More people, particularly young people, are opting to drink less or are cutting it out all together. This change in habits has inspired a healthy industry of non-alcoholic distillates offering reasonable substitutes for gin, rum and whisky, to be stirred up in “mocktails”.
But despite the recent emergence of non-alcoholic spirits and beers as a burgeoning new category, this idea has actually been around for nearly two centuries.
Early “temperance” drinks – such as the Milk and Seltzer, Orgeat Lemonade, and a soda cocktail laced with Angostura bitters – worked well on menus created by famed 19th-century barmen Jerry “The Professor” Thomas and Harry “The Dean” Johnson. Prohibition in the US ushered in a new style of non-alcoholic sippables and imbued creative flair in this category, which remained popular well into the cocktail party heydays of the 1960s.
Even if you’ve never gone on the wagon or taken an oath of sobriety, you may find non-alcoholic drinks surprisingly enjoyable. Here are five historical alcohol-free cocktails to try at home:
1. Parson’s Special
Harry Craddock, the British barman who promoted American cocktail culture in London during the 1920s and ’30s, presided over the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel. Craddock was known for serving the rich and famous hundreds of cocktail concoctions.
In his seminal compilation The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, he offered a creamy fruit treat called the Parson’s Special. The drink looks deceptively like a Brandy Alexander when served in a small old-fashioned glass.
240 ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 egg yolk
1-2 dashes fresh grenadine
Shake the juice, yolk and grenadine vigorously over ice. Strain into a small old-fashioned or rocks glass.
2. Keep Sober
Craddock also devised a long drink for customers abstaining from the popular Collinses, Rickeys and Highballs of the day. The Keep Sober appears in The Savoy Cocktail Book too. A rose-tinted, citrusy refreshment, it’s a good alternative for gin-and-tonic lovers.
10 ml fresh grenadine
10 ml lemon syrup
150 ml tonic water
Combine grenadine, syrup and water in an ice-filled highball glass. Stir with a spoon and serve.
3. Orgeat Fizz
Victor J Bergeron Jr was a Californian restaurateur who packed up his bags and headed to Havana, Cuba during the early 1930s in search of inspiration for his food and drink menus. When he returned in 1934 to open the first Trader Vic’s, he pioneered a new era in Caribbean- and Polynesian-style cuisine.
As one of the kings of Tiki, Vic crafted dozens of simple, tropical-style beverages. His Orgeat Fizz, featured in his 1947 book Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, serves up two key components of classic Tiki drinks in one glass: orgeat syrup and fresh lime juice.
45 ml orgeat syrup
Juice of half of a lime
Pour orgeat syrup and lime juice into a highball glass filled with ice. Fill the glass with club soda. Stir with a spoon and serve.
4. Tea Punch
For something loaded with flavour and colour, Trader Vic came up with his own non-alcoholic answer to a Long Island Iced Tea, which also appeared in his 1947 bartender’s guide. His Tea Punch transforms a regular iced tea into a fruity delight that serves a party of eight.
750 ml strong black tea
1 litre fresh orange juice
250 ml fresh lemon or lime juice
500 ml raspberry syrup
250 ml crushed pineapple
2 litres sparkling water
Caster sugar to taste
Pour tea, juices, syrup and pineapple over a block of ice in a punch bowl. Let chill. Just before serving, pour in 2 litres of sparkling water.
5. Mandarin Punch
Probably the most elaborate drink a teetotaller or temporary abstainer could ever serve to guests is Trader Vic’s Mandarin Punch, which also appeared in his 1947 bartending classic. A complex blend of fruits and spices, this punch recipe amuses with surprise bursts of flavour and aroma that will make any occasion a celebration. This recipe serves eight.
500 ml caster sugar
24 whole cloves
2 stocks of cinnamon
125 ml water
500 ml fresh orange juice
125 ml fresh lime juice
3 drops spearmint oil
1 tsp chopped, candied ginger root
1 bunch fresh spearmint, finely chopped
Sparkling water to taste
Simmer the sugar, cloves, cinnamon and water in a small saucepan for ten minutes. Let cool. Pour into a punch bowl with a block of ice. Add the juices, oil, ginger root and spearmint. Stir. Add sparkling water to taste and serve.
Anistatia Renard Miller does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.