How to Make Delicious Alcohol-Free Cocktails—Plus 4 Mocktail Recipes You Need to Try

Skip the booze and sip one of these delicious mocktails.

Don't feel like dealing with the unpleasant hangover that alcohol can cause? 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, the Atlanta-based brains behind the 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. In fact, according to data from Nielsen, non-alcoholic beverage sales have increased significantly.

O'Brien agrees. "I've been transitioning more into non-alcoholic drinks. I think it's only going to rise 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 killer mocktails that wow without the booze.

When it comes to whipping up a mocktail, the flavor is key. Crafting superior flavor can be achieved in myriad 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.

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 followed suit. 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 include the Swedish Gnista and Spiritless Kentucky 74, a barrel-aged drink inspired by bourbon.

Reach for a Shrub

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)."

Use 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.

Choose Your Glassware

The way you package an alcohol-free drink is almost as important as the 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.

Don't Fear 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. 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.

Make Interesting Syrups

"Be innovative with what you're bringing to your drink," 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.

O'Brien suggests going to your local farmers market and using what's in season. Even carrots can be turned into 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.

Try Verjus

One secret weapon for zero-proof drinks is verjus, a tangy juice that resembles wine. It's made by pressing unripe red or white grapes and is 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 tonic, ripe, grape feeling to it."

Master One Mocktail

If you want to make non-alcoholic drinks a part of your routine, become an expert at making one special 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? Give the following non-alcoholic drink recipes a try.

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Moscow Mule Slushie

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, mint leaves, and lime wedges as a garnish.

Get the recipe.

Pineapple Ginger Cooler
Escape to the islands with this alcohol-free twist on a classic tropical flavors. Packed with fresh pineapple juice, refreshing coconut water, and a tall shot of ginger beer, this cooling drink strikes a perfect balance between sweet and tangy. When selecting your ginger beer, trust us: the spicier, the better. Get the recipe: Pineapple Ginger Cooler. J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

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.

Get the recipe.

Cucumber and Lime Spritzer
Sip this light and refreshing drink on its own or add some gin for a happy hour twist. Get the recipe. Yunhee Kim

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 it up a notch and add a bold shrub or pour in a flavored simple syrup.

Get the recipe.

When making this recipe for Dirty Tonic, be sure to seek out a premium brand tonic water like Fever Tree.
J Muckle; Styling: Rebekah Peppler

Dirty Tonic

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, herbal, and free of artificial sweeteners.

Get the recipe.

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