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11 Winter Mocktails

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winter mocktails

Festive and healthy beverages ideal for any holiday — with or without alcohol.

Drinks are a big part of holiday celebrations, but they’re usually loaded with sugar, dairy, alcohol, and other add-ins that can leave you feeling anything but festive the next day. To give you some healthier options, we’ve come up with a few fun alternatives that everyone can enjoy. These mocktails offer a twist on seasonal favorites.  Cheers! 

(Note: If you decide you want to add a little alcohol, we’ve made suggestions for ways to include some spirits.)

Elderberry Fizz  

Known for its antiviral and immune-boosting properties, elderberry syrup is used as a tonic during cold-and-flu season. Its flavor is reminiscent of a good red wine with dark-fruit undertones, providing a sweet-yet-sophisticated quality to this mocktail.

Elderberry_Fizz in glasses with limesPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes two servings
Prep time: Five minutes

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup elderberry syrup (substitute 100 percent elderberry juice for a less-sweet option)
  • ½ lime, cut into 4 slices 
  • 8 oz. chilled sparkling water or sparkling fruit juice

Directions

  1. Pour 2 tablespoons elderberry syrup or juice into each glass.
  2. Squeeze a slice of lime into each and fill with sparkling water or sparkling fruit juice.
  3. Garnish with remaining lime slices.

Suggested spirit: Substitute sparkling wine for the sparkling water or fruit juice.

Thyme Clementini   

This sweet and herby beverage supports your immune system with the antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of fresh thyme and vitamin C from juiced clementines. 

Thyme Clementini MocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes two servings
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus time to chill

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves, loosely packed 
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 clementines, juiced, seeds removed
  • 2 clementine-peel curls, for garnish
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, pour boiling water over the thyme and cayenne (if using) and steep for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Strain and discard the solids, then chill the tea.
  3. Meanwhile, juice the clementines.
  4. When the thyme tea is chilled, mix with the clementine juice and pour into chilled martini glasses.
  5. Garnish glasses with clementine peels and thyme sprigs.

Suggested spirit: This tastes great with a splash of vodka. 

Winter “Sangria”   

This antioxidant-rich, wine-free take on sangria features flavorful elderberry and pomegranate juices. Prepare this the night before serving so the fruit flavors can meld. 

Winter Sangria MocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes eight to 10 servings 
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus at least three hours to chill

Ingredients 

  • 1 qt. pomegranate-juice blend, such as pomegranate-cranberry or pomegranate-cherry (look for 100 percent juice) 
  • 2 cups elderberry juice 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced 
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup red grapes, cut in half
  • 4 cups sparkling water

Directions

  1. In a large pitcher, mix pomegranate and elderberry juices; add cinnamon sticks and fruits.
  2. Cover and steep for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Serve in wine glasses, distributing the fruit among them and adding sparkling water for a little fizz.

Suggested spirit: Top off with a bit of brandy.

Cozy Tea Toddy

Traditionally, a hot toddy is a warm drink made with whiskey, lemon, and cinnamon, taken to relieve a cold or flu. This version features tulsi, also known as holy basil, as well as immune-boosting spices. 

cozy tea toddy mocktail with cinnamon sticksPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes eight servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes or more

Ingredients 

  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 8 bags tulsi (holy basil) tea, or 1/3 cup loose dried tulsi
  • 4 thin (about 1/8 in.) slices fresh gingerroot 
  • 12 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star-anise pods
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced 
  • Honey, to taste

Directions

  1. Pour boiling water over the tea bags in a slow cooker.
  2. Add the ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and lemon slices.
  3. Allow to steep for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the spices with a mesh skimmer or straining ladle and set the cooker on the low or warm setting as guests help themselves; add honey to taste.

Suggested spirit: Top off with a splash of whiskey.

Mulled Cider With Hibiscus   

This warm beverage features health-boosting aromatic ingredients, including allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. Hibiscus adds vitamin C. 

mulled cider hibiscus mocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes eight servings
Prep time: Five minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes or more

Ingredients 

  • 2 qts. apple cider
  • 4 to 6 bags hibiscus tea
  • 2 tbs. mulling-spice blend  (buy or make your own; recipe below)
  • 8 orange slices or ¾ cup cranberries for garnish

Directions

  1. In a slow cooker or a large saucepan on the stove, add apple cider, tea bags, and spices.
  2. Simmer on low heat for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Remove tea bags and use a mesh skimmer or straining ladle to remove mulling spices; float orange slices or cranberries on top.

Suggested spirit: Pour a little brandy into individual servings, or substitute red wine for half of the apple cider to spike the whole batch. 

Mulling-Spice Blend

Makes 1 cup 
Prep time: Five minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 tbs. cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 2 tbs. whole cloves
  • 4 tbs. whole allspice berries
  • 2 tbs. dried orange peel, diced
  • 2 tbs. candied gingerroot, diced

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.

Faux Irish Cream

This dairy-free version of a holiday favorite is sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar. If you are avoiding caffeine, substitute chicory or roasted-dandelion-root brew for the espresso. 

Faux Irish cream MocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes six servings
Prep time: Five minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 13.5-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract (use vanilla-bean paste if you are avoiding alcohol)
  • 1 shot espresso (about 2 oz.)

