Who’s ready for some zero-proof and low-octane cocktails? This season is full of celebration, festivity, friends and family.
It is also a time of decadence and indulgence: Things we would not ordinarily eat (we’re looking at you, gravy), sweets we would not regularly consume, drinks we don’t stir up on a weekly basis all become part of this month’s party menu. For drinkers and their hosts, the options are endless and also fun. But what of the imbiber who doesn’t want to imbibe? Even in the season of full-on fun, there will be those who abstain for calories, cholesterol or other lifestyle reasons. Zero-proof and low-octane entertaining can be an inclusive host’s answer to what to put in a glass for those who want to go with less.
With that in mind, here is Baltimore Style’s guide to this season’s best beverages with a reduced impact. No need for
alcohol-free January when these tasty drinks are part of the December table.
DIY ‘La Croix’
High-quality bitters, like spirits, are made with precision and care, making them a staple of the craft cocktail scene. Bitters production can be likened to steeped gin distillation — bitters are created by macerating botanicals, such as fresh citrus fruits, aromatic herbs or whole spices and barks in a high-proof grain spirit.
Despite an average alcohol content of 45 to 50 percent, the minute serving size of spirit-based bitters reduces the proof down to nearly zero when added to the sparkling non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. This magic in a bottle, which dates back as far as the ancient Egyptians, provides the same opportunity for flavor exploration in mocktails as cocktails. Allow your guests to create booze-free signature sippings with a bitters highball station.
Provide fun, festive garnishes to help spur creativity.
Bartender tip: Flavored vodkas generally come in around 10 to 20 proof points lower than non-flavored vodka. Stock flavored vodka on the station for a lower ABV option. Also, put down a dark runner or placemats — dark bitters stain.
Allspice bitters in ginger ale garnished with fresh pear
Thanks a Bunch
Rose water and lavender bitters in sparkling water with candied lemon garnish
The spritz has been a staple beverage in Europe for generations. The drink’s popularity has transcended region and has taken America by storm over the last few seasons. Traditionally, a spritz is an herbaceous spirit, such as Aperol or Campari, stirred in prosecco with a splash of club soda served over ice. Pairing fresh (or organic) juices with rich aromatics in sparkling water issure to satisfy any palate, quenching your desire for carbonation while negating the alcohol content.
Bartender tip: Want to keep spirits in your spritz but lower the impact? These spirits are each under 30 percent ABV, and they reveal dynamic, complex personalities when served in sparkling water: Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur; St. Germain elderflower liqueur; Pimm’s No. 1 Cup; Heering Cherry liqueur; and
Edinburgh Rhubarb & Ginger liqueur.
Organic pineapple juice
Elegant Elderflower Spritz
1½ ounces St. Germain
Fresh basil and mint
Without the need to rely on prosecco for the spritz, we can repurpose it for a perky punch. Many old-school punches rely on sugar over substance with bottled juices and cordials or brandy. This build embraces fragrant elements, layered with fresh citrus and lots of bubbles. It’s further elevated with fresh herbs.
Thyme Prosecco Punch
24 ounces fresh-squeezed
4 ounces lemon juice
18 ounces vanilla simple syrup
48 ounces cold soda water
50 ounces (two bottles) well-chilled prosecco
Fresh thyme, sage and grapefruit
In a punch bowl, combine grapefruit juice, lemon juice and vanilla simple syrup and then whisk together for 30 seconds. Add soda water and stir gently. Add one handful fresh thyme, one handful fresh sage and one split vanilla pod. Top with prosecco immediately before serving and stir gently.
Bartender tip: Keep cubed ice on the side or use a Bundt pan to make a decorative ice ring. If you have a raised punch bowl use a base of cubed ice, then arrange with the fresh ingredients for a pop of extra color. For a non-alcoholic version, substitute lemon-lime soda for the prosecco.
Drop the ’Nog
Eggnog, much like its cousin fruit cake, is a divisive holiday tradition. In this season of celebration, we need unifiers. Chai black tea offers parallel savory elements with the spiced undertones found in eggnog. And omitting dairy is more inclusive, anticipating the potential needs within a crowd. This simmering beverage satiates warmly without relying on rum or bourbon. Should a boozy variation be more your entertaining style, a well-produced low-proof American Rock and Rye, such as Mister Katz’s at 65-proof or Jacquin’s at 54-proof, adds an additional fruit-forward sweetness with minimal octane.
Them Apples Chai Toddy
16 TAZO chai black decaf tea bags
128 ounces of water
64 ounces apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
2 oranges, sliced into semicircles
2 seasonal red variety apples, sliced
8 whole cinnamon sticks
In a large stockpot bring 128 ounces of water to a gentle boil, turn off heat and add 16 tea bags. Cover pot and allow tea bags to steep for five minutes. Remove tea bags and discard. Add your choice of apple cider or unfiltered apple juice, stir and return to low simmer. Add oranges, apples and cinnamon. Stir to combine, cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or to taste. Reduce heat to lowest setting and serve warm.
Bartender tip: This drink is a stress-free, two-to-one ratio easily adjusted to the size and needs of your party.