Snazzy holiday drinks, alcohol free

Dazzle your guests with a beverage that has a different kind of twist.

Joanne Ciccarello/Staff

For some, it's the season for cocktail parties and champagne toasts, but plenty of other holiday revelers are gleefully raising a fluted glass of sparkling pomegranate punch or ginger lemonade.

Those who'd rather not mix alcohol into their celebrations are only limited by their imaginations. The Shirley Temple cocktail, charming as it is, was once the only alcohol-free option, besides soda, on restaurant menus. Restaurants today rarely offer that sugary sweet concoction with its trademark maraschino cherry. Instead, they might feature a bevy of more sophisticated non-alcoholic drinks, sometimes called faux, virgin, or "mocktails."

"We always have a mocktail of some sort on our menu," says Kevin Rogers, bar manager at Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar in Washington's hip Dupont Circle. "Mocktails let the nondrinkers know that they are just as welcome at our bar as the drinkers."

His "Washington Tea Party" is the current favorite. Rogers enjoys inventing new drinks, and for this popular concoction he mixes iced tea, fresh lime juice, club soda, and simple syrup, and garnishes with fresh mint and raspberries (see recipe below).

But the mocktail he's most proud of is "Kim's Cup," which Rogers created for a baby shower brunch when Kim, the mother-to-be, requested a creative mocktail for herself and her guests. Made with equal parts ginger ale, club soda, and sparkling pinot noir juice (from Oregon and nonalcoholic), and garnished with strawberries, cucumber slices, orange slices, and fresh mint or basil, Kim's Cup is a bubbly sensation.

Those who'd rather give mocktails a whirl at home can take inspiration from Rogers's creativity. For starters, forget those bottles of lime-flavored sparkling water, convenient as they are. Even my refreshing old standby, the Arnold Palmer – half lemonade and half iced tea – gets old after a while. Instead, try one of these interesting, even dazzling, drinks and don't skip the fruit or herb garnishes, which add to the "wow" factor. These recipes will help get you started, and before long you'll be dreaming up your own repertoire of nonalcoholic drinks with names that recall a festive occasion and a flash of whimsy.


Washington Tea Party

Fresh mint leaves and raspberries, divided

4 cups iced tea (unsweetened)

1 cup fresh lime juice

2 cups club soda

3/4 cup simple syrup (see recipe below)

With a mortar and pestle, muddle, or gently mash together about 10 raspberries and 10 mint leaves. Set aside. In a large pitcher, pour iced tea, lime juice, and club soda. Add ice, muddled raspberries and mint, and the simple syrup. Stir and pour into glasses, and garnish with about 3 raspberries per drink. Serves 12.

For the simple syrup:

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

Bring sugar and water to a boil. Simmer until sugar is

dissolved. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. Can be refrigerated for

up to 3 weeks. (Recipe courtesy of Kevin Rogers.)

Virgin Mojito

3 bunches of mint leaves (about 20 leaves per bunch)

1-1/2 cups fresh lime juice

3/4 cup simple syrup (see recipe above)

48 ounces chilled ginger ale

Lime slices, for garnish

With a mortar and pestle, gently mash mint leaves. Set aside. In a large pitcher, stir together the lime juice and simple syrup. Add mint, ice, and ginger ale. Stir and pour into festive glasses. Garnish with whole mint leaves and lime slices. Serves 12.

Sparkling Pomegranate Punch

1 quart pomegranate juice

2 cups fresh orange juice, strained

2 cups chilled limeade

1 (25-ounce) bottle sparkling water

Lime and orange slices, for garnish

Seeds from 3 fresh pomegranates

In a punch bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, orange juice, and limeade. Pour in the sparkling water and float lime and orange slices on top. Fill 12 glasses with ice, sprinkle in the pomegranate seeds, and ladle punch into glasses. Serves 12.

Simple Citrus Cooler

8 cups fresh red grapefruit juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

4 cups sparkling water or club soda

Lime slices and fresh mint sprigs, for garnish

Stir together juices and sparkling water or club soda in a pitcher, add plenty of ice, pour into glasses, and garnish with fresh mint sprigs and lime slices. Serves 12 to 15.

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