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Alcohol–Free Drinks



The Back Story of
Alcohol-Free Drinks

Who said a great cocktail had to contain alcohol? There are growing legions of people who are looking to entertain and be entertained without it. For many, it's a matter of enjoying the taste of a cocktail without any of the potential side effects.

Creating alcohol-free cocktails involves as much art and skill as does mixing with spirited ingredients. There are scores of interesting and high quality products that can be used in their creation. More importantly, alcohol-free cocktails are every bit as delicious and worthy of public acclaim as any that are spiked with spirits.


So is it possible to create hangover-free versions of some of America's favorite cocktails? Absolutely, provided one selects the right drinks to feature. Classics such as the Martini, Old Fashioned, or Manhattan are liquor driven recipes, therefore dropping them out of consideration. Other concoctions that essentially disqualify themselves are the Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, Kamikaze and Cosmopolitan. The spirit bases in these recipes are integral to achieving the desired flavor profile. Simple highball combinations, such as the screwdriver or gin & tonic, exist only in the spirit world and are best left alone.

Nearly every other classic recipe can be recreated in an alcohol-free version. This section is loaded with creative variations on traditional themes, such as alcohol-free-sangrias, daiquiris, piña coladas and margaritas. The only thing to watch out for with these hangover-free drinks are the calories, as if that's really a concern.

The enduring popularity of these recipes suggests there is something timeless about the way they taste. For example, the grasshopper is a famed drink that marries the flavors of mint (crème de menthe), chocolate (crème de cacao) and ice cream together. Add some Monin chocolate and mint syrups to a few scoops of ice cream and the resulting concoction will be a dead ringer to the conventionally prepared version.

The following explores how to recreate the character and personality of the major players in the world of mixology without adding a drop of alcohol.

  • About Alcohol-Free Piña Coladas — This classic drink is an excellent candidate for promotion to the ranks of alcohol-free. In a well-made piña colada, the flavor of coconut and pineapple dance rings around the subtle taste of light rum, which in some instances, adds little taste to the drink.
       One of the piña colada's most marketable attributes is that it is highly versatile. The blended drink's pineapple and coconut base marries well with other flavors. For example, a shot of coffee or chocolate is a welcome addition to its overall flavor. Piña coladas also taste great with melon, banana, orange, strawberries, raspberries, lemon, or vanilla.
       Since the piña colada is intended to be a sublime tropical experience, one trick of the trade is to blend the drink with ice cream. The result is a thicker, more flavorful concoction. This tactic allows a new avenue of creative thought, for in addition to vanilla ice cream, optional flavors to consider are chocolate, French vanilla, banana, strawberry and coffee. Of course, one could argue that there are at least 31 flavors from which to choose.
  • About Alcohol-Free Margaritas — The margarita has become the most popular specialty drink in the country. While a large part of its character is predicated on the use of tequila, there are numerous creative ways of preparing delicious margaritas that do not use tequila.
       The basic construction of an alcohol-free margarita requires sweetened lemon juice (sweet 'n' sour), fresh lime juice and a dose of orange juice. Shake the mixture, or blend with ice, and serve in a specialty glass with a salted rim. The resulting concoction is refreshing and exceptionally easy to drink.
    Like the piña colada, the margarita is an adaptable recipe and can accommodate many different complementary flavors. As the recipes in this chapter prove, there are alcohol-free specialty margaritas made with fruits of every description, as well as peppers, iced tea, prickly pear cactus, cider, Tabasco Sauce, salsa, sorbet and ice cream.
  • About Alcohol-Free Daiquiris — The daiquiri originated in Cuba in the 1920s, when Cuba was renowned for having the most capable, professional bartenders in the world. It is one of the drinks made famous by Ernest Hemingway and was President Kennedy's drink of choice.
       The daiquiri is one of the quintessential cocktails, perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, and loaded with flavor. The original daiquiri was made with light rum, fresh lime juice and sugar. It was then shaken and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.
       Alcohol-free daiquiris can be made with a bevy of different products. It is an ideal drink in which to feature exotic fruits such as guava, mango and papaya. Daiquiris can be made with ice cream or sherbet, and are often flavored with coconut, banana, strawberry, raspberry and passion fruit.
  • About Alcohol-Free Sangrias — In Spain and throughout Europe the prescribed remedy for beating the heat is sangria, a beautiful marriage of fruit juice and wine. Alcohol-free sangrias are a marvelous way to quench a thirst. They are easily prepared on a base of various fruit juices, flavored syrups and handfuls of sliced fruit. For best results, sangrias should be made by the pitcher and allowed to fully steep several hours prior to service. They're not quickly prepared, but are well worth the wait.


