Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I've been collecting recipes and ideas for mocktails for some time now. Technically, with all the medications I've been taking for arthritis, I should only drink occasionally, so this is a pertinent subject. But I also have friends who are pregnant, or who can't/won't drink, and I know some cute kiddos too, who don't need to be left out at dinners because they're not yet 16 (or 18, or 21, depending on your country). So this has been on my radar for awhile.
A good mocktail, in my opinion, should reflect the flavor profiles and drinking methods of a REAL drink. It should have several layers of flavor, but not be cloyingly sweet, and should be sippable, not chuggable. Unusual flavors are what I'm after. A couple of mixed fruit juices is not a mocktail. It's fruit juice. But add a splash of lemongrass syrup, a hint of cayenne pepper or some muddled basil leaves and we're going somewhere interesting.
With that in mind, today I channeled my inner child. When we were kids, my mother had an herb garden in the front yard (grammar geeks: is that "a herb" or "an herb"???). I loved to pick random collections of leaves, boil the life out of them and mix the resulting tisane with plenty of sugar. At least once, I picked an unusual plant that left us all with the giggles...still not sure what mild drug I tossed into the pot! But now I'm all grown up, and I don't have a garden yet, so I had to make do with berries and dried leaves. Here are two of my concoctions:
1) Faux Gin
With a mortar and pestle, gently crush a mixture of (in order of importance): juniper berries, black and white peppercorns, bay leaves, cardamom pods and coriander seeds. Add a spoonful of orange blossom water, and almost equal parts sugar and water (a bit more water, as some of it will boil off...). When it changes to a lovely dark amber color and the house smells of pine, remove from heat and strain the liquid into a container. Mixed with
tonic water, it's a surprisingly good replacement for gin. The juniper is strong, followed by a lingering bite from the black pepper.
2) Lapsang Shudder
I wanted to get a nice smoky flavor with this syrup, so I boiled Lapsang Souchong with some crushed black peppercorns and sugar water. As above, strain and bottle. It's the sort of flavor that will make you shudder (for good or bad, depends on your preference for things that taste like the backside of a woodstove).
I can see this going well with orange juice, or lemonade. I only had the can of tonic water, so I tried it with that. Not as good as the gin, but the smoky tea still stood out. I think next time I should be less stingy with my tea bags...
3) Two good summer drinks that I can't take credit for are the Ginger Lime Cooler and the Lemongrass Cooler. Both use a slightly tart limeade as a base, but the ginger-lime adds ginger syrup (easy to make at home) and sparkling water; the lemongrass uses homemade lemongrass syrup and still or sparkling as desired.
What other combinations of herbs and barks and roots should I try? Has anyone else experimented with non-alcoholic drinks and come up with a winner?