“I Am Serious, And Don’t Call Me Shirley!”: The Modern Mocktail
Updated: Jul 20
Walk up to any bartender, while keeping your distance, and ask them what the number one ‘mocktail’ is. I guarantee most will reply, “Shirley Temple,” then regale you in a story about how red their hands got during this one shift.
That simple, sugary mixture of cola and grenadine over ice is probably the most iconic mocktails. Aided by the Prohibition and the rise of soda shoppes, the Shirley Temple, along with other non-alcoholic alternatives established a consumer trend that is not only still evident today but is also reaching new heights and shaking up things up for the sober-minded guest.
Ask me 5-years ago what a mocktail was and I would reply, “Something we serve to underage guests, expectant mothers, and recovering addicts.” Whether it was 100-Shirley Temples for a Sweet-16, OJ+Sodas served in flutes for Baby Showers, or frozen Gold-Medalist smoothies at TGI Fridays the goal was always the same, "Inclusion"- to make sure someone who did not want to drink still feel like they were part of the “party!”
Times have not changed…much. A ‘mocktail’ is simply a mixed beverage that does not contain any alcohol and is usually a mixture of juices, sodas, syrups, purees, fruits, herbs, etc. Typically made alongside their alcohol-laden cousin- the cocktail- these ‘spiritfrees’ offer guests the experience of a tasty libation without inebriation.
Luckily the desire for over-sweetened mocktails is waning and the rising demand for wellness-focused alternatives has yielded several products focused on this changing trend. For instance, UK company SEEDLIP (coming August 2020) uses old-school distilling techniques to create the world’s first “distilled non-alcoholic spirits.” Available in three-expressions- Garden 108, Grove 42, and Spice 94- each offers a different aromatic/taste profile and can replace the alcoholic spirit in your favorite cocktail.
My inner-bartender is raising an eyebrow already, “Non-alcoholic spirits Steve? Really?” And to be completely honest I was a bit hesitant to jump down this rabbit hole. But then I added the Garden-108 to a classic Gimlet cocktail and was pleasantly surprised by how well it tasted. Sure, there wasn’t the slow-burn feeling of gin in my esophagus as I sipped, but I also didn’t feel cheated- I did not feel like I was missing anything. Still not a full-believer I used the Grove-42 in a Bee’s Knees cocktail, and once again I was proven wrong. It is truly amazing how well Seed Lip can capture so much essence and flavor without the presence of alcohol.
Another brand that’s been quickly rising through the ranks of non-alcohlic mixers is the CBD-infused sodas by Kaló. Available in four flavors, Kaló CBD Sodas are made from naturally occurring CBD, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These are great hard-seltzer alternatives because they have a balanced refreshing flavor and the CBD provides a mellow, relaxing state without loss of control. Alternatively, these sodas are great to add to your favorite cocktails.
The mocktail was an option that rarely made it on a menu. Now, mocktails can be seen on almost every list across the country. Albeit they are more complex and involved than their early predecessors the goal is still the same- to provide a sense of inclusion. So whether you are the designated driver for your friends, are expecting a child, or just don’t feel like drinking it’s nice to know that you are not alone out there. That like any great bartender will tell you, “There is something for everyone at this bar!” Cheers!
Steve Fette is the Manager of Artistry & Innovation at Allied Beverage Group of NJ