Many people love the taste of alcoholic cocktails, but they don’t like the many undesirable side effects of alcohol — such as alcohol’s link to mood disorders, obesity, liver disease and breast cancer. That’s where mocktails come in.
You can have a drink that’s tasty and feels celebratory but doesn’t leave you with a terrible hangover the next day.
Plus, mocktails can actually boost your health by incorporating ingredients packed with nutrients, they’re not prone to addiction like alcoholic beverages and they’re safe for anyone, including pregnant women and even children.
How can you start replacing those unhealthy adult beverages with mocktails?
What Is a Mocktail?
Exactly what is a mocktail? Mocktails are non-alcoholic drinks that are often designed to imitate regular cocktails minus the alcohol.
Some of the most well-known and most loved mocktails include the virgin bloody Mary and virgin piña colada.
The main difference between mocktails and cocktails is that mocktails do not contain any alcohol, while cocktails are inherently alcoholic. Mocktails or non-alcoholic cocktails allow you to enjoy a “fun” drink that has none of those extremely un-fun health consequences.
Reports show that drinking too much alcohol long term or even just on a single occasion can really negatively affect the health of your body. This may include a weakened immune system, heart damage, liver disease and increased cancer risk, to name a few.
The word mocktails is actually an abbreviation for “mock cocktails.” Their development is said to stem from the popularity growth of cocktails over the past few decades.
As more and more people turned to cocktails as their alcoholic beverage category of choice, non-drinking folks were looking for something they could hold in their hands and sip that appeared to look like a cocktail but actually contained no alcohol whatsoever.
Mocktails continue to gain in popularity and are getting healthier as time goes on. Plus, many restaurants and bars are getting a lot more creative with their mocktail options.
The best mocktails not only offer a refreshing, delicious taste, but are made with healthy ingredients as well. You always want to look for recipes that aren’t high in sugar or empty calories but include fresh foods instead, like pineapple, orange, mint, lime juice and other summer favorites.
Sparking mineral water is a great go-to base for a healthy mocktail and serves as a much healthier alternative to soda or sugary drinks made with syrup. Adding freshly made juices is great too with the next best option being organic unsweetened juices.
Some of the best/healthiest mocktail ingredients include:
- Naturally sparkling mineral water
- Pomegranate juice
- Unsweetened cranberry juice
- Acai berry juice
- Noni juice
- Green tea
- Iced tea
- Coconut water
- Coconut milk
- Pieces of whole fruit or vegetables (such as orange, pineapple and apple)
- Fresh herbs (like mint and basil)
- Spices (like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)
- Lime juice and lemon juice
How healthy are mocktails? Well, when they’re made with the ingredients above, you’ll get the following health benefits:
1. More Nutrients
When made in a healthy way, mocktails provide you with all of the benefits of the ingredients you use, and with more nutrients come more health benefits. If you’re creating your own recipe, it’s completely up to you what goes in to it.
Using citrus fruits, tropical fruits and fresh herbs will supply a range of micronutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin A, plus health-promoting antioxidants.
2. Easy to Make and Inexpensive
Another benefit of mocktails is that they are typically very easy and not time-consuming to make. You definitely don’t need to be an experienced bartender to create a good mocktail.
They are also less expensive to make compared to alcoholic drinks and soda.
The alcohol that goes into cocktails is typically quite pricey and pretty much always the priciest ingredient that goes into a cocktail. When you remove the alcohol from a drink, you greatly reduce its cost, so mocktails tend to be much cheaper to make and buy than real cocktails.
3. No Hangovers
Unlike a cocktail party, a mocktail party won’t leave you hungover the next morning, dealing with symptoms such as headache, fatigue and brain fog.
One of the top reasons that people love mocktails over alcoholic beverages is that they can drink something that tastes good and don’t have to pay for it in the short term or the long term.
As long as you choose your mocktails carefully (low-sugar, for sure), then you can imbibe moderately and feel great the next day. However, do enjoy moderately because even non-alcoholic drinks contain calories and sugars.
4. Not Addictive
Alcohol is known for its addictive properties, which is why alcoholism continues to be such a problem around the world. According to the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, when a person consumes alcohol, endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into the brain.
This release of endorphins in the brain creates a sensation of pleasure, which can lead to a compulsion to drink more to re-create those good feelings. This link between consuming alcohol and experiencing pleasure can lead to cravings for alcohol, which is one of the main attributes of an alcohol addiction.
By completely leaving out the alcohol, mocktails pose no risk of dangerous and extremely unhealthy alcohol abuse and addiction.
5. They’re Hydrating
Mocktails leave out the alcohol, which is one of the most dehydrating liquids. One of the short-term effects of alcohol consumption is excessive urination due to the fact that alcohol is a diuretic.
What is a diuretic? It’s something that increases the amount of water your body excretes through urination.
When you wake up with a headache after consuming alcohol, it’s because you’re dehydrated. Reports indicate that drinking excessive quantities of alcohol can also cause vomiting, which depletes the body of fluids as well as electrolytes and can cause further dehydration symptoms.
With mocktails, not only are you leaving out the dehydrating alcohol, but you actually hydrate your body with base ingredients like coconut water and sparkling mineral water. For example, including a high-quality, low-sugar coconut water in your mocktails is like having a sports drink made by nature and is very hydrating.
6. Safe for Pregnant Women, the Chronically Ill and Children
It’s common knowledge that alcohol should be completely avoided during pregnancy if you want to have a healthy, vibrant pregnancy. A healthy mocktail can be the perfect choice for a pregnant woman looking to have a drink that feels special but doesn’t pose any risk to her unborn baby.
