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5 Tips for Making Mocktails at Home

The ultimate guide for making a balanced, delicious drink without the booze.


Often times when you want a nonalcoholic drink someone brings you a club soda or lemonade off the kids' menu. Not that I don't love lemonade, but we deserve more. If you're looking to elevate your drink to something that rivals a real cocktail, this is the ultimate guide to making the best mocktails at home, while also keeping it quick and easy. Because we're busy and don't have time to mix twelve different ingredients together every night.

Learn how to create your own mocktail recipe using five tips below, including a simple formula to craft the best alcohol-free cocktails at home.

But first, a few clarifications and facts below...

What is the difference between a mocktail and virgin drink?

A mocktail is a mixed drink without the booze. It can be crafted using nonalcoholic spirits (which lucky for us have been gaining more popularity the past few years) and fresh ingredients like citrus, herbs, berries, shrubs and mixers.

The term "virgin" is generally used to refer to an already-popular cocktail, with all alcohol removed. For instance, if you order a "virgin margarita" at a bar you'll likely receive all the traditional ingredients of a margarita with the tequila swapped out for soda or extra mixer. If you order a "virgin bloody Mary" you'll likely be drinking bloody Mary mix and lots of garnishes without any of the vodka. And I love a good, salty bloody Mary mix so I'll order this at times, especially if I'm at brunch with my girlfriends (which I never am because I have two toddlers).

The term mocktail and "virgin drink" both indicate you'd like a beverage without any alcohol in it.

Mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are gaining traction

As a nation, we're drinking less. In 2019 the sale of wine declined for the first time in two decades. However, then Covid hit and we all flocked to our home bars while making our homemade sourdoughs. I certainly was drinking more than ever during and after the pandemic. But habits seem to be trending back towards more mindful drinking and less alcohol. Luckily for us, nonalcoholic options are flooding the market and becoming more widely available in grocery stores, on Amazon, and in specialty wine and spirits stores.

Did you know that between August 2021 and August 2022, total dollar sales of non-alcoholic drinks in the US stood at $395 million, showing a year-over-year growth of more than 20%? That is a BOATLOAD of cash, and it's only predicted to go up. You can checkout more facts on beverage trends from NielsenIQ here.

Whatever the reason for this, be it driven by a desire to lead a healthier lifestyle, informed by the effects alcohol has on us, or inspired by a "Dry January" experiment, there’s no question the movement is on the up.

Now, onto my tips for delicious mocktails at home.

Tip #1: Use Fresh Ingredients (when possible)

The best secret to a delicious mocktail recipe is to use the freshest ingredients possible, just like you would with a cocktail. And before I lose you... I get it. You're friggin' busy and don't have time to hand-squeeze a gallon of fresh orange juice or puree watermelons every night. Try and focus on fresh citrus, herbs and berries that are easy to throw together. The rest can go in the pantry or be saved for a special occasion.

Citrus to keep on hand:

  • Lemon

  • Lime

  • Orange

  • Grapefruit

Fresh fruit & herbs:

  • Berries - whatever is seasonal and you can hide from your kids so those little gremlins don't eat them all.

  • Rosemary

  • Mint

Once in awhile when I want to treat myself or impress a stranger I'll pull out the big guns like tea-infused syrups, juiced cucumbers and melons, and total bullsh*t like that. But normally I just buy pantry-stable mixers and juices so that I have easy-to-grab ingredients whenever I need them.

Mocktail mixers:

  • Orange juice

  • Cranberry juice

  • Your personal favorite juice - pear, cherry or whatever and you'll find a way to use it!

  • Soda - I love experimenting with the huge variety of flavored sodas out there

  • Tonic

  • Pineapple juice

  • Ginger beer (make sure to check the label as some contain alcohol)

  • Bitters (these also often have alcohol so read your labels)

Tip #2: Try a Non-Alcoholic Spirit

I really resisted non-alcoholic (N/A) spirits when I started drinking less. At first I was outraged at the price - it's basically just as expensive (or more) as real alcohol. I thought to myself, "So you're telling me I still have to spend the same amount of money without the buzz? F*ck off!" But my sober-curious journey couldn't avoid it, and dammit there are some good ones out there that have made my drinks more diverse, more delicious, and helped me stay on track drinking less.

