a fine substitute.

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Credit: Getty Images

2 Moscow Mule Slushie

get the recipe

This recipe uses vodka, but feel free to use an alcohol-free alternative or just leave the vodka out entirely. Even sans booze, this slushie delivers, thanks to a refreshing combination of ginger beer, fresh lime juice, and mint leaves and lime wedges as a garnish.

Pineapple Ginger Cooler
Credit: J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

3 Pineapple Ginger Cooler

This alcohol-free drink boasts traditional tiki flavors thanks to fresh pineapple juice, refreshing coconut water, and fiery ginger beer. The result is a sweet and tangy beverage that's perfect for a hot day.

Hibiscus Mocktini
Credit: Francesco Lagnese

4 Hibiscus Mocktini

Why drink a cocktail when you can sip on a mocktini instead? This non-alcoholic beverage features a vibrant hibiscus tea base mixed with ginger ale and fresh pineapple spears, which means you can basically sip it all year round.

Cucumber and Lime Spritzer
Credit: Yunhee Kim

5 Cucumber and Lime Spritzer

If you're a fan of that spa-approved cucumber water, you'll love this bubbly, more flavorful take. It's got a club soda base, fresh lime juice, and thin cucumber slices floating throughout. Take things a step further and add a bold shrub or pour in a flavored simple syrup.

RELATED: Healthy New Year's Resolutions to Try Besides Dry January

Dirty Tonic
Credit: J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

6 Dirty Tonic

get the recipe

Miss your martini? This brine-kissed cocktail mimics the bracing, icy edge of the classic cocktail without adding an ounce of vodka or gin. Since tonic water is one of the essential ingredients here, it pays to seek out a premium brand, such as Fever Tree. It's dry and herbal, and free of artificial sweeteners.