Smart Sipping: Holiday Mocktails

Scenario: you're at the umpteenth holiday party, serving as designated driver.  You're tired of drinking water (because, let's be honest, it gets boring), but don't want to defer to high-calorie juices and sodas.  Or, maybe you're expecting, and aren't far enough along to share the news, or just want something more interesting than ginger ale to sip on!  

Behold: the mocktail!  

I've been experimenting with mocktails on and off for years, dating back to my bartending days.  There always seemed to be a patron or two in need of a non-alcoholic beverage, and crafting one isn't always as simple as preparing a classic tipple minus the booze.  A mojito can be every bit as tasty without a hint of rum, a virgin margarita can stand on its own with the help of extra lime, and a Virgin Mary is a meal in and of itself – no vodka required.  But a daiquiri or mudslide?  The lack of alcohol results in a cloyingly sweet calorie bomb.

The trouble with most modern mocktails is that they call for simple syrup.  Sure, it's just a teaspoon or two, but why not lay off the refined sugar (and hassle) and lend a taste of honey instead? 

Here, fresh or frozen berries combine with fresh herbs for a fizzy, non-alcoholic libation that's big on flavor and low in sugar.  

Choose one cup of berries:


Muddle or lightly mash with 1 T. honey, then add your choice of:

Fresh rosemary (leaves of 2 8-inch pieces)
Freshly grated gingerroot (to taste)
Fresh basil (8 leaves, in chiffonade)
Fresh mint (8 leaves, in chiffonade)

To get the most flavor from rosemary, basil, and mint, gently rub between fingers before adding to fruit.  This will release aromatic oils and add to the sensory experience – 75% of what we taste is dependent on what we smell!

Stir to combine.  Divide fruit mixture between four rocks glasses.  Top with seltzer.  I prefer Polar brand because they have a great line of limited edition holiday flavors, like Strawberry Champagne, that just beg to serve as the base of a mocktail.  

Garnish with straws, and a bit of fresh rosemary, ginger root, basil, or mint.