In theory, it should be relatively simple to make a good mocktail—eliminate the booze and it’s smooth sailing, right? Yet so many nonalcoholic (NA) “cocktails” taste like someone cracked open a plastic jug of fruit punch, slopped it into a cup and called it day. But it doesn’t have to be that way, at least according to Our Lady of Cosmos, Ina Garten. The Barefoot Contessa has a foolproof way to turn out amazingly balanced, totally non-cloying NA drinks every time, and it’s as easy as squeezing some citrus.
In her new cookbook, Go-To Dinners, Garten reveals that even she struggles to craft a balanced mocktail. Without the booze, the drink is often missing the bitter bite that alcohol can impart (which contrasts pleasantly with sweeter components). The solution? Adding citrus—especially lemon or lime. It lends tartness in place of liquor, balancing out the beverage and avoiding the cloying fruit punch pitfall. Pomegranate juice and seltzer? Snooze. Add freshly squeezed lime juice, and you’ll be the talk of the party.
Even better, if you follow her formula, you can turn any easy-to-source juice into a fête-worthy refreshment (no fancy nonalcoholic tinctures required). Here are a few combinations to try:
- Nonalcoholic ginger beer + fresh lime juice + mint
- Grapefruit soda + fresh lemon juice + salted rim
- Coconut water + fresh lime juice + soda water
- Hibiscus iced tea + fresh lime juice + simple syrup