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and whisk until smooth.
  2. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Suggested spirit: Try a bit of Irish whiskey. If you’re spiking the entire batch (which will help it keep longer), add 2 to 3 ounces. 

Spiced Nog    

This nog relies on flavorful dates for its sweetness. For the smoothest version, soak fresh or dried dates in the nondairy milk overnight in the refrigerator. 

spiced nog mocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes six servings
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus overnight to soak dates

Ingredients 

  • 8 fresh dates, pitted
  • 4 cups nondairy milk, such as hempseed, almond, or cashew
  • ½ tsp. vanilla-bean paste or vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg, plus more to top each drink
  • Pinch sea salt

Directions

  1. Soak the dates in the milk in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next day, place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Adjust spices to taste.
  4. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  5. Sprinkle with a grating of fresh nutmeg before serving.  

Suggested spirit: Top off with a dash of brandy or rum.

Fennel-Ginger Digestif    

Ginger and fennel are well known for their digestion-supporting powers, making them a great choice for this warming after-dinner drink.  

Fennel Ginger Digestif MocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes eight servings
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus time to cool
Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 ½-in. piece fresh gingerroot, minced (about 2 tbs.)
  • 2 whole star-anise pods
  • 2 tbs. whole fennel seeds
  • 3-in. piece orange or lemon peel
  • 6 to 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 bag hibiscus tea
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric powder
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Directions

  1. Simmer all ingredients over low or medium-low heat in a small saucepan for 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is reduced to 1½ cups.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool, then strain into a bottle or jar.
  3. Serve at room temperature.
  4. Leftovers will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Suggested spirit: A little brandy or cognac complements this digestif.

Rosemary-Grapefruit Sparkle    

Pink grapefruit’s vibrant color and flavor make this simple drink particularly cheery, while heart-healthy rosemary adds an herbal quality. 

Rosemary grapefruit mocktailPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes two to four servings
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus time for rosemary syrup to cool
Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • ¼ cup loosely packed rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped (can substitute 1 tbs. dried rosemary leaves) 
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed pink-grapefruit juice
  • 8 oz. chilled sparkling water

Directions

  1. Pour boiling water over the rosemary leaves in a heatproof container; cover and steep for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Strain out the leaves, then stir in honey until dissolved.
  3. Allow rosemary syrup to cool in the refrigerator.
  4. Combine syrup and grapefruit juice, then pour into glasses over ice.
  5. Top with sparkling water and serve.

Suggested spirit: Enjoy with vodka or gin.

Dirty Chai With Maca

A dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot of espresso added. If you love the intense flavor but would rather not feel so caffeinated, try this alternative. Chai spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, and cloves, benefit the immune and digestive systems, and can help regulate blood sugar.And maca — a cruciferous root native to Peru — adds sweetness and viscosity. Maca is also known for its mood- and energy-boosting properties, so you’ll feel great without all the caffeine. Look for maca in powdered form at health-food stores or online.

Dirty Chai Macs Drink with a spoon on the top of the glass

Makes two servings
Prep time: Five minutes
Cook time: Five minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bags chai tea blend (if you are avoiding caffeine altogether, choose a blend made with rooibos or tulsi, also known as holy basil)
  • 2 tbs. maca powder
  • 1 tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 cup whole milk or nondairy milk
  • Orange peel or freshly ground cardamom for garnish

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a simmer and add the tea bags.
  2. Simmer for five minutes and then remove the tea bags and whisk in the maca powder, maple syrup, and milk.
  3. Simmer until slightly thickened and warmed through.
  4. Serve warm, garnished with a twist of orange peel or a sprinkle of freshly ground cardamom.

Add spirit:Add a splash of Grand Marnier and eliminate the maple syrup.

Maca Mint Cocoa

Curling up by the fire with a cozy cup of cocoa is good for the soul. The cacao bean (from which cocoa is made) has earned its heart-healthy reputation thanks to high antioxidant levels, while aromatic mint is known for benefiting digestion, mood, and alertness. Maca helps smooth out cacao’s bitter edge while adding even more antioxidants.

Maca Mint Cocoa drinkPhotos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman
Makes two servings
Prep time: Five minutes
Cook time: Five minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbs. cocoa or cacao powder
  • 2 tbs. maca powder
  • 1 cup whole milk or nondairy milk
  • 1 to 2 tbs. organic cane sugar or coconut palm sugar
  • Pinch sea salt
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. mint extract (look for a glycerine- or oil-based extract if you are avoiding alcohol)

Directions

  1. Whisk the cocoa or cacao powder into the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  2. Continue whisking over low heat until slightly thickened, then whisk in the maca powder and milk.
  3. Heat until just warm, and taste to check for sweetness.
  4. Add sugar and mint extract to taste. (Maca has a bit of sweet flavor, so you may find you don’t need sugar.)

Add spirit: Add a splash of whiskey.

This originally appeared as “Cheers!” in the December 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

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(a.k.a. "That Food Girl") is a Minneapolis-based recipe developer and food stylist.

Photos: Andrea DAgosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Stylist: Paul Jackman

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