I used to think that my shift as designated driver meant a night of sipping tepid water or plain old soda pop. But I’m a team player; add a little lemon or a festive umbrella to my cup and I’ll happily make sure my friends get home safe (and don’t leave their purses at the bar). However, when I found out that my stint as only-sober-one-in-the-bunch would be elongated by 9 months. . . I quickly figured out the best way to still enjoy the tasty concoctions my local bartenders could whip up. Follow me to mocktail paradise and you won’t miss that gin after all.
Ask If Their Juice Is From “The Gun”
Most bars have the usual staples of cranberry, pineapple, and orange for their mixed drinks; many have them on “the gun” as they call it, right next to the soda and tonic buttons. Stay away from this stuff when you aren’t drowning it with alcohol. It is sucked out of a bag and watered down, so it tastes like vaguely-fruity sugar water when you drink it straight. Ask what juices they offer off of the gun. Pineapple juice often comes in little cans, so my go-to is a pineapple juice and soda. Bars that pride themselves on their mixology skills and craft cocktails are the best at stocking fresh and interesting juices, but many dives offer alternatives to the juices off of the gun as well.
Browse the Menu for Options
If the bar has a cocktail menu, take a look at it for inspiration. There are many drinks that can be altered to be nonalcoholic pretty easily. The bartender can sub seltzer, soda water, or tonic in any single-liquor drink. Ask for a Mojito without the rum; swap the vodka for seltzer in a Sea Breeze or similarly fruity concoction. Don’t forget that Ginger Beer is a delicious, refreshing, and nonalcoholic beverage that many bars keep stocked to mix with vodka for Moscow Mules! Check out what they use as mixers, be creative, and order from there.
Have a Regular Mocktail Order Ready. . . Just In Case
The same way as it is recommended to have a regular order when you are imbibing the hard stuff, have a go-to mocktail order. My favorite rum and pineapple with a lime has morphed into a pineapple and soda with a lime. If I don’t like the look of anything else, I know I will be satisfied with my favorite mixture. Love cherry soda? Know you can always ask for a pop with a splash of Grenadine. This will keep you from just settling for water all night.
Ask The Pro
The best mocktails I have ever had were the product of trusting my local liquor slingers. Especially in an establishment with oodles of fancy ingredients, the bartender can usually devise a pretty amazing cocktail sans liquor. If I am feeling adventurous and tired of the same old juice, I’ll just ask for something delicious without alcohol. This is how I received an out-of-this-world tasty Smoked Cherry Coke with homemade Grenadine. Amazing; and I didn’t even miss whatever alcohol they usually include. Most places are more than happy to oblige, and come up with some unique twist on a popular or seasonal mixture. My rule of thumb: if there is a muddler visible behind the bar, trust them. They know how to throw a drink together.
Think of these tips the next time you visit your favorite watering hole or want to dine out without simply sipping water. Tiny paper umbrella optional.