It’s now December, and that means it’s time for parties.
Whatever holidays you celebrate this month, there’s always a reason to invite friends over for the occasion. And whether you’re having a cocktail hour where guests mingle about while nibbling on finger foods, or a full-blown dinner party with a multi-course meal, you want to be an accommodating host.
If you have vegetarian or vegan guests, you’ll offer meat-free options for them, of course. And the same consideration needs to be given to those who choose not to drink.
“I think that eventually, alcohol consumption will be considered in the same way, just kind of naturally,” said Julia Bainbridge, author of “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason.”
“There are so many reasons why people don’t drink, even if it’s just for tonight, and those reasons aren’t always something people want to talk about,” Bainbridge said. “Just offer it without asking questions.”
It’s even better if you can offer something just as notable as the drinks that contain alcohol. So as you set up your bar for a party, in addition to the wine, spirits and mixers, “just have something non-alcoholic there too, but something that’s really thought through, something that’s intentionally non-alcoholic, not just the mixers with some seltzer water,” she added. “Something that is as special as the wine that has been labored over by experts in that field.”
Bainbridge drove across the country to do research for her book, visiting both traditional bars that also offer non-alcoholic cocktails as well as sober bars. After a trip up and down the West Coast, Bainbridge drove back to New York to attend the opening night of Listen, an alcohol-free bar started by Bainbridge’s friend Lorelei Bandrovschi in 2018. Since then, she said, many other sober bars have opened up.
Around that same time, “I first removed alcohol from my life,” Bainbridge said. “The reason I say first removed alcohol from my life is that it has not been a straight line. I don’t tell my own personal story in the book, but I absolutely come to this through an alcohol-use disorder, a very complicated relationship with alcohol. So yeah, the goal is to keep it out of my life, from here forward.”
Her job at the time was writing about food, so she had to be out and about in bars and restaurants for work. So she was interested in what was happening with beverage menus, “but now I had this personal interest in finding something to drink that didn’t have alcohol, that wasn’t soda and wasn’t water,” she said.
Once she started looking, Bainbridge said she noticed that “something was happening, not everywhere, but at those forward-thinking places, and it was just exciting to me.”
Thus began her quest for non-alcoholic cocktail recipes across the country.
Bainbridge, who said “Good Drinks” was a journalistic endeavor, is sometimes even hesitant to say that she wrote the book. She is quick to give credit to the bartenders who provided her with the recipes that they painstakingly created.
“There was a lot of great talent and passion, from coast to coast,” she said. “Even beyond major cities, you could see those drinks on menus, and that was exciting.”
Four Texas establishments are mentioned in Good Drinks: Garage Cocktail Bar and the restaurant Emmer and Rye in Austin; and Coltivare and the since-closed dim sum restaurant Yauatcha, in Houston.
The alcohol-free movement has made it to a few places in Waco, most notably Sloane’s at 110 N. 25th St. and One Day Bar at 618 Columbus Ave. Sloane’s has four non-alcoholic cocktails listed on its menu, while One Day has a couple. Hemingway’s Watering Hole at 4700 Bosque Blvd. has a few non-alcoholic spirits available.
Our recipes this month include three alcohol-free drinks that will be perfect for a holiday party, along with a couple of dishes that can be served alongside whatever you’re drinking that night.
The first two recipes are from Bainbridge’s book and are reprinted with permission from “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason” by Julia Bainbridge, copyright 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
The recipe for Cherry, Ginger and Coconut Cream Ale was given to Bainbridge by Melissa and Frayer Micou, who operated the now-closed Pomona restaurant in Richmond, Virginia.
“Choose a good-quality ginger beer with some bite to balance the sweetness,” Bainbridge said.
The Salted Rosemary Paloma recipe is from Naren Young, who was creative director at Dante, a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. Dante was named the best bar in the world during Young’s time there.
“For a fairly simple drink, this tequila-less Paloma has real depth of flavor,” Bainbridge said. “Pungent rosemary pairs well with grapefruit, and I like that the salt gets mixed into the syrup instead of stuck on the glass’s rim, so it disperses throughout the drink. This is the kind of bitter, punchy, refreshing cocktail I want in my hand while the sun goes down.”
Cherry, Ginger and Coconut Cream Ale
For the Vanilla-Coconut Cream:
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup coconut cream, chilled
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla and 1/4 cup water over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Makes about 1/2 cup of syrup.[Editor’s note: The syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, and the extra can be used for things such as sweetening coffee.]
In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut cream with 1/4 cup of vanilla syrup. Whisk vigorously until the mixture thickens and gets frothy, like cold pancake batter, about 2-5 minutes. Use immediately.
For the ale:
- 1/4 cup Vanilla-Coconut Cream
- 3 ounces ginger beer
- 4 ounces tart cherry juice
Fill a Collins glass with ice, then add the ginger beer and cherry juice. Carefully spoon the coconut cream on top. Makes 1 drink.
Salted Rosemary Paloma
- 1/2 ounce Salted Rosemary Syrup (recipe follows)
- 2-3 ounces fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- 1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
- 3 ounces soda water
- 1 grapefruit slice, for garnish
Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add the syrup and juice, then top with soda water and gently stir. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. Makes 1 drink.
For the syrup:
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
- 1 sprig of rosemary, cut crosswise into 3 pieces
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, rosemary and 3 ounces water and warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature, then fine-strain and discard the solids. Store the syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 1/2 cup.
Chai Spice White Hot Chocolate
For the spice mix:
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
For the hot chocolate:
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- Chai Spice Mix
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Whipped cream
To make the spice mix, combine the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and allspice in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.
In a 3-quart crockpot, combine the milk, half-and-half, chocolate chips and Chai Spice Mix. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.
When the mixture is hot, add the vanilla and stir. Keep the hot chocolate warm in the crockpot until ready to serve.
To serve, ladle the hot chocolate into a mug and top with whipped cream and grated nutmeg or cinnamon. Makes about 6-8 servings.
Swiss Cheese Spread
- 1 bunch green onion, chopped
- 2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
- 1 cup mayonnaise
In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, cheese and green onion. Chill for several hours or overnight before serving. Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables. Makes 6-8 servings.
- 15 whole dates, pitted
- 1 pound Parmesan or Manchego, cut into 15 equal pieces
- 5 slices bacon, cut into thirds
Heat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Make an incision on one side of each date and insert a piece of Parmesan or Manchego. Squeeze the date shut to secure. Wrap each date with a bacon strip and secure with a toothpick. Place the dates on the baking sheet.
Roast the dates in the oven until the bacon on top is starting to crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the dates over and cook the other side until the bacon crisps.
Serve while hot. Makes about 6 servings.