An Introduction to Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

The recent international interest in alcohol-free alternatives may create a demand for more sophisticated non-alcoholic cocktail offerings. According to Bacardi’s 2022 Cocktail Trends Report1, 58% of consumers worldwide reported higher consumption of non-alcoholic and low-alcohol cocktails over the last year. This article explores the origin of mocktails, the benefits they offer, and how to intensify their flavor profiles without alcohol.
Mocktails: Definition and History
A mocktail is a non-alcoholic drink designed to mimic a cocktail. The beverage usually contains a combination of juices, syrups, and botanicals on ice. While many people attribute the popularization of mocktails to the alcohol-free, sugary Shirley Temple drink of the 1930s, Merriam-Webster notes the first known use of the term as early as 1916.
Modern cocktail mixology is often traced back to the English punch houses of the 1700s and the famous 1800s drinks recipes from American bartender Jerry Thomas. Thomas’ 1862 handbook, The Bar-Tender’s Guide, contains a short section of fifteen alcohol-free cocktail recipes entitled ‘Temperance Drinks’.
Many bartenders attempted to create non-alcoholic versions of traditional cocktails during the US prohibition era. This era popularized the Virgin Mary as an alcohol-free Bloody Mary alternative, which may be the root of the term virgin cocktail today.
The Benefits of Offering Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Options
Numerous studies report Millennials and Gen-Z drinkers as leaders of the sober-curious movement.
The movement is causing more young people to question their relationships with alcohol and strive for more conscious consumption. Drinking non-alcoholic beverages affords people the same social drinking experience without the adverse effects of alcohol abuse, including reduced cognitive function, impaired memory, liver damage, and addiction.
Offering a robust non-alcoholic drinks menu at your restaurant or bar may help you attract a younger and more diverse group of patrons that appreciate inclusivity.
Catering for non-drinkers also makes your menu more accessible to religious groups with various dietary restrictions on alcohol. This may include members of the Islamic faith that follow a Halal diet, Jews that keep Kosher, and different sects of Hinduism and Christianity. It also allows people with health concerns requiring abstinence from alcohol to enjoy your beverage offering.
Common Mocktail Flavor Profiles
Mixing a master mocktail involves understanding how to create some basic flavor profiles using ingredients that complement each other. Whether you use alcohol or not, there are a few fundamental flavors to keep in mind, namely:

  • Sweet. You can make a sweet mocktail with syrup, honey, liquid molasses, fruit, and fruit juice. Adding sweetness can counteract strong sour, bitter, or spicy flavors.
  • Sour. Acidic ingredients, such as tomato, citrus, vinegar, and some vegetable juices, add sourness to mocktails. You can balance tart cocktails through slight sweetening.
  • Bitter. Bitter flavors include hops, coffee, cocoa, and grapefruit. Bitter flavoring can help you imitate the taste of alcohol in your mocktails.
  • Spicy. Use a dash of chili, ginger, wasabi, or hot sauce to make your mocktails spicier. Spicy ingredients may also help create perceived warmth in a beverage.
  • Salty. Sea salt, olive brine, olives, saline solution, and other savory flavors give your mocktail a salty twist. Adding a dash of salt can also enhance other flavors.

How to Imitate the Taste of Alcohol in Non-Alcoholic Cocktails
Many drinkers enjoy the familiar taste of an alcoholic cocktail and prefer mocktails with a similar flavor. You can use various extracts and flavorings to imitate the taste of spirits, such as rum, tequila, and whiskey.
While it’s challenging to pinpoint alcohol’s authentic flavor, most people associate it with the slight burning feeling known as the trigeminal sensation. Alcohol also dries out your mouth, creating an astringent taste, and is universally perceived as bitter in drinks with an ABV of 10% or higher2. Therefore, creating mocktails that taste like alcoholic beverages takes a delicate combination of astringency, bitterness, and spice for warmth.
Tannins cause astringency, and they’re abundant in beverages like red wine and strong black tea. Using Advanced Biotech’s Black Tea Extract in a drink can contribute to an astringent flavor profile to mimic strong spirits. Other astringent botanicals include cloves, cinnamon, cocoa, quince, and persimmon.
You can replicate the taste of traditional cocktail bitters using herbs such as gentian and cinchona.
Capsaicin is the chemical compound and irritant found in spicy food and drinks, causing the burning sensation, so many of us enjoy. You can add capsaicin-containing peppers, such as cayenne or jalapeno, to your mocktails to mimic alcohol’s burning sensation and make them smell and taste more like the real thing.
Non-alcoholic cocktails have been around for centuries, and the latest consumer taste trends may bring them back into style. Using botanical extracts in your mocktails can give them more sophisticated flavor profiles or even mimic the taste of their alcoholic counterparts. Advanced Biotech supplies an extensive range of premium flavorings and aromatics that make the perfect addition to any non-alcoholic cocktail. Please contact us for more information.