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Making cocktails that quench but don’t inebriate

non-alcoholic happy hour drinks

At least three elements of flavor in a drink makes me feel like I’m having a cocktail, even if no alcoholic beverage is in the glass. And cranberry juice is bitter enough that it feels like alcohol.  Why would I worry about making elaborate drinks without the punch?  Because this summer has been so hot that sitting outside for a happy hour requires a lot of drinking, and why not start with something refreshing, interesting and a trigger to relax along with a bowl of popcorn.

The pictured drink is a jigger of cranberry, a can of key lime LaCroix, a drop of tamarind concentrate, all poured over a big round ice cube and cold slice of lime. If it wasn’t so hot, I might have served this strained into a champagne flute — it reminds me of champagne & kir (Kir Royale), my favorite drink with popcorn.

Redder yet is this cranberry juice mocktail with just a scant ounce of fiery ginger beer added to 2 oz. of unsweetened cranberry juice, topped with a lime slice, cooled by a globe-like ice cube and filled to the tall rim with plain soda water.

The same folks who make the no-sugar-added cranberry juice make a pure beet juice and this same mocktail is delicious and more vegetale if we subbed in the beet. Beet has less bite than cranberry and will mellow out the more fiery of the ginger beers.

When we want a less red mocktail, we’ve been going with the mango pit juice I’ve collected by placing the pits of the fruits that I can never quite get clean in a jar of water. After a few hours, or days, the water becomes fruity, not too sweet, and a great addition to a glass of soda water. Three flavors, we find, really make these mixtures turn into tails, so add a slice of lime and a sprig of mint, or if the bitterness of cranberry is what you crave, add just a drizzle. Too much and the light fruit of the mango is overwhelmed.

How to Celebrate that the temperature dropped below 100°F

A cucumber tonic came to the front porch to announce happy hour. Peeled and seeded cucumbers were blitzed by our immersion blender with a bunch of mint leaves. Tonic and lime were added.  Not bad as it was but we’d just had a delivery from Argonaut Liquor Store and I wanted to try out a new find. To mine, I added a half jigger of Chareau, (a 25% alcohol/volume, which is about twice that of wine) a liqueur made in California from aloe vera and other plants.  Steuart added some gin to his, but we felt it over whelmed the Chareau. His final test, and favorite nixed the gin and substituted an ounce of clean and simple Breckenridge vodka.

Not completely non-alcoholic since I added the Chareau, but you could drink four before you had the quantity of a jigger of gin that goes into most Gin & Tonics. If you want full cocktail strength, we did prefer the taste with vodka instead of gin, in order to really respect the Chareau. However, cucumber gin and tonics have also graced this porch.

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