What are some non-alcoholic martini ritual substitutes?
August 9, 2010 7:52 AM   Subscribe

What are some good non-alcoholic substitutes for my evening martini?

I love my evening ritual of making and drinking a martini. While a tasty martini is obviously great, the other big part of it is the ritual aspect - getting out the glass, filling the shaker with ice, measuring the gin and vermouth, shaking, pouring, washing the shaker... It takes me longer than necessary to make my martini, and that's on purpose; by the time I'm done I know my day is over and I can be in evening mode before I even taste the drink. But I need a non-alcoholic drink I can prepare with a similar degree of ritual - it doesn't need to taste like a martini, but something I can make in my cocktail shaker and serve up is preferred (though that's not critical if there are some other prep steps I can substitute). I'm basically looking for a new ritual beverage without the booze.

I'm not a big fan of grapefruit juice or ginger, though I can imagine enjoying a drink in which they feature, as long as it's not designed to showcase their flavors. Otherwise things are pretty wide open.

Gin has been a good friend and companion for years, but it's not my ally in the weight-loss effort... low-calorie options would be a bonus, but non-alcoholic is the key factor.
posted by nickmark to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
You can make iced tea in a similar way - and as a bonus, there are plenty of herbal and fruit teas that would change up the flavour from day to day. E.g. raspberry, orange, lemon, etc.

Essentially you make hot tea extra-strong (i.e. double the tea or half the hot water) and add it to your shaker with ice. The hot water melts the ice and dilutes the tea and there should be a few ice cubes left to keep the drink cool.

You can also add sugar, agave nectar or lemon juice for flavour.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:58 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had a similar affair with the end-of-the-day martini years ago and found a happy substitute making a really perfect cup of tea. With lovely cups, artisanal loose leaf (and all of it's subtle herb-y/flower-y/organic flavors, similar to gin), boiling tea kettle, and pretty strainers, it has that same winding down feel and reward. Plus, like a martini, you can garnish according to taste--a curl of lemon rind, sugar lump, milk, etc. Like cocktails, you can visit speciality stores for new blends and equipment or go to tastings. Additionally, we're coming up on cool weather and so this might be a nice time to switch into tea brewing.
posted by rumposinc at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm thirding the tea, either iced or hot. It worked for me as substitute for the drink or two I'd have while making dinner. If you're worried about caffeine, try a nice loose white tea, which is much lower in caffeine than black teas.
posted by mollweide at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2010

My favorite 'mocktail' is pomegranate juice with pellegrino sparkling water - expensive so it's an indulgent treat, not too sweet, and it's tasty to add lime juice and that sort of thing. Not sure about shaking it in a shaker though...
posted by ghostbikes at 8:13 AM on August 9, 2010

Chocolate milk is so much more awesome and delicious shaken than stirred.
Even more so if you put a little dollop of ice cream in there, too.

Also, check out thekitchn.com for their various tricked out lemonade recipes. Link to google search here.
posted by phunniemee at 8:16 AM on August 9, 2010

Maybe limeade? You can make sugar syrup ahead of time 7 then squeeze the limes & shake, even adding a wedge or twist for garnish. I suppose you could add other fruits (berries? oranges?) as well to change it up.
posted by pointystick at 8:17 AM on August 9, 2010

I find that coffee and loose leaf tea, if made properly -- water at right temp, proper steeping, etc. -- makes a very calming ritual. The right mix between attention and non-attention.

Yerba Mate, both the prepping and the drinking, is one big hugely popular ritual (at least in Latin America.)

You might also consider looking into making cordials which are, despite some confusing uses of the word, non-alcoholic mixed drinks. You can buy them of course, but I think making them yourself provides the routine you are looking for. I find myself saving citrus peels and cast off fruit juice, mixing them with different bitters and soda. I mostly experiment, but there are recipes too. This thread on flavored ice water might give some ideas for flavoring.

