The waves of #DryJanuary posts that crop up at this time of year highlight something those of us in the wine community probably should have noticed already: that while we are sluiced in a sybaritic splendor of wine options, we’ve been limiting non-drinking customers—or those of us who’ve out-aged our ability to process a third drink—to the mere choice of soda and diet soda. Therein lies an opportunity. Fresh juices, teas, herbs, spices, and vinegars, along with all of the appurtenances of cocktail culture that modern bars are stocked with, give us a chance to be creative, excite customers, and make a buck (or 12). New non-alcoholic products are coming to market, too, and while some are overpriced, neutered replacements for existing spirits, others are tasty and, in the right hands, can expand upon the range of what a good beverage manager can offer. With this in mind, we have asked some friends to contribute a few recipes for a new style of “soft" drink, to lend inspiration to, and expand upon, our booze-driven beverage programs.
– The GuildSomm Team
"I think [non-alcoholic options are] important in two directions: both hospitality and business. On the one hand, you want everyone who walks in the door to have the opportunity to drink something special, and having specialty non-alcoholic options makes them feel like their preferences are being given weight. On the business side of things, if Coke is $2 and soft cocktails are $8, that drives revenue—and ideally also makes people want to return."– Mia Van de Water, MS, Sommelier, Eleven Madison Park
2 ounces Pear-Lemon Tea (recipe follows)1 ounce verjus1/2 ounce chamomile honey (look for honey from chamomile flowers, or create an infusion)
Combine all ingredients in a glass and stir gently to combine.
For the Pear-Lemon Tea
100 grams dried pears, diced35 grams lemon zest, zested carefully to avoid white pith1 quart water
In a heat-proof container, combine the dried pears and lemon zest. Heat the water until almost boiling, then pour over the pears and zest. Cover and let stand overnight to steep. Strain. Store in the fridge.
"[This was] created to pair with the rich and savory notes of the Wagyu course."– Julia Momose, Creative Director & Partner, Kumiko
2 liters filtered water4 whole dried shiitake mushrooms10 grams hibiscus15 grams loose Thai Oolong tea10 grams loose Earl Grey tea120 grams pomegranate molasses
Fill a large pot with room-temperature water. Add the shiitake mushrooms and bring to a boil. Once boiling, skim particles from the surface. Turn down the heat and add the tea. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain thoroughly, then mix in the pomegranate molasses. Store in the fridge.
Serve the drink in 8-ounce pours. Pour tableside into a cherry wood-smoked red wine glass.
"We love to utilize ingredients from our garden [in our non-alcoholic drinks]. Our hope is that these botanical drinks pair with our seasonally driven menu and prove to our guests that we care about their experience just as much whether they’re imbibing alcohol or not."– Kara Flaherty, Sommelier, Vicia
3/4 ounce Hyssop Simple Syrup (recipe follows)1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice3 ounces brewed green teaIce
Combine all drink ingredients in an ice-filled glass and stir gently.
For the Hyssop Simple Syrup
1 1/2 cups of hyssop leaves and flowers2 cups of water2 cups of sugarPeel from 1 lemon
In a saucepan, combine all syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes. The flavors will become concentrated. Strain and cool. Store in the fridge.
"The first wine pairing at Elske goes along with the first three courses, which are more like snacks. One [is] our duck liver tart: liver paté on buckwheat crust and ramp gelée. The other snacks are usually fried or acidic. These beg for a dry sparkling wine. Having a sparkling non-alcoholic drink lets everyone join in on the celebration."– Marie Cheslik, Wine Director, Elske"I liked the idea of using the flavors of Champagne in the non-alcoholic pairing—literally adding yeast to white grape juice to get that bread, brioche thing you get from Champagne, plus the subtle spice complexity from the anise pods mimics notes we’ve tasted in sparkling wines. You get yeasty, rich, [and] a good hit of acid from the grape juice."– David Posey, Chef & Co-owner, Elske
700 grams white grape juice5 grams yeast3 star anise pods
Add all ingredients to an iSi charger and charge twice. Serve in a wine glass.
"Part of our success is the ability to incorporate the whole team into the creation. If the program falls squarely on the shoulders of the wine team, the bar team, or the kitchen, it can be a bit of a burden to keep the creativity and quality up. Different people take ownership of juicing, ordering for, and creating all our non-alcoholic options, and as such, we can really create an excellent program."– Jane Lopes, Wine Director, Attica
Water5 kilograms Granny Smith apples4 heaped barspoons of sodium ascorbate (or another form of vitamin C)
JuicerMuslinCold smokerWood chipsBlow torchHigh-lipped plastic tray
Fill half of a large container with water and 2 barspoons of sodium ascorbate. Quarter apples, placing the slices in the water to prevent browning. Juice apples, then add 2 barspoons of sodium ascorbate to the juice. Skim foam off the top, then strain through muslin.
