By Genevieve Rajewski
The Sophisticated Lady, one of the mocktails featured in my story for The Boston Globe. It'll trick you into thinking you're drinking something made with Hendrick's Gin. Photo used with permission of Eastern Standard.
Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to some of Boston's most forward-thinking bartenders and other experts about why it's usually so difficult to order a great nonalcoholic drink. They gave me so much good advice to consider, there just wasn't enough room to get it all in my story for The Boston Globe, which ran today.
So here is the beginning of the tasty leftovers, including another fantastic recipe from Journeyman restaurant in Somerville. (Consider it that delicious extra ounce hiding in the bottom of your shaker.) Over the next week, I will also share how mocktail options soon will be radically different at a few local hot spots, as well as give tips on how to improve your odds of getting a good mocktail at bars without a nonalcoholic drink program. But for starters, here's how you might want to think differently about drink ingredients when mixing your own mocktails at home.
Typically, when inventing a nonalcoholic drink recipe, you'll want to combine something "sharp or acidic, such as citrus oil or spices, with some sweetness to offset the tart, and something for body -- such as a juice or sparkling or still water," according to Adam Lantheaume, owner of The Boston Shaker, a cocktail-supply shop in Somerville.
For example, Lantheaume says you might brighten up a sweet apple cider with fresh lemon juice and then lengthen the drink with sparkling water.
Todd Maul, bar director at Clio in Boston, stresses that you can learn a lot from deconstructing things you like to drink. He says that loomi tea -- a brew made from steeping dried black limes -- gives drinks a heavy, dark citrus flavor. "You can probably mimic an amaro with it, a small amount of prune juice, and a little lemon or lime juice."
Both Lantheaume and Cannon recommend a visit to specialty food shops like Formaggio Kitchen and Dave's Fresh Pasta for inspiration. "I've found a beautiful kaffir lime syrup and other things that mix well with soda," says Cannon. "I'll see something like a rose jam made by a Sicilian grandmother and think, ‘Let's see how that mixes in a flip.'"
Looking for more mocktail inspiration? Start with the following often-overlooked ingredients suggested by my story sources.
If you're a fan of St. Germain cocktails, Cannon says the Austrian wine maker Nikolaihof produces an alcohol-free elder flower syrup made from certified bio-dynamic flowers. "It's gorgeous stuff with multi-tones; it can present like pear, lemon or peach."
Nonalcoholic sparkling wines make it easy to create something simple and elegant, notes Cannon. "We have a good one made by Ariel. Every now and then I would slip it into a flight of sparkling wines during a tasting. No one really loves it, but no one hates it either. Just mix that with a flavorful syrup and a little juice." (However, as even alcohol-free wines contain trace amounts of alcohol, be sure you don't serve them to those who must avoid alcohol completely for allergy or sobriety reasons.)
Vinegar is perhaps the most underutilized ingredient in bartenders' arsenal, says Cannon. "It gives a drink the whole umami taste of fermentation without the byproduct of intoxicating alcohol." However, he explains that vinegar allergies are not that uncommon, so be careful handling it in a bar setting and be sure to let people know it's an ingredient as they might not expect someone to make a drink with it.
In colonial times, New England farmers created shrubs -- fruit syrups preserved with vinegar -- to carry the harvest over the winter. Lantheaume sells a line of small-batch shrubs made by Pennsylvania's Tait Farm at The Boston Shaker, including ginger, lemon, apple, lime, raspberry, strawberry and cherry versions. "The vinegar acts different in each one," he says. "The strawberry and cherry shrub bring out its sweet tones, while the sharp taste of the vinegar come across even sharper in the lemon and ginger shrubs."
Orgeat syrup "adds lot of flavor, is easy to make at home and lasts forever," says Maul. "It is basically an almond syrup with a splash of orange blossom water at the end. It adds a citrus element that's sweet but not too sharp." (The Boston Shaker also sells pre-made orgeat syrup.)
Grapefruit juice "is both bitter and sweet; has a nice aperitif-like perfume; and tastes kind of fermented," says Cannon.
Maple syrup is a great drink ingredient, according to Lantheaume. But we're not talking Aunt Jemima here. "We live in the Northeast, where there's lot of high-quality syrup available," says Lantheaume. "They are expensive, but you don't need much. Experiment with the many different grades of syrup; they each have a different flavor, thickness and intensity."
At The Boston Shaker, Lantheaume stocks a line of interesting syrups made by Jo Snow of Chicago. Flavors include hibiscus-basil-orange blossom, cardamom-rose water, and fig-vanilla-black pepper.
"Soy sauce has become a standard in a lot of my nonalcoholic drinks," says Meg Grady-Troia, general manager and co-owner of Journeyman. "If you think about good sherry, it has a little bit of salt to it." Her delightful and unexpected recipe for a mocktail featuring both soy sauce and vinegar follows below.
Apple & Soy Soda
Adapted from a recipe by Meg Grady-Troia of Journeyman
In this drink, the apple shrub functions much like citrus juice, which is both acidic and sweet.
3 tablespoons apple shrub*
3 dashes soy sauce
3 teaspoons agave nectar (honey also works well)
6 ounces sparkling water
1. In a rocks glass, stir apple shrub, soy sauce and agave nectar vigorously to combine.
2. Add ice and top with sparkling water.
*You can buy an apple shrub ($10) made by Pennsylvania's Tait Farm at The Boston Shaker, but it's easy to whip up your own.
7 apples, cored and seeded, but not peeled
1/2 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
1. Puree apples in a food processor.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the apple puree and water; cook over high heat for 5 minutes.
3. Add the cider vinegar, reduce heat and bring to a low simmer.
4. Add the sugar and stir over low heat until the sugar completely dissolves; let cool to room temperature.
5. Pour the puree through a fine strainer and store the strained liquid in the refrigerator.