The Back Story of Smoothies

Some of us still subscribe to the theory that anything high in nutritional value must taste awful. Likewise, if something tastes bad, it must be just what the doctor ordered. It is, however, difficult to cling to this point of view after taking a long draw from a smoothie. Even its name sounds comforting.

In fact, smoothies could possibly be the best of all things. They're delicious and nutritious, which for many is a completely alien concept. Nevertheless, smoothies are healthy, potable meals with the look, feel and taste of fruit milkshakes. In this time-conscious, nutrient-depleted day and age, smoothies are something of a panacea, a 21st century concoction perfectly in step with the times.

So what is a smoothie? Essentially, they are blended drinks made with fruit, non-fat frozen yogurt, sherbet and/or sorbet and ice. Some are even dairy-free. But there's no reason to stop there.

For example, mega-popular Jamba Juice, a national chain of smoothie purveyors, adds such highly beneficial things as vitamins, minerals, fiber, herbs, amino acids, soy protein and phytonutrients to their various blended concoctions. They have smoothies designed to do everything from provide a boost of energy or fight a cold, to bolster one's immunity or to help shed a few unwanted pounds. All this and they're sumptuous too.


How to Create Smoothie Classics

The essential first step in preparing a classic smoothie drink is to plug in the blender, after that, let the creative juices flow. To give the process a shove in the right direction, think of smoothies as containing four basic elements, namely juice(s), fruits, modifiers and base mix.

  • Juice — If it's true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, smoothies could seriously dent the medical profession. In addition to the likes of orange, apple, pineapple and cranberry juice, consider adding other less conventional juices such as grape, raspberry, peach nectar, apple cider, tangerine, kiwi, passion fruit nectar, strawberry nectar and mango.
    It is a continuing mystery of nature exactly how and why various juices taste great blended together. Unexplained as it may be, feel free to mix and match various juices according to personal taste and preference. No need to justify inspiration.
  • Fruits — In addition to adding flavor and nutrients to a smoothie, blending in fruit boosts the drink's fiber content and enhances its texture and consistency. Since these are cold, blended drinks, for the best consistency freeze fruit prior to use.
       Featuring frozen strawberries, bananas, apples, or raspberries in a smoothie are an excellent beginning. But it's a big world and fruit comes in all shapes and sizes. Smoothies should reflect this diversity. To that end, some of the possible fruit selections to be mixed and matched include frozen peaches, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, pears, watermelon, oranges, tangerines, pineapples, dates, avocados, papaya, persimmons, pitted cherries, mangos, blackberries and blueberries. Of course, fresh, ripe fruit is always an option.
  • Modifiers — Much of the fun begins with the addition of modifiers, those things that begin to give the creation its individuality. Modifiers come in two basic categories. There are those ingredients intended to improve the quality of the recipient's life. Perhaps they're antioxidants, such as vitamins A, E and beta-carotene, or fiber, such as wheat germ and oat bran, or sources of protein, such as bee pollen, brewers yeast and soy. Also falling into this health store variety of modifiers are flaxseed oil, ginko biloba, ginseng, lecithin, protein powders, wheat grass, echinacea, calcium, folic acid and vitamins B, C, D and K.
       Then there are smoothie modifiers that just plain taste great. They may be intended to add flavor or provide a welcome touch of sweetness. Either way, these are ingredients that are bound to satisfy the kid in all of us. This tasty category includes, but is not limited to chocolate or caramel sauce, coffee, agave nectar, espresso coffee, Reese's peanut butter cups, candy bars, walnuts, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, grenadine, chai tea, coconut cream, coconut milk, peanut butter, raspberry or strawberry preserves, honey, malted milk powder, maple syrup, cookies, (dried) unsweetened coconut and brown sugar.
  • Smoothie Base — The final consideration is the foundation of the drink. Because of its low-fat nature, frozen yogurt is a popular choice as a smoothie base. It has a rich, creamy texture and comes in a slew of interesting flavors. Others may prefer using soy milk or soy yogurt for health reasons.
    Both sorbet and sherbet are frequently featured in smoothies. They are easy to use and also available in a wide variety of flavors. Finally, people looking for nothing but pleasure tend to prefer building their smoothies on a base of ice cream.
       Fortunately, there are a number of smoothie mixes available on the market that offer a delicious, convenient and cost-effective method of preparing smoothies. These mixes can be paired with fruit, or used as a fabulous base upon which to create a smoothie masterpiece.

