What are some mind-blowing non-alcoholic drinks/cocktails?
February 17, 2014 7:49 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine who can't drink for the near future wanted to meet up with me at a bar/restaurant (in the US) for my birthday. I'd like to help make it be totally awesome for her by suggesting amazing non-alcoholic drinks that would (figuratively) knock her socks off. What do you recommend? (This will be at a bar that basically tends to have everything, although right now they are out of bitters.) I've reviewed older posts along these lines, but was curious to know what else might be available. Thanks!
posted by kimota to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
A really well mixed Virgin Mary is, to my palate, difficult to distinguish from a Bloody Mary, and tastes great.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:56 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a bit confused--a bar that basically has anything but has inexplicably run out of bitters is really not a good bar at all. It's like saying they have everything but have run out of beer. A bar that has allowed themselves to run out of bitters is not a bar that is going to knock anyone's socks off with nonalcoholic drinks; they're already falling down on having a basic bar setup.

Have you considered instead making some great mixers at home for your friend? Chefsteps.com has some great nonalcoholic drinks, like their bitter orange juice or strawberry soda.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:11 PM on February 17, 2014 [16 favorites]

I agree with Admiral Haddock. Bitters are pretty much essential for good non-alcoholic drinks. If they are "out" of bitters, I doubt that they'd know about different kinds of bitters - that can really take the non-alcoholic drink to the next level. Also, I'd call around a find a bar that knows how to make a shrub - they are amazingly delightful and refreshing - even without the alcohol.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:17 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you're really going with the default generic non-alcoholic mixers that any bar will have on hand? Citrus juice and tonic water go well together. If they've got grapefruit juice then grapefruit and tonic is a pretty nice combination. Not mind-blowing, but good enough that you aren't filled with regret at the fact that there's no gin in it.

A bar that gets really into doing specialty drinks will probably have some better-than-default nonalcoholic stuff around. Really good Bloody Mary mix is one example — most bars just use the stuff in a can, but if a place decides to go above and beyond and make their own from scratch then that can be legitimately mind-blowing. Or maybe they've got a drink on the menu that's based on hot spiced cider or some kind of fancy-ass tea, or actual fresh fruit juice, or... anyway, the point is, that stuff isn't predictable at all, so you have to ask your bartender what's good.

(Also, yeah, "out of bitters" is ominous. Could they mean "out of that one fancy-ass kind of bitters that they use in that one fancy-ass cocktail"?)
posted by this is a thing at 8:24 PM on February 17, 2014

Ginger beer (or ale) with lime and club soda. Maybe throw in a little bit of muddled herbs.
posted by bedhead at 9:27 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't bitters be right out, anyway? They have a pretty high alcohol content (like 40-percentish).
posted by stopgap at 9:32 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Here are a few non-alcoholic tiki drink recipes that I enjoy from Trader Vic's, if your friend enjoys fruit juice drinks.

The bar wouldn't be able to make any of these by name... but maybe if you described these recipes they could give them a shot. Each has a special ingredient or two that your bar may or may not have (orgeat, passion fruit syrup, good grenadine). Given that your bar doesn't have bitters, these recipes may not work very well... but it's worth a shot to pass along a few fun and festive non-alcoholic drinks.

Virgin Mai Tai
2 oz orange juice
1 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/4 oz orgeat (almond) syrup

Shake well. Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a squeezed half of a lime.

Queen Charlotte Punch
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz passion fruit syrup
1/2 oz grenadine

Shake well. Pour into a highball glass. Top off with at least 2-3 oz of sparkling water (seltzer water or club soda work well). Garnish with a sprig of mint and some fruit. This one is my personal favorite.

Virgin Bahia
5 oz pineapple juice
1 oz coconut syrup
1 1/2 cups crushed ice

Shake and pour into a highball or double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with fruit and a sprig of mint.
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:57 PM on February 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you have a "real" tea house (i.e. something that serves multiple pu erhs in ridiculous cast iron serving sets), that can be even more interesting than a bar for everyone involved. Did you know there are more flavor variables in tea than in wine? And this is coming from someone with a vast appreciation for all things alcoholic.
posted by kcm at 10:27 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ginger Beer and Lime Juice is lovely, refreshing and it actually looks like a real drink. I make do with Ginger Ale and Lime Juice at company functions when I don't want to deal with people asking me about my drink.

Lime Rickey is great. But you do need bitters.

Virgin blender drinks are fun, Strawberry Daquari or Pina Colada, mostly just a slushie.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:25 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Wouldn't bitters be right out, anyway? They have a pretty high alcohol content (like 40-percentish)."

Some do, some don't (Fee Brothers, for example). Either way, a heavily-bittered drink might call for as many as twenty drops of bitters, so if their friend is just "not drinking right now" I'd hardly consider that a concern. Obviously if they're abstaining completely - like for religious reasons - then some brands of bitters would be right out.

Either way, Admiral Haddock has it right. A bar that would run out of bitters is a bar that I would not trust to make me a good drink ever.
posted by komara at 6:36 AM on February 18, 2014

A classic Shirley Temple (in honor of the recently deceased actress and diplomat).
posted by Carol Anne at 6:51 AM on February 18, 2014

If the bar does their own fresh squeezed juices then an Arnold Palmer can really hit the spot. However I echo the concerns that a bar that has run out of bitters is likely not to have really great juice either.
posted by mmascolino at 7:27 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pina colada (coconut cream, pineapple juice, crushed ice, maraschino cherry) tastes just as good without the alcohol, in my opinion.

Better, actually.
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:27 PM on February 18, 2014

My non-drinker girlfriend's favorite is from Eastern Standard in Boston:

The Sophisticated Lady
2 oz cranberry juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz fresh lime juice
3 cucumber slices
1 pinch salt

Muddle salt and cucumber slices in mixing glass, add cranberry juice, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake with ice and double strain into cocktail glass.
posted by clockbound at 6:21 PM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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