These are also great if you already have a go-to drink you don't want to ditch, and you can just swap out the alcohol for a N/A spirit. So if you usually enjoy a gin and tonic, try a N/A gin and you're good to go.

After a couple weeks I realized that I'd happily pay $30 for a bottle of nonalcoholic spirit because what I lost in a few bucks I gained back tenfold in happiness, mind clarity and health benefits.

Tip #3: You need a good sweetener

In a mocktail, citrus and sweeteners are the base of your drink. To strike the right balance of a real cocktail, you'll want to experiment with these flavor profiles:

  • Agave: Agave is my go-to sweetener because it mixes easily, tastes great, and requires little effort on my part. It's also a low-glycemic option, and I don't really know what that means but if that's important to you then you've found your sweetener!

  • Simple syrup: The most basic of sweeteners, mix equal parts sugar and water on your stove top at a low-medium heat until combined. You can make this on your stovetop in a couple minutes and store in your fridge for a couple weeks. You'll know it's gone bad when you see little specks of mold (ew) form on the top like I did. Throw it out and make a new batch then, obviously.

  • Honey/Honey syrup: Straight-up honey is really tricky to use in your drinks because it doesn't mix well and it gets really clumpy when it touches ice. The thickness means you'll have to shake it until your arms fall off, which I'm not about. So if you want the flavor of honey, I suggest honey syrup which you make the same way as simple syrup but with honey instead of sugar.

  • Maple Syrup: This can be great for winter cocktails or if you're using a N/A bourbon. It pairs well with flavors like vanilla, cinnamon and cranberry. Otherwise the maple flavor is usually a bit too much for me.

Tip #4: Give Some Thought to Presentation

Everyone loves a beautiful cocktail, but it's got its time and place. On your average Wednesday night I can barely find time to make dinner and survive the bedtime routine, let alone craft an Instagram-worthy mocktail. So don't stress - try the simple mocktail formula in Tip#5 or pour yourself a nonalcoholic beer to get through the evening in one piece. Then save these ideas for a fancy dinner party, a date night, or celebrations like baby showers when you want to show off a bit.

  • Use the right glassware. I don't spend a bunch of time making a beautiful mocktail just to drink it out of a water glass. Put that sh*t in a cocktail glass girl, you deserve it. Make a fancy garnish. I love this heart-shaped one from Moody Mixologist. Or add a sprig of fresh herb toothpicked together with a slice of citrus.

  • Punches on ice also look beautiful in big wine glasses with lots of garnishes.

  • Give your ice a wow-factor. Try a fun ice mold for different shapes, add food dye to make different colors, or try freezing flower petals or berries into your molds for a touch to impress the pants off your guests (or just yourself).

Tip #5: The EASY Mocktail Recipe Formula

Start with this basic, "1-1-2-3" formula: 1 part citrus, 1 part sweetener, 2 parts nonalcoholic spirit, 3 parts mixer. Then tweak it to your liking. I like my drinks a little less sweet, so I usually add more citrus and less sweetener. If you like a really juicy beverage, increase the juice and sweetener a tad and see what you think.

Mocktail Recipe Formula:

  • 1 oz citrus

  • 1 oz sweetener

  • 2 oz nonalcoholic spirit

  • 3 oz mixers

  • Optional: fresh herbs and berries


  • In a cocktail shaker, combine the citrus and sweetener. If using fresh fruit or herbs, muddle here.

  • Fill the shaker with ice.

  • Add the nonalcoholic spirit and any other juice you might be using. Hold off on any carbonated sodas or ingredients until the end.

  • Give it a good shake - 15 seconds should do.

  • Pour straight into a glass, or strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

  • Top with soda and enjoy!

A delicious mocktail has been the perfect way for me to enjoy many nights free of booze, and I hope it helps anyone else out there too. Give it a try and let me know your thoughts. Cheers!


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