This Is Ina Garten’s Foolproof Technique for Non-Alcoholic Cocktails That Don’t Suck

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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
Ina Garten Mocktails
Digital Art by Paula Boudes

There’s one small caveat we’d like to add: You’re better off putting in a little elbow grease and using freshly squeezed citrus juice instead of relying on the bottled stuff, which has been sitting on the shelf of your grocery store longer than you want to know. The difference is night and day, trust.

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Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she’s an avid home cook and fanatic baker.