Take the juice to the cold smoker and pour it into the tray. Cover the tray with plastic wrap. Poke a hole in the plastic wrap and insert the smoker hose. Light smoker with the blowtorch and cold smoke for approximately 20 minutes, depending on the strength of the smoker and wood chips. The smoker doesn't need to be on the whole time; it can be turned on and off as long as the plastic stays filled with smoke.
Bottle the juice and store in the fridge. Recipe yields about 1,500 milliliters.
To serve, settled juice can be strained off for a clarified version or shaken up for a more vibrant but cloudy color with solids.
"I love this drink because it's juicy and bitter and reminds me of Campari and grapefruit—without the buzz!"– Christopher Tanghe, MS, GuildSomm
1/2 ounce black currant vinegar2 ounces fresh grapefruit juiceIceSanbitterLime twist
Combine the vinegar and grapefruit juice in a cocktail shaker and lightly stir. Pour into an ice-filled glass. Top with Sanbitter and finish with a lime twist.
"Coffee is a non-alcoholic option, yes, but even the best cup of coffee won't actually impress someone choosing not to imbibe. Add some flair, however, and guests will take note."– Stacy Ladenburger, GuildSomm
20 milliliters Coconut Simple Syrup (recipe follows)100 milliliters Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic WaterIce100 milliliters iced Olympia Coffee, brewed Japanese-style1 dried sweetened lemon slice
For a 12-ounce drink, combine syrup and tonic in a glass, then top with a scoop of ice. Slowly pour in the iced coffee. Add the lemon slice on a skewer and serve.
For the Coconut Simple Syrup
5 liters water5 liters organic raw sugar50 grams coconut extract (not coconut flavor)
In a pan, combine the water and sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pull from the heat and add coconut extract. Stir vigorously to combine. Store in the fridge.
"Pearl is a daytime-only restaurant. We have a beer/wine license, so we’re not permitted to serve any hard alcohol. We offer plenty of interesting wines, but I took it as a personal challenge to offer delicious, diverse, and unique drinks without alcohol that you’d want to drink at 9 o’clock in the morning! Several are non-alcoholic takes on my favorite classic cocktails."– Annette Yang, Co-owner, Pearl
2 brandied cherries, such as Amarena3 dashes blood orange bitters1/2 ounce Clove Simple Syrup (recipe follows)1/2 cup cold brew coffeeIce
Muddle one brandied cherry in a short Collins glass. Add the bitters, simple syrup, and coffee; add ice to top. Stir with a mixing spoon. Don’t strain, as the muddled cherry bits add to the drink. Garnish with another brandied cherry on a skewer.
For the Clove Simple Syrup
10 whole cloves1 cup sugar1 cup hot water
Wrap the cloves in cheesecloth. In a small container, combine the sugar, water, and clove sachet. Stir until sugar is fully dissolved and leave the clove sachet in to steep. Allow to cool. Store in the fridge.
"I came across this energizing, spicy drink on a hot summer day. Fresh ginger syrup really elevates the recipe, and the addition of basil makes it a refreshing and distinctly adult non-alcoholic option."– Jennifer Angelosante, GuildSomm
1 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice1 1/2 ounce Ginger Simple Syrup (recipe follows, or use a commercially available option)8 to 10 basil leavesIceSoda water
Muddle juice with syrup and basil leaves in a cocktail strainer. Fill a glass with ice and pour in the drink, straining out the basil. Top with soda water.
For the Ginger Simple Syrup (Recipe by Stacy Ladenburger)
1 cup (about 5 ounces) roughly chopped fresh ginger1 cup sugar1 cup water
In a small saucepan, combine all syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Store in the fridge.
It's always good to have a simple recipe that you can make without a trip to the store. This can also be a jumping off point for endless variations. If you use some common sense with the purée and added ingredients, it's a very forgiving basis for your own taste and the fruit on hand. Mint, lemon verbena, or even rosemary make good garnishes.
1 tablespoon Fruit Purée (recipe follows)1 tablespoon sugar2 dashes bittersJuice from 1/2 lemon, or to tasteIceSoda water
Combine the Fruit Purée, sugar, bitters, and lemon juice in an ice-filled glass. Stir gently to combine. Top with soda water.
For the Fruit Purée
1 cup fresh fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, or strawberriesSugarFresh lemon juice, optionalWater, optional
In a food processor or blender, combine the fruit and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar. Blend to a purée, then taste and adjust as needed with lemon juice, water, or more sugar. If bits of fruit remain or you want a smoother purée, strain. Store in the fridge.
Recipes have been edited lightly for clarity and consistency.
Diggin' it, Geoff - good intel. Thanks to all who posted some groovy recipes.