The Blossom non-alcoholic cocktail is made with Seedlip's Grove 42 non-alcoholic spirit.
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of alcohol, whiskey specifically. So when the idea of writing about non-alcoholic beverages — or mocktails if you will — came across my desk I wanted nothing to do with it. How could I possibly relate? I imagine drinking a mocktail being a similar experience to eating vegan barbecue ribs. That is to say, not ideal. However it is hard not to acknowledge the fact the non-alcoholic "spirits" (yes, sarcasm) are having a moment of sorts.
Alcohol abstainers are no longer being forced to order Shirley Temples or just soda water. Now, thanks to a few pioneering bar programs and companies, verifiable booze-less cocktails are making their way into some of the best restaurants and bars across the South. Whether you're abstaining for health reasons or you just want a more complex beverage than water with your dinner, non-alcoholic (or NA) spirits and cocktails offer flavor profiles that are actually just as enjoyable to drink.
Drinking NA down South
In the South we have a bit of a love affair with alcohol. Whether it's our proud tradition of distilling whiskey or the new craft brewery movement taking place below the Mason-Dixon, we enjoy a good cocktail.
I initially assumed that it'd be challenging for me to understand the appeal of spending money on a nonalcoholic cocktail, however I've since changed my tune. A fair amount of alcohol-free beverages hitting the scene actually sound delicious — and something I'd order with no hesitation. So I decided to dive headfirst into my very first booze-free cocktail since I was legally old enough to drink and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The depth, complexity and thoughtfulness that went into crafting my drink made me feel like I hadn't sacrificed a thing — except potentially a dry mouth and raging headache the next morning.
And you can try them too. Across the South, some of our biggest cities are getting in on the fun.
New Orleans is the home of beloved boozy concoctions such as Hurricanes and Sazeracs, so when you think of the Big Easy you probably aren't considering which NA beverages you can grab at the bar — but maybe you should. Bar Tonique in the French Quarter is turning out some of the freshest NA cocktails in the city. Open to trying new things? Order the Angostura soda, which is made with house-made lemon syrup, lime juice, acid phosphate and charged water.
In Austin, visit Holy Roller, a spirited, funky and a irresistibly good time, just like its spirit-free cocktail menu. All of its offerings feature some sort of fresh juice or effervescent liquid. The Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am, a twist on a spicy paloma with a flair for the tropics, is in a league of its own. Completely worth another round.
Punch Bowl Social is an adult-themed arcade gone wild. When you walk in, the vibe screams PBR and college regrets — except it's totally not. In addition to some really delicious bar food, it's got one of the most robust NA beverage programs around with over 22 booze-less beverages from which to choose. My personal favorite is the Fancy Fizz made with house-made pear syrup, McClary Brother's Lemon and Ginger Shrub, aloe vera juice, sparkling water and fresh sage.
On the horizon
Companies are realizing that offering NA beverages is actually a lucrative business venture. One such endeavor is Seedlip, a UK-based company that markets itself as the world's first producer of distilled non-alcoholic spirits. Its mission? To answer the question: "What do you drink when you're not drinking?" For me, it's water, and Seedlip contains a fair amount of that as well as other botanicals, aromatics and herbs you would traditionally find in spirits such as gin.
While these products aren't widely available in the South just yet, it won't be long. (If you're interested in ordering a bottle of two and trying them out for yourself you can order bottles here.)Spice 94 is the company's inaugural spirit. It's named for the "complex blend of Jamaican allspice berry and cardamon" present. This spirit is heavy on the spice notes with a long and bitter finish, making it well suited for drinks that would normally use rum or bourbon.
In contrast, Garden 108 is a "floral blend of hand-picked peas and homegrown hay" from Seedlip founder Ben Branson's farm. This delicately fresh and subtly floral spirit has notes of rosemary, spearmint and thyme with a flavor profile more akin to a gin. Slightly herbaceous and zesty, Garden 108 would be a more than suitable substitute if you're abstaining from drinking but are missing your usual gin and tonic. Newest in the line up is Grove 42, which is described as "zesty and complex" with a "citrus-forward blend of three types of orange." This particular blend also contains hints of lemongrass, ginger and peppercorn. If you're just in the mood for a really bright sipper, you might reach for this bottle.
If you're looking for a way to incorporate some new cocktail recipes into your repertoire, these a try:
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces Seedlip Grove 42
3/4 ounce fresh blood orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Orange leaf, for garnish
Combine the Seedlip, orange juice, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Vigorously shake and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with the orange leaf. Serve. Espresso Martino
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces Seedlip Spice 94
2 ounces cold brew concentrate
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3 coffee beans, for garnishInstructions
Combine the Seedlip, cold brew and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Vigorously shake and double-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with the coffee beans. Serve.
Garden & Tonic
Makes 1 cocktail
4 ounces high-quality tonic water
1 1/2 ounces Seedlip Garden 108
Blanched fresh peas, for garnish
Combine the tonic and Seedlip in Collins glass filled with ice. Add peas to garnish and serve.
Photo (three different cocktails): Holy Roller Instagram
All other photos: Seedlip