So rev up the blender and join one of the hottest, most delectable beverage trends in the country.


The Back Story of Juices

No other beverage seems quite as good for you as juice. It's fairly uncomplicated stuff-the essence of fruit rendered into a drinkable consistency. We all know that juice is wholesome, but what might not be as widely known are the amazing amount of health benefits associated with drinking juice.

Fruit juice is about the best and most convenient means of replenishing the body's essential nutrients and is a great source of energy. It's estimated that drinking between 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of juice is equivalent to eating a single piece of fruit. Unlike many processed beverages, most juices contain natural sugars-fructose and glucose. More importantly, many juices contain significant amounts of phytonutrients that have been proven to help in preventing diseases, especially heart disease.

Fruit and vegetable juices are typically high in vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium. Most are also rich in antioxidants, which are essential in mitigating the damaging affects of free radicals prevalent in the environment. If it's true that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” then juice is like an HMO in a glass.


Types of Juices

Almost all juice is prepared by first removing the leaves and stems from the fruit. If nothing else is done to the juice, it may be labeled as "unfiltered," which means that the pulp, pectin and nutrients are essentially left intact.

About 98% of all fruit and vegetable juice in the United States is pasteurized, a process in which the juice is quickly heated to a specific temperature to destroy microbes and bacteria that cause spoilage and contamination. While pasteurization does extend the shelf life of the juice and makes it safer to drink, the process also reduces the amount of vitamin C and other water-soluble nutrients found in juice.

Some juice products may look like the real thing, but don't deliver where it counts, namely in the promise of good nutrition. A number of factors go into classifying the various types of juice.

  • Freshly Extracted Juices — These refrigerated products are typically labeled with a date of how long the juice will remain fresh and therefore safe to consume. These juices are likely to have higher levels of perishable vitamins, nutrients and enzymes. Fresh juices are rarely pasteurized.
  • Pure Fruit Juice — As the name would imply, products labeled as “100% Pure” or “100% Juice” contain nothing other than fruit juice. If the label doesn't identify the product as “100% Juice,” then it is highly likely that the juice has been diluted with water, along with some form of high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Fruit Juice Nectars — By law, these products contain less than 100% juice, but more than 20% juice by volume. They usually contain between 20% and 50% fruit juice. The remainder of the nectar is comprised of water and sweeteners.
  • Fresh Frozen Juice — This type of product is made from freshly squeezed juice, packaged and flash-frozen without pasteurization or further processing. It is maintained frozen and should be consumed immediately upon thawing.
  • Juice Concentrates — After the juice has been extracted from the fruit, it is pasteurized and the water content evaporated before the remaining solids are frozen. After the concentrate is thawed, water is added back to reconstitute it prior to serving.
  • Bottled or Canned Juices — These products are made from 100% pasteurized juice, and despite being labeled as a single variety of juice, they often contain blends of apple or white grape juice. A bottled or canned product may be labeled as a particular type of exotic juice, but in actuality contain more apple, pear, or white grape juice than that listed on the label.
  • Fruit Drinks, Beverages, Spritzers and Juice Cocktails — These products are diluted to contain significantly less than 100% juice, and include added sweeteners and artificial flavors. Often the first ingredient listed in these beverages is water.
       The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for overseeing the labeling of juice products. All juice products must clearly state the actual percentage of juice they contain and every ingredient must be listed in descending order. The package must state if the juice was derived from concentrate or not, as well as if the juice has been fortified with vitamins and minerals. Be a savvy consumer and read labels on products to better understand what's being purchased.


Creative Uses for Juice

Drink making would be dull without the existence of juices. It's no wonder why they are such commonly relied on ingredients in mixology. They add color, flavor and consistency to drinks, and best of all, juices blend well with each other. So feel absolutely free to mix various types of juices. They don't seem to mind and life will never get boring. Juice and carbonation are a natural pairing. A wide range of sparkling waters work, flavored or not. Juice can also be blended with ice cream, sorbet or sherbet. Toss in some fresh fruit and voila, a great tasting alcohol-free drink is ready to be christened.


The Back Story of Apple Cider

No other fruit is more chronicled in history than the apple. There is evidence that apples were eaten during the Stone Age in Europe and along the Nile River Delta as early as 1300 BC. Apples existed during the halcyon days of the Greek Republic and Roman Empire. When Julius Caesar invaded England in 55 BC, he found the villagers in Kent produced a beverage from apples called cider. Then there's the incident involving William Tell being forced to shoot an apple off the head of his son.

