The holidays are filled with social gatherings and parties -- with lots of food and drink to go around. It's not always a comfortable time for someone who chooses not to imbibe, but there's no reason they should be left out.
There are many reasons why someone may choose not to consume alcohol and still want to enjoy the party; these include social responsibility, health, age or simply not wanting to feel that loss of control that comes from "one too many." Maybe the office party invited the family (including youngsters), or maybe someone got stuck being the designated driver. Maybe she's pregnant, or perhaps alcohol won't mix well with someone's cold medication.
There's no reason to make anyone uncomfortable or feel spotlighted in a crowd.
Mocktails, short for "mock cocktails," are festive, nonalcoholic party drinks (sometimes called "virgin drinks"). Just about everyone has heard about the old favorite, the Shirley Temple. It's good enough for any age and still looks fancy. For a cheery Shirley Temple, just combine some bubbly lemon-lime soda and a teaspoon of grenadine; pour it over sparkling ice cubes, and add a bright red maraschino cherry or two. For another good virgin drink, just pour half-Sprite and half-dry ginger ale over ice, and garnish with a bright slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. One more simple-to-make mocktail is the Roy Rogers. It's very similar to the Shirley Temple, but it uses cola and grenadine over ice with maraschino cherries. Simple to make with just a little bit of fancy.
Often, juices and citrus fruits can take the place of hard alcohol to keep the taste and colors inviting. For a nonalcoholic mulled "wine" that will warm the innards on a cold winter night, use unsweetened grape juice instead of wine. Simmer about eight cups of grape juice with cinnamon sticks, orange rind, a couple of tablespoons of honey, a handful of cloves and a few bay leaves, uncovered, for about 15 minutes (don't let it boil). Refrigerate until cool. Strain the drink (liquid only) into a large container; add a small, thinly sliced orange and fresh bay leaves or thyme to taste, and serve over ice.
Part of the allure of an "adult drink" is presentation, and just because you've substituted the alcohol with soda or fruit juice doesn't mean you have to lose the appeal. Those tiny little paper umbrellas, plastic stirrers and fancy ice cubes can really dress up even the simplest beverage. Freezing pieces of fruit inside the ice cubes or using brightly colored fruit juices in layers are easy to do in your own freezer. Some stores sell molds for oversized or specially shaped cubes. You can also freeze carbonated water or sodas to add to drinks (just be sure not to fill your ice cube trays to the top, as the bubbles will cause the cubes to expand).
Another fancy trick to add to your repertoire is to rainbow-layer your nonalcoholic drinks. This may take a little bit of practice and patience, but the outcome is sure to raise eyebrows. The trick to keeping the colors separate is in the sugar content of each liquid. The higher the sugar level, the lower in the glass that level needs to go. Choose any trio of colored liquids, such as cherry, pineapple and orange juices or grenadine, passion fruit juice and club soda. Fill a tumbler-style glass with ice. Pour the first liquid into the glass, about one-third of the way up. Pour the second layer very slowly over the back of a chilled spoon another third of the way up. Finally, pour the last layer very slowly over that chilled spoon until near the top.
Any attractive drink, alcoholic or not, will have appeal when served in good glassware with ice and accessories to dress it up. If you are serving both alcohol and mocktails, let your guests know that both are available. Even a pitcher of cold cucumber and mint water can keep the glasses full and the guests happy.