Demi Moore walks into a bar — specifically the Cocktail Bar in New Orleans’ Winsdor Court Hotel — and orders a hot tea. Her younger male friend is up for something a little more… adventurous.
He wants something delicious, refreshing, and non-alcoholic. Master mixologist Kent Moreland offers to muddle fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries and pour bubbly ginger beer over the icy berry mash-up.
“When Demi heard the description, she decided to drop the hot tea and go for the mocktail,” Moreland says. “Since I made it up on the spot, I named it ‘The Demi.'”
Turns out, the city that invented the cocktail also makes amazing mocktails. Moreland often suggests The Demi to patrons coming into his Windsor Court cocktail looking for a fun drink without the alcohol.
Ginger-laced drinks like The Demi are also great to pair with food. When friends are all ordering mimosas with their brunch and you prefer to keep things sober (but not somber), ask the bar to make a ginger drink. Meauxbar on Rampart street makes a mean ginger-mint limeade using house-made ginger mix.
Ingredients like pressed mint and juniper berries add complexity to non-alcoholic mocktails. It tastes like gin, but without the alcohol.
Making Mocktails Interesting
“Non-alcoholic cocktails are not our top request, but you want to be prepared,” says Cythnia Turner, one of the Black Penny’s rockstar bartenders. “Low-proof cocktails and mocktails are sometimes hard to make interesting.”
Turner explains that most non-drinkers are looking for something refreshing, but without a ton of sugar or artificial sweeteners.
“Having several handmade syrups on hand really helps,” Turner says, but there are a few other secrets to making mocktails with complex flavors. Pressed mint and juniper berries, for instance: “It tastes like gin, but without the alcohol,” she says, grinning.
Turner also uses a bottle of Pok Pok Som, a drinking vinegar, to help make mocktails interesting. The flavor is sweet, yet tart, with a nice fruit base.
On a recent visit, Turner came up with the “Pok Pok Session,” which consists of tonic syrup, Pok Pok Som drinking apple vinegar, fresh lemon juice, pressed ginger, and soda. The end result almost tastes like kombucha, a popular healthy drink.
From Cocktail to Mocktail: Simple Tweaks
Lots of bars can modify something on the menu to make a mocktail. The Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue features a drink called the Louisiana Sunrise made of vodka, Cointreau, fresh fruit juice, muddled mint and ginger beer. Transforming it into a mocktail is no problem, explains bartender Mike Morely.
“We swap orange juice instead of Cointreau and cut it with soda instead of hooch,” Morely says. The Columns also serves non-alcoholic beer, like O’Doul’s; tonic and bitters is another popular order.
Ordering directly from the menu feels very luxurious and mysterious, especially in a tiki bar. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Latitude 29 has two non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu for so-called Tiki Teetotalers: the “Designated Diver” and the “Colada con Nada.” What’s more, they can modify many classic tiki drinks for those who are staying sober. The Designated Diver is closest to their most popular (and namesake) cocktail, the Latitude 29, but they can also whip up a virgin Zombie or Missionary’s Downfall.
“Probably the request I hear most from patrons [is], ‘I don’t want anything too sweet,'” says Sam Danner, a bartender at Latitude 29. “The good thing is, our tiki drinks are not syrupy because they are made with freshly squeezed juice.” Whether cocktail or mocktail, all drinks at Latitude 29 share a common baseline: “They are fruit-forward and very well-balanced,” Danner says.
Danner appreciates that some of those ordering may not want to drink to catch a buzz — they just want a nice atmosphere.
“You can drink anywhere in New Orleans, even in the streets,” he says. “Sometimes it’s nice to have something refreshing to drink in a cool bar just to knock the heat off.”