CLOSE
Jessica Jack Wyrick
Jessica Jack Wyrick

How to Make the Best Mocktail

Jessica Jack Wyrick
Jessica Jack Wyrick

Think mocktails are just for the under 21 crowd? Think again. Sometimes, booze just isn’t an option. But that restriction doesn’t mean you should stick to a plain juice. Though these drinks might not taste exactly like alcohol, many of them still have complex, enjoyable flavor profiles.

Taste of booze

The taste of alcohol itself is pretty hard to pin down, and it varies depending on alcohol content. One of the sensations most commonly associated with high-proof alcohol is a burn. Though it’s often described in tasting notes, it's actually transmitted to the brain through the trigeminal nerve rather than your taste buds. Recreating this feeling is easy—just add a bit of spicy pepper. The capsaicin content will give a similar experience.

Another oft noted characteristic of high-proof booze is its astringency. If you swish a sip of barrel-proof whiskey around in your mouth, you’ll notice that your mouth dries out. Outside of hooch, there are a couple ways to add astringency. For a small touch, add fresh apple or pear juice. Try over-steeped black tea or pomegranate juice for a bolder addition.

Low proof alcohols, by comparison, are often described as sweet, bitter, or both. The amount of each that you include in your drink is totally based on your own preference. To sweeten a cocktail, make simple syrup and go to town. Bitterness is a bit trickier. The easiest way to increase it is with cocktail bitters, but their use results in a (very) small alcohol content. Other completely nonalcoholic bittering options include tonic water, lime juice, and coffee.

The Spirit of Taste Compounds

Most taste compounds are named for the foods where they’re commonly found. Some examples include: gingerol (ginger), citronellal (citrus), and vanillin (vanilla). They aren't limited to their namesakes—quite a few are also present in other foods and drinks.

The distilling and aging process can add many compounds to a base spirit. This complex flavor profile is part of what makes aged spirits so popular. One aspect that’s often added is a smoky element. With mocktails, you can easily add in the same effect by smoking either the syrup or the whole drink.

For even more complexity, try barrel aging your syrup or whole drink overnight. The liquid will react with its wood and the tiny bits of air inside the cask and pick up some woody, bourbony flavor compounds.

Hit the Lab

During Prohibition, many bartenders took positions in soda fountains to cover their bills. Naturally, their skill sets and previous experience made them well qualified for this line of work. Though much of their technique in both arenas has been lost to the passage of time, some of their creations have survived.

Since mocktails don’t have the same startup costs as cocktails, experimenting with different ingredients and amounts can be a fun way to figure out your personal taste preferences. Start with this recipe or make up something completely new, but have fun!

Jessica Jack Wyrick

The Soulless Ginger (It's got no spirit!)

0.5 oz simple syrup
0.5 oz orange juice
0.75 oz lemon juice
2 dashes orange flower water
Ginger beer

Combine all ingredients except ginger beer in a cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled through and strain into a chilled long glass. Top with ginger beer.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?
iStock
iStock

If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0

The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.

HIT THE LAB

Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Caipirinha
Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios