Whether you're planning dinner for two, brunch for twenty or a holiday open house for a crowd, choosing the right beverages -- in the right glasses -- can make your event truly sparkle. Opting for nonalcoholic drinks offers festivity without the fog for everyone and a temptation-free party for anyone who prefers not to use alcohol.
We're not talking about a gallon of sherbet foaming in a sea of Hawaiian Punch, orange juice concentrate and ginger ale here. Chef and restaurateur August Mrozowski provides a sampling of interesting, unusual and delicious spirit-free drinks sure to delight whether mixed by the glass, pitcher or punch bowl.
*Sparkling and Fruit
Fill a tall wine glass half with ice. Add a few pieces of fresh fruit, such as bite-size peach chunks and a few blueberries. Top with sparkling water (such as San Pellegrino mineral water). Last, gently pour in 1.5 ounces of Monin blueberry syrup.
*Mint Lemon Shakeup
Squeeze half a lemon into a tall (16-ounce) shaker glass. To that, add the squeezed half lemon, one-half teaspoon of mint puree or mint pesto, 1 ounce of simple syrup and 3 ounces of sweet and sour mix. Fill to near the top with ice. Fill with water and shake. Pour into a glass tumbler or goblet and garnish with a small stem of fresh mint or a lemon wheel.
Build in a 12-ounce glass with ice: 3 ounces of pear juice, juice from one-half lemon, one teaspoon honey, one-half ounce of simple syrup, two thinly sliced pieces of fresh ginger, and a pinch of nutmeg. Top the glass with sparkling water or club soda and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary to finish.
*Hot Chocolate a la Augie
Pour hot chocolate into a mug until two-thirds full. Top with mini marshmallows and sprinkle crushed starlight mint candies over the top. Carefully use a butane torch to toast the marshmallows on top and melt the candies.
?Remember the "eye appeal" as Mrozowski says. Half of the fun of a specialty drink is in the fancy glass. So make your nonalcoholic beverage presentation as pretty, or cool, or elegant as the rest of your party. And don't be surprised to hear your guests exclaiming with a smile, "This is delicious!"
Award-winning chef and author Liz Scott has written extensively on entertaining with healthful choices, notably in her books "Sober Kitchen" and "Sober Celebrations: Lively Entertaining Without the Spirits." In this full-color cookbook, Scott creates entire theme meals paired with well-chosen nonalcoholic beverages that enhance the savory or sweet courses. Easy instructions and beautiful photos, effective substitutions, cautions about hidden and disguised trace alcohols and, of course, a wide variety of great recipes for delicious food and drink, make this book a friend to any entertainer.
For a Christmas dinner in the Heartland, Scott recommends hot spiced cider and a variety of iced teas to "freshen the palate just as wine would do" as a great counterpart to rich, cream-laden dishes. A holiday roast coffee goes great with dessert.
For a Hanukkah latkes party, Scott recommends a dry Concord grape fizz with the appetizer and main course, and a chamomile tea with honey sticks with dessert. About the fizz, Scott says "Dry red wine is often the drink of choice when latkes are on the menu. Its tannic puckering and piquant quality can cut through the heavy, oil-laden ingredients of many Hanukkah dishes. In offering an alcohol-free alternative, we need to consider these qualities, and dry Concord grape fizz, completely sober-safe, truly fits the bill."
To prepare the fizz for a party, combine two fully chilled 32-ounce bottles of unsweetened Concord grape juice with two chilled 2-liter bottles dry grape ginger ale. No ice needed, serve in wine glasses. If children are present, Scott adds, serve the more familiar sweet grape juice, which they will undoubtedly prefer.
For more from Liz Scott, look for "Sober Celebrations," ISBN 978-1-59624-028-5.