The holidays are a time to eat, drink and be merry, but you don't always have to involve alcohol to make the holidays festive. "Mocktails" are on the rise -- and these delicious, alcohol-free concoctions are sure to please people of all ages.
"The best mocktails have a great mix of flavors that are nicely balanced and excite the taste buds. You shouldn't miss the alcohol," said Colleen Graham, a freelance beverage writer and author. "It doesn't have to be overly complex, either. Look at the Shirley Temple, one of the most popular, even before 'mocktail' was a thing -- it's just two sodas and grenadine, but it's refreshing and lively. For something like that, you can make it extra special for the holidays with homemade grenadine, using fresh pomegranate while it's in season."
Graham said it's great to feature seasonal ingredients like pomegranate, cranberry and apple cider when preparing alcohol-free drinks for the holidays. She said if you top them with seltzer and add a little lemon or lime, you could turn the drink into an instant seasonal spritzer.
"There are so many punch recipes that can be mixed up and stored in the fridge for quick entertaining that use those ingredients, too," Graham said. "Those are obvious, but playing with sage, figs, pears, and other unique seasonal flavors can really have fun results."
Graham said the cool thing about mocktails is that anyone can mix whatever's in the fridge and have the potential to create a great drink.
She said you could also take inspiration from cocktails, and find ways to recreate those flavors -- without the booze.
"A pumpkin martini, for instance: pumpkin spice syrup, half-and-half, and a dash of vanilla extract; shake it for dilution and ... voila," she suggested.
Graham said she also likes a pomegranate mojito, made with pomegranate juice, lemonade, lime, a light soda and fresh mint "because the mint really brightens up the darker seasonal fruit."
There's also a celebratory mocktail or dinner drink she calls the Baby Bellini, which is easily transformed from an original Bellini into a nonalcoholic delight using only peach nectar and sparkling cider.
For something warm and comforting, she suggests something called Sweet Adeline, which is made up of pomegranate juice, cinnamon syrup, black tea with a spiced orange blend and hot water, finished off with a cinnamon stick. Other toasty drinks can be assembled by warming up root beer and adding a mulled spice sachet, or ginger beer with pear nectar and a cinnamon stick.
And, of course, you can always turn to the holiday standard: eggnog -- if you have a taste for it.
"I prefer it with flavored syrup, toffee or ginger, for instance, because it adds a little extra flavor that's lost when you skip the booze," she said.
The maven of all things -- Martha Stewart -- has her own list of 12 nonalcoholic holiday drinks on her website, all assured to make you the hostest with the mostest. They include cranberry sparklers, made of blackberry puree, cranberry juice and sparkling water, topped with a sprig of mint; apple-pie cider, comprised of apple cider, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, light brown sugar, allspice and cloves; pink grapefruit margaritas, made with pomegranate syrup or grenadine, pink grapefruit juice, lime and colored sanding sugar; and peppermint hot chocolate, assembled with unsweetened cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate chips, milk, a pinch of salt and peppermint sticks.
Graham says there is interest growing worldwide in alcohol-free mixed drinks, as more people want to enjoy well-crafted drinks without the buzz.
"More bars are offering impressive mocktails, where not long ago your nonalcoholic drink options were soda and water," she said.
Also, she added, a lot of soda, sparkling water and other nonalcoholic beverage companies are promoting recipes with their products.
Graham said the best thing you can do when crafting a nonalcoholic drink is to experiment.
"Drinks are much easier to experiment with than food," she said. "Get creative, look for new ingredients when shopping and see where it takes you."