More power to you! Report back what you find. I'm interested in such things myself!
posted by cross_impact at 8:35 AM on August 9, 2010

Vietnamese iced coffee could provide you with some of the ritualistic elements that you seek, and it's super tasty to boot. Downside: it probably has more calories than a martini, and is loaded with caffeine.
posted by slogger at 8:41 AM on August 9, 2010

Any time I mix tonic water with some sort of juice I inevitably have to remind myself I'm not drinking alcohol and therefore should stop dancing on the table.
posted by thorny at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2010

You sound like you may be much more of a cocktail pro than me, and therefore there's probably some reason of ancient cocktail tradition why a Virgin Mary would be wrong at this time of day... but it's what I'd do. Celery, worcestershire sauce, tabasco, celery salt, lemon juice, etc etc.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:55 AM on August 9, 2010

Oh I just thought of another great end-of-day treat. Tea latte! It's a good way to get a milk serving and it tastes lovely. The best way I know if is chocolate/mint flavoured black tea, milk and fine chocolate shavings on top. Mmmm.

You could also play with extracts (vanilla, coconut) to get flavoured tea or decaf coffee lattes.
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:55 AM on August 9, 2010

Here is Hungry Girl's happy hour survival guide with links to some of her low-cal cocktail recipes and suggestions for stocking a low-cal home bar. She also has an entire book called Hungry Girl Happy Hour with lots of recipes. She does tend more toward the "girly drinks" than the classic cocktails, but maybe it can spark some ideas for making your own creations.
posted by scarnato at 9:55 AM on August 9, 2010

Best answer: Get this tonic water. It is very, very good. Make your own bitters. Experiment with a little bit of your home-made bitters, the very excellent tonic water, and a lime.

I do this very thing on days when I want my aperitif without the booze. I love it.
posted by everichon at 11:19 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seltzer Water in different flavors. Polar makes vanilla, black cherry, pomegranate, raspberry lime, orange, lemon and others, no calories, no sodium, no fake sugar. Add a slice of lemon.

Very Refreshing.
posted by AuntieRuth at 11:33 AM on August 9, 2010

Response by poster: Everichon, the tonic water you recommend turns out to be available at my local liquor store, and the recipe they offer for a mariposa kiss seems like exactly the kind of thing I'm looking to do. It hadn't occurred to me to use tea - I was thinking mostly fruit juices and such - so thanks to the folks who suggested that; there's a little tea store right by work that should be able to offer recommendations...
posted by nickmark at 12:15 PM on August 9, 2010

Why not switch over to vodka martinis- vodka has less calories.
posted by TheBones at 2:39 PM on August 9, 2010

Q tonic is great because it's fairly low in calories - about 24 calories for a single-serving bottle. Be careful with regular tonic - it can hide 125+ calories in a can.
posted by barnone at 4:50 PM on August 9, 2010

Response by poster: Following up: Q tonic is really nice stuff. I'm not sure I'd drink it by itself, but I also picked up a couple bottles of bitters (Fee Bros. orange and peach), and with a few dashes of bitters, it's excellent.

But the Mariposa Kiss fits the bill exactly - it's quite tasty, non-alcoholic, and allows for a nice cocktail-mixing ritual. As a bonus, it's pretty low in calories, which is nice because I've found myself drinking it quickly and wishing for another.

I might continue to keep my eyes open for other options (including tea-based mocktails, which I think are worth exploring further), but I think the niche has been filled handily! Thanks!

I have enough other hobbies that if I started making my own bitters my wife would
probably kill me - but the world of commercially-available bitters is one I haven't really explored... yet.

posted by nickmark at 11:20 AM on August 13, 2010

One more thing: you didn't specifically ask about shots, and this might be weird, but I got into the habit of consuming a shot of apple cider vinegar when I wanted a shot of tequila but had had too much to drink. You have to chase it with a lot of water, but it really kills the alcohol craving, if you're having them. So much mouth-puckering fire! A shot of really good lemon juice/lime juice with a splash of apple cider vinegar might work, too, if you wanted to get fancier. Or a little wheatgrass, or aloe vera juice, or even a mixed cocktail of cucumber and aloe vera, or fennel and cucumber.

Unfortunately, you have to be *home* to use these methods on a regular basis.
posted by aarwenn at 1:04 PM on October 19, 2010

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