While a cold beer or a freshly mixed cocktail will always have a place at the grill side, there are times when a more sensible beverage is called for. Especially if you have a friend or family member who has an aversion to alcohol, or you just don’t want to have the effects of too much alcohol spoil your special event.
If this sounds like the sort of thing you’re shooting for your next cookout, but you want something with a little more flair than non-alcoholic beer, you might want to try one of the following non-alcoholic drink ideas.
When coming up with spirited non-alcoholic beverages for a cookout, seltzer water is your best friend. You can make just about anything “Sparkling.” Though I think you’ll find that honey makes an exciting base flavor that you can add a lot of other fruits and herbal accents as well. It also tends to be a more elevated sweetener than simply falling back on refined, granulated sugar.
A Virgin Mojito
If you’ve been a fan of a classic mojito, then you know that the refreshing nature of the drink has very little if anything to do with the alcohol content. To make a stunning virgin mojito all you need to do is combine a little simple syrup, with lime juice, sparkling water a liberal amount of ice a little dissolved honey, and a heavy-handed garnish of mint.
I know it sounds cliché, as if I ripped the idea out of a children’s book. Yet ask yourself, when was the last time you had real lemonade made from real lemons and simple sugar syrup and not just something that was sprinkled out of a can or used a corn syrup base?
If you take the time to squeeze real, high-quality fresh lemons, blend a simple syrup, and made a true lemonade, you will be transported back in time to a bygone era when people appreciate true drink craft. You can add sparkling water if you want to take the refreshment factor up a notch, but it’s truly not necessary.
Despite the name “Egg Cream” has neither egg nor cream in it. It’s actually a fun, old-time concoction of chocolate syrup, seltzer water, and whole milk served ridiculously cold. There’s a fair amount of demonstration value, where you can let people make their own.
You just put a few tablespoons of high-quality chocolate syrup in the bottom of a 16-ounce chilled glass. Then add whole milk or 2% milk (Not actual cream!) and pour in seltzer water slowly, whisking with a fork to make a New York egg cream frothy head.
Virgin Apple Cider Mint Julep
Taking the bourbon flavor out of a classic mint julep and still having it feel like a virgin version of the original can be challenging. While there are some people out there who will pound the table for strawberry juice, I honestly believe the only non-alcoholic fruit juice that can replace the body of bourbon is a high-quality apple cider.
When it comes to the mint, spearmint is truly the best option. Peppermint might have its place, but it lacks the sort of earthy sweetness that spearmint brings to a virgin cocktail like this.
To start with you absolutely need to make a proper muddle by adding a little sugar and simple syrup to the bottom of a lowball glass. Then use a wooden awl or a spoon to crush the leaves lightly. This will express the organic mint oil while also incorporating the sugar.
A couple of drops of organic vanilla extract is also a nice touch. A splash of pineapple juice might also add complexity. Then fill the glass halfway with a strong apple cider. Then fill the glass the rest of the way with crushed ice and sparkling water, with just a modest amount of stirring. You don’t necessarily want everything in the glass to mix. A virgin mint julep like this benefits from a slight change in flavor as you drink your way from the top to the bottom of the lowball glass.
A Non-Alcoholic Lemon Shandy
A traditional lemon shandy uses beer to add some alcohol and bubbles. Though in truth you can create your own lemon, orange, or grapefruit shandy with sparkling water that’s arguably more refreshing. This gives you a base to add other accent ingredients like pineapple juice, apple juice, or honey.
The traditional thing to do here is to add some crushed ice right at the end to chill it thoroughly. Though one secret trick to take a non-alcoholic shandy to the next level is to add half as much crushed ice and then replace it with some super-chilled sherbet.
Virgin Non-Alcoholic Long Island Iced Tea
With the right ingredients, you won’t even miss the alcohol in a long island iced tea. While there are some people who demand you use cola, I find it to be a pedestrian option, when you could instead use a full-bodied iced tea and a simple syrup. Don’t be afraid here to stray away from classic black teas. The floral component of chilled Earl Gray tea, the lilt of green tea or the robust flavor of a chilled Oolong also have a place in a virgin Long Island iced tea.
Adding some chilled non-alcoholic ginger beer is also a nice touch to bring some fizz, while replacing the carbonation of soda. Though there’s an equal argument to be made for sparkling water or seltzer. A little apple cider for body and a splash of lemon for freshness helps wake up the flavors.
You can keep the drink base cold in a freezer. Then right before serving pour it over crushed ice until the glass is roughly 75% full. Then finish with a fresh blast of seltzer water to wake up the “Sparkling” in the non-alcoholic Long Island iced tea.