Many people love the taste of alcoholic cocktails, but they don’t like the many (and I mean MANY) undesirable side effects of alcohol — such as alcohol’s link to 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. So how can you start replacing those unhealthy adult beverages with mocktails? I’m glad you asked.
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 Oxford Living Dictionaries defines a mocktail as “a non-alcoholic drink consisting of a mixture of fruit juices or other soft drinks.” Not surprisingly, the dictionary also indicates that this word “mocktail” is of North American origin. (1)
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 not fun health consequences. Drinking too much alcohol long term or even just on a single occasion can really negatively affect the health of your body. I’m talking about things like a weakened immune system, heart damage, liver disease and increased cancer risk, to name a few. (2)
These days, mocktails are also becoming a way to add extra nutrients and health-boosting effects to your diet similar to healthy smoothie recipes.
Doubting your potential enjoyment of mocktail drinks already? The Wall Street Journal described them this way: “They’re alcohol-free, but these drinks are so satisfying and sophisticated, you’ll never miss the booze.” (3)
The best mocktails in my book include healthy ingredients that offer the drinker not just a tasty beverage, but health benefits as well. You always want to look for recipes that aren’t high in sugar or empty calories. Sparking mineral water is a great go-to base for a healthy mocktail. 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
- Coconut water
- Coconut milk
- Pieces of whole fruit or vegetables
- Fresh herbs like mint and basil
- Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
- Citrus peels and zest
Right off the bat, the worst mocktails are those loaded with refined sugars, artificial flavors and/or artificial colors. These sugary drinks are truly just fake cocktails of bad news for your health. In addition to cocktails containing alcohol, many of these boozy drinks also contain loads of sugar and calories but no nutrients.
“Shirley Temples”are one of the most well-known mocktails, especially among kids. This mocktail, like many unfortunately, may be tasty but 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
- 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
Mocktails vs. Cocktails
Mocktails never contain alcohol so there’s no risk of intoxication or any of the other many alcohol side effects. Short-term side effects of alcohol consumption can include slurred speech, drowsiness, headaches, upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, distorted vision, distorted hearing, impaired judgment, decreased coordination, anemia, blackouts, unconsciousness and even coma.
When people binge drink cocktails or consume large amounts of alcohol continually, long-term effects of alcohol include alcohol poisoning, unintentional injuries (car crash, falls, drowning, etc.), intentional injuries (domestic violence, firearm injuries, etc.), increased relationship problems, gastritis, heart-related diseases, nerve damage, liver disease, permanent brain damage, sexual problems, ulcers, malnutrition (especially vitamin B1 deficiency), cancer of the mouth and cancer of the throat. (8)
How to Make
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
Now this is where you really need to choose wisely because if you don’t, your mocktail will end up being loaded with sugar and empty calories just like so many cocktails. Many recipes call for juice as a base, but I recommend cutting the juice with a lower-sugar liquid like a 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.
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 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 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 makes sense to your celebratory yet happily sober self.
How healthy are mocktails? Well, they’re just as healthy as the ingredients you put into them. So when you make mocktails, you want to choose wisely and make sure they’re not just a non-alcoholic sugar and calorie overload. I want to tell how to choose the right mocktails and how to avoid mocktail drinks that may be alcohol-free but are far from healthy.
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 mocktail, it’s completely up to you what goes in to it.
I suggest nutrient-dense ingredients like fresh vegetable juices, kombucha and coconut water, just to name a few. Ingredients like these are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals so they can turn a tasty mocktail into so much more — a mocktail can actually become a way to get more drinkable nutrients into your daily life.
2. Easy to Make and Inexpensive
Another benefit is that mocktails 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. Mocktails also are less expensive to make compared to alcoholic drinks.
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 and miserable the next day. One of the top reasons that people love to opt for mocktails over cocktails 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. I say moderately because mocktails shouldn’t be a license to overdo it either since they do often contain fruit juices, which you only want to consume in small qualities.
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 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. (4)
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. (5) 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 adding a sports drink made by nature and is very hydrating. Coconut water is so high in potassium and such a great electrolyte replacement that it’s even been used for IV hydration in some emergency situations. (6)
6. Safe for Pregnant Women, the Chronically Ill and Children
It’s a well-known fact 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.
It doesn’t stop there — mocktails are a fitting choice for chronically ill people and children who obviously should abstain from alcohol all together. (7)
Like cocktails, there are a wide selection of mocktails. Mocktail recipes come in many varieties: fizzy, non-fizzy, frozen, hot and cream-based. One of the most requested mocktails is a blood Mary, hold the vodka.
Are you ready for my take on this classic mocktail? Thanks to tomato nutrition, this mocktail is loaded with lycopene, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, vitamin C, flavonoids and vitamin E. To take the health benefits of this recipe even further, I included 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:
- Sour Cherry Fermented Digestive Tonic
- Cranberry Spritzer (make sure the cranberry juice is unsweetened )
- Pomegranate and Fennel Digestive Spritzer
- Non Alcoholic Sangria Punch
- Cranberry Mimosa and/or Cranberry Sparkler Mocktail
Mocktail Interesting Facts
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 are typically served in similar glassware with similar garnishes as “real cocktails” and may even contain the same exact ingredients minus the alcohol. (9)
Mocktails continue to gain in popularity and are getting healthier as time goes on. No longer is a virgin frozen daiquiri you’re only option if you’re looking to refrain from alcohol. Many restaurants and bars are getting a lot more creative with their mocktail options. Today, there even entire books dedicated to the healthy creation of mocktails.
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. (10) Diabetics and anyone with blood sugar concerns should also be extra careful about the overall sugar content of their mocktails.
For your next mocktail party, I hope you’ll enjoy one of these extremely tasty and healthy mocktail recipes. You may not feel as uninhibited as you do with cocktails, but you actually might realize that you feel a lot better not only as you’re drinking a mocktail, but especially afterward.
With a well-made (and by “well-made” I mean healthy) mocktail, you can actually boost your daily nutrient intake and reap all the benefits of the ingredients you choose to use in your homemade mocktail of choice. When ordering a mocktail out, make sure it’s not loaded with extra sugar. A healthy mocktail should also not be just a glass of fruit juice in a fancy glass.
You can see from my Anti-inflammatory Blood Mary Mocktail Recipe that a mocktail can really be a festive, delicious, satisfying yet health-boosting beverage any time of the day, not just 5 o’clock.