The Mocktail Club by Derick Santiago

What a perfect time to be able to dive into a gorgeous book of alcohol-free but still very sophisticated beverages for adults!

Just in time for Dry January comes a slender but glamorous tome explaining how to create delightfully nonalcoholic twists on several classic drinks recipes, while also introducing new favorites to the home bartender’s repertoire. The Mocktail Club is a surprisingly comprehensive survey, not only of the contemporary trends in adult nonalcoholic beverages, but also of what it takes to set up a decent bar at home. While this book is clearly written with newcomers to sophisticated beverages in mind, it also provides plenty of interesting new information for any seasoned drinkslinger.

The first section of the book is dedicated to explaining mocktails and basic bar ingredients, equipment and techniques. The rest of the book is divided into seven chapters, each focusing on an inspirational spirit. Thus you’ll have recipes for drinks you’d otherwise make with gin or tequila or wine etc., usually with a specific substitution of the nonalcoholic version of the booze. The really interesting thing about these recipes is that tweaks are provided to give each drink a more complex mouth feel, akin to what alcohol usually provides, minus the intoxicating properties ofc.

The last of these chapters is a sort of catchall category for drinks that are less closely tied to any of the prior ones. Tbh, this last chapter was my favorite. I’m still undecided on how I feel about spending money on nonalcoholic spirits, but I’m always up for making a fun new drink with ingredients I can easily snag from the grocery store.

With that in mind, I decided to try out the Blueberry Mint Refresher recipe. Since I’m currently hosting teetotal relatives — the kind that don’t believe that one can actually “remove” alcohol, sigh — I figured this would be the safest drink to make for a group. Also, the ingredients are relatively simple and easy to stock up on, or so I thought before finding my local grocery stores empty of mint for the week bracketing New Year’s. I finally found several bunches of mint huddled in amongst the parsley, and was able to set to making this intriguing drink, lightly edited here for format:

Blueberry Mint Refresher

1/4 cup blueberries
3/4 ounce Simple Syrup
2 lime wedges
1/2 ounce lime juice
6 mint leaves
7 1/2 ounces lemon-lime soda
3 blueberries, 1 lime wedge and 1 mint sprig for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, add 1/4 cup blueberries and Simple Syrup.

Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, muddle berries and syrup until well combined.

Add in 2 lime wedges and muddle some more.

Add lime juice and 6 mint leaves.

Add large cubes of ice, cover the shaker, and shake vigorously 10-12 seconds or until the exterior of the shaker becomes visibly frosty.

Fill a highball glass 2/3 full with ice cubes.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, double-strain the mixture into the glass.

Top with lemon-lime soda.

To garnish, skewer 3 blueberries on a cocktail pick and then skewer on 1 lime wedge starting with the rind side. Place the garnish on the rim of the glass and add mint sprig on top of the drink.

This drink is just as refreshing as its name, with plenty of the texture and complexity Derick Santiago lauds in his appraisal of mocktails. I did skip the fine-mesh straining step as I’m one of those weirdos who likes fruit pulp in her beverages, and loved how beautifully layered this all came out in the end. It’s such a pretty drink!

While this recipe serves one, it’s not at all difficult to multiply for a large batch. I just muddled everything together in the pitcher (a potato masher works great for this) but also made sure to squeeze the limes before muddling, to help better release the juices.

And while I appreciated Mr Santiago’s attention to detail with this volume overall, I especially enjoyed how he strove to incorporate parts of his Southeast Asian heritage into the book, with lychee and calamansi flavors as just two examples. I’m hopeful of eventually being able to try more of the delicious recipes here, especially the ones featuring zero-proof spirits! Till then, this is a great volume to have on hand for inspiration in expanding anyone’s bartending capabilities, especially when it comes to providing sophisticated libations for all kinds of drinkers.

The Mocktail Club by Derick Santiago was published January 2 2024 by Adams Media and is available from all good booksellers, including

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