Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Mocktails to Get You Through the Year

New nonalcoholic spirits increase options for those who want to drink less

spinner image miniature people carrying fruit to make different drinks
Getty Images

It may have started with Dry January, but for many people, the idea of eliminating or at least cutting down on alcoholic drinks has taken hold.

Part of the reason may be the explosion of options for mocktails these days. The many new products in the category of nonalcoholic spirits (or NA spirits) don’t contain ethyl alcohol but instead mimic the role of booze when mixed into a drink.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Nonalcoholic beer and wine are also making strides as producers figure out how to remove alcohol but retain flavor profiles so they taste closer to the real thing.

If you’re considering cutting back on alcohol or are just mocktail curious, here are some things to know.

What are NA spirits made of?

If there is no alcohol in these offerings, then what’s in there? The base often starts with distilled water, which is infused with various flavors and botanicals. Some producers blend oils, sugars, flavors and colors to mimic alcoholic spirits. And some include trendy wellness additions like adaptogens (made from herbs, roots and plants) and nootropics (synthetic or derived from plants) that purport to provide a natural buzz without a hangover.

If you’re sensitive to certain ingredients, pay attention to the labels. Some NA spirits have a natural flavor profile, while others use artificial flavors or sweeteners. Some have added sugar syrups.

Expect to pay $30 to $40 a bottle, similar in cost to regular hard alcohol.

Carlos Ruiz, a mixologist and beverage consultant, recommends looking for an NA gin or tequila as a start.

“Gin is naturally made with a lot of botanicals, with juniper berries as a focus, so it’s easier to emulate in a nonalcoholic spirit,” Ruiz says.

Tequila is his second choice, as it’s based on agave, a more natural sugar that’s used in NA spirits.

But don’t expect NA spirits to have the burn that comes with alcohol. “Most of these you won’t want to drink neat or on the rocks …they aren’t going to taste exactly like spirits,” says mixologist Amanda Richardson of Merchant and Trade, a bar in Charlotte, North Carolina.

As for those ready-to-drink cocktails consumers can buy? They may be tempting because all you need to do is pop open a can, but Ruiz says to avoid most of them. “Most feel like you are overpaying for juice,” he says. He encourages people to try to make their own cocktails at home.

Tips for the perfect mocktail

Stir don’t shake. NA spirits often lack the viscosity of traditional spirits, so the best practice is to opt for stirring over the traditional shake, Ruiz says.

“When making nonalcoholic cocktails, they lose some texture,” he says. “You’ll want to stir and chill, so you can build your cocktail right in the glass.”

Home & Real Estate

ADT™ Home Security

Savings on monthly home security monitoring

See more Home & Real Estate offers >

Adjust recipes. Play around with the amount of NA spirits you need. Although they are designed to be a 1-to-1 replacement for alcohol, you may need to adjust amounts so they aren’t overpowered by your mixers.

Be creative. Think less about remaking classic cocktails because they won’t taste exactly the same and think more about the flavor profiles you hope to achieve. Spirits like bourbon or whiskey are harder to replicate than more neutral spirits like vodka or gin. If you like the taste of the replicated spirit, you can add tonic or soda, but in most cases, you’ll want to build something a little more complex.

Think about add-ins. Consider oranges, grapefruit or even a few jalapeños in a simple syrup. Fresh herbs are always a good addition, especially if you grow your own.

Here are three mocktails to try.

The Worthy Accomplice

Recipe provided by Ben Purvis, bar director, the Pink Rabbit cocktail bar in Portland, Oregon

  • ¾ ounce NA gin
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce pandan simple syrup*
  • Tonic soda to top off

Stir ingredients and top with tonic soda served in a coupe glass.

*Any simple syrup can be made using a 1-to-1 sugar-to-water ratio. Heat sugar in water over stove top and stir until sugar dissolves. As it cools it will thicken into a simple syrup. (For this version add in pandan leaves, which have a flavor similar to a vanilla bean and can be found fresh or frozen in Asian grocery stores. You can also use pandan juice.) Store simple syrup in an airtight container for one week. You can also buy premade simple syrup at grocery and liquor stores.

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134


Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Madame Blueberry

Recipe from Amanda Robertson, assistant general manager and bartender at Merchant and Trade, a rooftop cocktail bar in Charlotte, North Carolina

  • ¾ ounces NA rum
  • 1 ounce blueberry simple syrup
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce honey syrup
  • ½ ounce aquafaba (the liquid in canned chickpeas)​

Blueberry simple syrup:

  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup white sugar

Mix blueberries, water and sugar together using a whisk in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and bring a gentle boil, stirring often, until syrup is thickened, about 15 minutes. Whisk lemon juice into syrup; serve immediately or cool. Yields about 1½ cups. (You can save the rest of the simple syrup in the fridge for up to a week.)

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake ingredients for about 10 to 15 seconds. Strain out the liquid, dump the dirty ice and add the liquid back to the cocktail shaker. Shake again for 15 seconds to get the aquafaba to foam. Strain into a coupe/martini glass. As the aquafaba settles, a top foam will begin to form. Garnish with fresh blueberries and lemon peels.

Garnet Shandy

Recipe provided by Julia Momosé, owner of Japanese dining bar Kumiko in Chicago and author of The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes

  • 1 cinnamon stick, whole
  • ½ teaspoon pink peppercorns, whole
  • 1 teaspoon green cardamom (separated from the pod)
  • 1 satsuma orange (or any winter citrus)
  • Cranberry juice
  • N/A beer

Measure 8 ounces of cranberry juice and set aside. Lightly crack spices and toast in a dry saucepan over medium heat until aromatic. Pour cranberry juice over toasted spices and cook over medium heat until the mixture simmers. Turn heat down to medium-low. Slice winter citrus, add wheels to the pot and simmer for five minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey (or another sweetener). Cool and keep refrigerated.

Select a favorite tulip glass or flute. Fill most of the way with an NA beer that’s lighter in flavor, and measure 1 to 1.5 ounces of spiced cranberry base into the glass. Pour slowly so that it layers for a fun two-tone effect.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?