Apples existed in America years before the arrival of the Pilgrims. Unfortunately for the settlers they were the crabapple variety and unusable for cider. The Massachusetts Bay Colony requested seeds and cuttings from England, which were brought over on later voyages of the Mayflower. People from other European countries immigrating into the United States included apple seeds among their provisions. Well before the founding of the original 13 colonies, apples were being cultivated from Virginia to the Carolinas and throughout New England.

Shortly after the founding of our nation, John Chapman began his famous trek across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois planting apple seeds, thus earning him the name, Johnny Appleseed. The offspring of those trees can be found in nearly every county of the three states. Some contend that the origin of the Washington State apple crop-now the largest in the United States-can be traced to seeds brought by an English sea captain around 1820.

As the nation expanded westward, so did the migration of the apple. Of the nearly 8000 varieties of apples in the world, over 100 are cultivated for commercial purposes in the United States. Not surprisingly, the top ten best selling varieties constitute roughly 90% of the American annual harvest, which currently exceeds 220,000,000 bushels.

The apple is not finished evolving though. Relatively new varieties, those discovered within the last 50 years, include the Fuji, Braeburn, and Liberty. They join such classics as the McIntosh, Delicious, Empire, Rome, Spartan, Cortland and Granny Smith. Like much of nature, apples are a work in progress.


How Apple Cider is Made

Cider's popularity has spanned the millennia due to its crisp, refreshing character and the fact that it is relatively easy to produce. In the United States, the largest cider producing regions are New England and the Northwest.

No two great apple ciders will taste the same. They are the result of blending together different varieties of apples, each selected for particular characteristics. Some apples are chosen for their sweetness, others for their high acidity. The exact composition of the cider is where much of the craftsmanship is displayed.
After the apples have been harvested, they are carefully inspected, with flawed or unfit apples culled out of the hopper. The fruit is washed and then transferred by a conveyor to a grinder where it is pulverized into a mash, skins, seeds and all. The hopper of mash is then transferred to the cider press.

In a traditional apple press, the mash is wrapped in linen or cloth, attached to a wooden frame, then pressed, the force of which expresses the juice through the porous material. The running juice is collected in a catch pan underneath. Modern devices consist of a large cylinder of reinforced screens with an inflatable bladder inside. The mash is placed in the cylinder such that when the bladder is gradually pressurized, the mash is forced through the screens and the juice is collected.

The freshly pressed cider is sent through another set of filters to remove any fine particulate from the juice. It is important at that point to cool the cider as rapidly as possible. Fresh apple cider will keep for about two weeks if maintained at 42˚F or below. Producers may add sodium benzoate to extend the life of the cider and prevent the growth of bacteria.

Apple cider can be fermented into an alcoholic beverage, in which case it is referred to as hard cider. Sweet ciders, which are alcohol-free, vary greatly in their relative sweetness and degree of clarity. In addition, ciders can be still, or injected with carbon dioxide and made sparkling.

Apple cider is a universally appealing drink with scores of creative alcohol-free applications. Largely its realm of use can be divided into whether it is served warm or cold.

Cider takes only about 10 minutes over low heat to warm to serving temperature. In most cases, mixologists take that opportunity to steep the warming cider with spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon or allspice, and fruit, including orange zest or lemon peels. Warm apple cider is a delectable treat, ideal for the holidays.

Cold apple cider makes a marvelous addition to a wide variety of drinks. It can be paired with other juices, such as raspberry, grape and cranberry. Apple cider marries beautifully with ice cream or sherbet, as well as mixed with flavored carbonated sodas.
Sparkling apple cider is a delicious way to add sweet effervescence to limeade or lemonade. It is popularly served in ice cream floats or as the base of many alcohol-free specialties.


The Back Story of Sodas

They are effervescent, flavorful and Americans love them. Sodas have become an integral part of everyday life in this country. The interesting question is how did sodas become so deeply rooted in the cultural fabric of the nation? After all, regardless of the brand name on the label, soda pops are all essentially the same thing, artificially charged, water-based mixtures with flavorings of some sort. What is it about these carbonated drinks that has made them America's drink of choice?

A partial explanation can be traced to such famous European spas as Vichy, Evian, San Pellegrino and Perrier, where for centuries people have sought out their mineral waters for the rejuvenating effects. These naturally effervescent waters were seen as curatives with healing and revitalizing powers. Eventually these waters were bottled and made available throughout the continent.

