Whether it's homemade soda or something less fizzy like a punch, nonalcoholic beverages deserve the same care and craft as their boozy counterparts. This summer, consider amping up your drinks without amping up the alcohol content with these five ideas for "mocktails." They generally follow the same guidelines for making a good cocktail, including using fresh fruits and herbs to create flavor.
Michelle Stark, Times food editor
Blood Orange and Ginger Soda
As with most of these recipes, this soda requires making some sort of flavored syrup. (This one utilizes fresh ginger.) To make, mix 1 cup water, ½ cup sugar and ⅓ cup fresh ginger (sliced and peeled) in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and let stand 15 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard any ginger pieces. (Syrup can be saved in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.) To make one drink, muddle 3 mint leaves and 1 (2-inch) strip of blood orange rind in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 ½ tablespoons of the ginger syrup and ½ cup fresh blood orange juice, then shake well. Pour this mixture into a glass filled with ice, then top with ½ cup club soda. Stir, and garnish with a blood orange wedge and a mint sprig. Syrup can be used for about 6 cocktails. Recipe adapted from myrecipes.com.
Italian Cream Soda
This drink is very customizable because the fruit you choose for the thick syrup that acts as its base is what creates the flavor. You can use whatever kind of fruit you'd like; we suggest something like raspberries or strawberries. To make the syrup, bring 1 cup fruit and ¼ cup water to a boil in a small pot and cook for 20 minutes or until the fruit has softened and has reduced to liquid. Strain mixture into another vessel and discard the fruit, then transfer it back to the pot, add ⅓ cup sugar and boil until the sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let cool. To make the drink, add 3 tablespoons of the syrup to a glass, then fill the glass with ¾ cup ice. Add sparking mineral water until the glass is almost full. Top with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, then mix. Recipe from themerrythought.com.
Jalapeno Watermelon Agua Fresca
For this spicy-sweet mocktail, start by making the jalapeno simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water and ½ cup sugar. Heat over medium until sugar is dissolved, then add 1 or 2 halved jalapenos. Continue to cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the jalapenos sit in the syrup until mixture is cooled, about 10 minutes. Remove peppers, then add ¼ cup of the syrup to a blender with 1 cup coconut water and 4 cups seedless watermelon cut into cubes. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into 4 glasses and serve immediately, with a wedge of lime. Recipe adapted from thepigandquill.com.
To make this light, sunny drink, combine 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons heavy cream, 1 egg white, 2 teaspoons sugar and 3 tablespoons orange soda in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for a minute or so, then pour into a glass. If you don't want to use an egg white or simply don't have one on hand, consider using about 2 tablespoons of the liquid from a can of chickpeas. (Read more about "aquafaba" on Page 2.) Recipe from themerrythought.com.
Cucumber Fennel Cooler
Fennel seeds give this drink the vegetable's unmistakable licorice flavor. That's balanced by the cooling presence of cucumber, making it an ideal beverage for sipping poolside. To make, combine ¾ cup water, ½ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons crushed fennel seeds and 5 strips of lemon rind in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from the heat and let stand 15 minutes, then strain the mixture and remove rinds. For each drink, add 3 tablespoons of the syrup, ½ cup fresh cucumber juice and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a cocktail shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Pour into a glass filled with ice, then top with ⅓ cup club soda. Garnish with sliced cucumber. Recipe adapted from myrecipes.com.