Mocktails are also a great alternative for breastfeeding women. Plus, they are refreshing, delicious and help pregnant women boost nutrient intake while staying hydrated.
It doesn’t stop there — mocktails are a fitting choice for chronically ill people and children who obviously should abstain from alcohol all together.
Right off the bat, the worst mocktails are those loaded with refined sugars, artificial flavors and/or artificial colors. In addition to beverages containing alcohol, most come with loads of sugar and calories but little to no nutrients.
The Shirley Temple is one of the most well-known mocktails, especially among children. It may be tasty, but it is loaded with sugar and calories and doesn’t have any nutrients whatsoever.
A Shirley Temple contains nothing but ginger ale, a splash of grenadine and a maraschino cherry as garnish.
Some of the worst mocktail ingredients include:
- Sodas of all kinds, especially diet soda
- Sweetened iced tea
- Flavored “nutritional” waters
- Energy drinks
- Sweetened juices
- Tonic water (many people don’t realize how high in sugar it is)
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial colors
- Corn syrup
How to Make (Recipes)
Looking to create a mocktail in the comfort of your own kitchen? Consider it done because there are so many easy mocktails to choose from, and they all follow some basic principles or steps:
1. Choose a Base Liquid or Liquids
This is where you really need to choose wisely because if you don’t, your mocktail will end up loaded with sugar and empty calories, just like so many cocktails. Many recipes call for juice as a base, but better options include bubbly mineral water, kombucha or coconut water.
Of course, mineral water is the lowest-sugar option with zero grams of sugar per serving.
If you want to include a juice as part or all of your base, just make sure that it’s unsweetened and all-natural. Huge bonus points if you use freshly made juices, which provide the freshest taste.
2. Add Whole Fruits or Vegetables
To up the fiber content and health benefits of your mocktail, choose a few pieces of whole fruit that go well with your base. Organic frozen fruit (like pineapple, watermelon and orange) is a great pick because it also helps lower the temperature of your mocktail without diluting it.
If you’re making a savory mocktail, you can add some vegetables you love. For example, pickled okra is a perfect choice in a virgin bloody Mary.
3. Top with Fresh Herbs or Spices
To up the health benefits of your mocktail, you can include some herbs and/or spices. Not only do these small but mighty ingredients up the health factor of your drink, but they also really turn the flavor profile up.
You can also include wedges of citrus fruits, citrus peels or citrus zest (from lemon, lime and orange) just like alcoholic cocktails as well.
4. Pick a Glass
The original idea behind the mocktail was to make it feel like you’re having a cocktail, so choose your glassware to fit your mood and recipe. You can use a wine glass, a champagne flute, a martini glass — whatever you have at home or works best for the recipe.
Like cocktails, there is a wide selection of mocktails. Mocktail recipes come in many varieties: fizzy, non-fizzy, frozen, hot and cream-based. You can keep it simple, using whatever refreshing fresh fruits and herbs you have at home.
One of the most requested mocktails is a blood Mary, hold the vodka.
Are you ready for my take on this classic mocktail? Try an alcohol-free blood Mary.
Thanks to tomato nutrition, this drink is loaded with lycopene, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, vitamin C, flavonoids and vitamin E. To take the health benefits of this recipe even further, it includes anti-inflammatory superfoods like horseradish, turmeric and olive oil.
This mocktail is sure to leave you feeling satisfied in the healthiest way.
Anti-inflammatory Blood Mary Mocktail Recipe
Total time: 5 minutes
- 8 ounces of an organic vegetable juice blend that has tomato juice as the first/main ingredient
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon horseradish
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ⅛ teaspoon celery salt
- ⅛ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 dashes of fresh cracked pepper
- garnish options: 1 celery stick, olives, pickled okra, asparagus, a lemon wedge (one, some, all or none — it’s up to you)
- ice cubes (as many as desired)
- Combine vegetable juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, turmeric, celery salt and olive oil in a glass, and mix well.
- Add desired ice cubes, and stir again.
- Top with cracked black pepper and garnish of your choice.
- Enjoy your mocktail!
Some more healthy mocktail recipes:
Risks and Side Effects
Thankfully, you get rid of all of alcohol’s negative side effects when you choose a mocktail over a cocktail. Of course, never make or choose a mocktail that contains any ingredients that you’re allergic or sensitive to. If a recipe calls for such an ingredient, just find a somewhat equatable substitute that you know agrees with you.
If you have any health concerns or are taking medications, always check with your doctor before adding any new juices or other mocktail ingredients to your diet. For example, grapefruit and grapefruit juice are not allowed in your diet if you take a blood thinner, such as warfarin.
Diabetics and anyone with blood sugar concerns should also be extra careful about the overall sugar content of their mocktails.
- A mocktail is an alcohol-free beverage that’s consumed as an alternative to a cocktail. When made with healthy ingredients, not only is it fun and refreshing, but it’s healthy too.
- When ordering a mocktail out, make sure it’s not loaded with extra sugar. Instead, choose a simple recipe that’s made with fruits, vegetables and/or herbs in a low-sugar base, like sparkling water.
- Wondering about some of the best mocktail ingredients? Try lemon and lime juice, pineapple, watermelon, berries, apple, ginger, mint, coconut milk or water, and sparkling water.
Best Mocktails: Alcohol-Free Drinks that Boost Your Health is written by Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CN for draxe.com