In 1772, British scientist Joseph Priestly became the first to successfully produce artificially carbonated water. He produced the carbonated waters in barrels, flavored them with lime juice for use by the Royal Navy to prevent sailors from contracting scurvy. By 1793, Jacob Schweppe began bottling soda water, or seltzer as it became known. It was considered a patent remedy and often contained medicinal herbs and elixirs. After that, bottled mineral waters, spring waters and manufactured seltzers flourished.

The realm of carbonated beverages changed forever with the creation of Coca-Cola in 1886. Dr. John Pemberton, a pharmacist in Atlanta, created a proprietary flavored syrup in his back yard, which when mixed in carbonated water, became a good tasting restorative. At first, the fountain drink was intended solely for the customers at his pharmacy's soda fountain, but less than ten years later, Coca-Cola was being bottled and had become available in every state in the Union.

Many other types of beverages, however, have made a splash in the United States only to fall out of fashion a short time later. Why have sodas flourished and enjoyed enormous popularity in this country for more than a century?

It's all about lifestyle. Sodas are consumed anytime of day by just about every segment of the population-kids, adults, rich and poor. They are relatively inexpensive and provide a flavorful, effervescent break in the day. Sodas can be found at almost any type of occasion and celebration. They are drunk at picnics and sporting events, at the movies and in the car. The 1928 Coca-Cola slogan summarized it best; sodas are truly "The Pause that Refreshes."

Today, the field of entrants is still largely dominated by the major brands yet there are many smaller, boutique lines of soda that are new, fresh and exciting.


Kid's Drinks

Good things happen when the dining experience for kids is enhanced. Offering them special things to drink shows consideration - involves them in the dining experience and may keep them in their seats a bit longer. All things considered, specialty drinks to the minor leaguers makes good sense.


Creative Drinks for Kids

Special to kids usually means being served a great looking, great tasting concoction, served in a sensational looking glass that mom and dad wouldn't normally let them drink from at home. The realm of possibilities has expanded greatly since the days of the kiddie cocktails and Shirley Temples. The philosophical orientation is to create specialty drinks that will knock their socks off. So where to start? Here are some ideas that should help you create an Olympic class beverage for our country's youth.

  • About Lemonade — This great American beverage is a good starting point. Using Torani syrups you can feature an unlimited variety of flavorful, colorful combinations, such as blueberry lemonade or strawberry lemonade. Two other creative options are to blend lemonade with sorbet and fresh fruit into a slushy drink, or mix Hawaiian Punch with lemonade and ice for a novel specialty.
  • About Smoothies — Kids love smoothies, as long as they don't know that they're drinking something borderline healthy. Smoothies need not be more complicated than blending juice, fruit, yogurt and ice together. For fun, blend in a few cookies as well.
  • About Frozen Drinks — Frozen drinks are tall, colorful, delicious and extremely lucrative. There are scores of creative blended specialty drinks ideally suited for young people. For instance, starting with an alcohol-free strawberry daiquiri or piña colada, add a banana, some vanilla ice cream, a few sweet strawberries and a healthy dash of chocolate syrup. The creation will be something they'll talk about in school. Consider a swirled blended drink for kids. Swirls are made by combining in the same glass, two blended drinks with different looks but complementary flavors.
  • About Soda Drinks — Looking at life from a kid's perspective, every parents offers the same selection of sodas. Why not offer these future voters sodas with unusual flavors that aren't typical like black cherry, root beer, vanilla, or kiwi strawberry? These sodas can also be used to create fabulous floats. Add a splash of syrup flavor to push the drink into the exceptionally tasty range. Don't overlook the enduring popularity of the root beer float and the Coke ice cream float. Also, Martinelli Sparkling Cider is a kid favorite. Serve it by the glass or use it as the base of a signature drink.
  • About Hot Cocoa and Chocolate Milk — When in doubt, call on a kid's best friend, chocolate. Make hot cocoa something truly special by floating a scoop of ice cream on top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of shaved chocolate. Chocolate milk can be served as a tall, slushy specialty drink by flash blending with ice in a blender.
  • About Garnishing — Sure these drinks need to taste great, but they also have to look spectacular. Kid's drinks in tall, durable specialty glasses. Frozen blueberries or grenadine are great sources for color, and a few dashes of vanilla extract creates an irresistible aroma. The coup de grace is using a red vine licorice stick with its ends cut off instead of a straw. Have fun and think like a kid. The drinks will be a smash hit with the kids and their parents, too.