The holidays are fast approaching. Party planning is in high gear. And, this being the 21st century, chances are your guest list includes at least one of the following invitees: A Mormon, a Muslim, a mother-to-be, a med-taker, a teenager, a designated driver, a friend of Bill’s.
So what’s a gracious host to do?
Why, celebrate, of course — without the alcohol, but with a little help from The Mode Lounge bartender Sara Behunin. She’s the mixologist behind one of Downtown Boise’s hottest craft cocktail destinations.
“Typically when I’m doing holiday parties, and I make a specific cocktail for the occasion, I try to make a mocktail that will mimic it,” Behunin said.
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Behunin was behind the bar one Tuesday afternoon at the stylish cocktail lounge.
Even here — where the menu features libations such as My Only Sunshine (Piave grappa and carrot turmeric juice, among many other ingredients) — non-alcoholic drinks are a regular request, she says.
The door opened, two women took a seat and promptly proved Behunin’s point: One vodka tonic. One ginger beer and lemonade. Ginger beer is the artisanal cousin of ginger ale. It is usually more expensive and flavorful but has the same alcohol content: zero.
Behunin creates her mocktails around soda water and tasty versions of traditional simple syrups, infused with herbs or a variety of fresh fruits. Simple syrups are basically sugar water. She’ll include generous splashes of fresh citrus or top them off with alcohol-free ginger beer or club soda.
One of her favorite mocktails is The Spiced Pineapple, its combination of cinnamon and ginger a delicious nod to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Another is an elegant and refreshing drink for the alcohol averse to toast in the New Year — it’s also her favorite hangover elixir.
She calls it Dead (rhymes with witch) in a Ditch, “because that’s usually how you feel in the morning after drinking too much the night before,” she laughs. “It’s lemon juice, activated charcoal, and then I shake those two together and add the soda water on top.”
She shakes the concoction with a loud rattle, fills a pint glass with ice and pours the drink over. It looks elegant and a little foreboding, with a clean astringent taste that implies, “This is probably good for you.” The lemon juice, she says “helps your liver cleanse itself,” and the charcoal “absorbs toxins.”
“You can add activated charcoal to any cocktail,” Behunin says. “It won’t change the flavor or the viscosity, really, and it becomes a beautiful, dark, black color and looks spooky.”
Halloween’s in the rear view mirror, but New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. That’s a spooky enough reason to start pouring now.
Virgin Lime Rickey
Yield: 1 cocktail
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce homemade grenadine (recipe follows)
Fill a pint glass with ice. Pour the lime juice in and fill the glass with club soda. Holding a spoon over the glass, slowly pour the grenadine over the convex side of the spoon and allow it to float into the drink. Garnish with a wedge of lime and a gourmet bottled or canned cherry such as Luxardo brand on a bamboo skewer. Avoid the neon red maraschinos.
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup of sugar
Place the pomegranate juice and sugar in a jar with a tight lid. Shake, shake, and shake again until the sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate.
Dead (rhymes with Witch) in a Ditch
Yield: 1 cocktail
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
Contents of 1 capsule of activated charcoal
Club soda or sparkling water
Fresh lemon slice for garnish
Pour the lemon juice into a pint glass. Add charcoal and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top off with club soda. Garnish with a slice of fresh lemon.
Note: Activated charcoal is available at some grocery and health food in the nutritional supplements section.
The Spiced Pineapple
Yield: 1 cocktail
1 ounce spiced pineapple syrup (recipe follows)
Cinnamon stick and crystallized ginger
Fill a pint glass with ice. Pour in the spiced pineapple syrup. Top off the glass with ginger beer. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a piece of crystallized ginger. For a sweeter drink, use more syrup. For a spicier drink, use less.
Spiced Pineapple Syrup
Yield: 1 cup
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced, or canned in its own juice, drained
1 cup water
3 cinnamon sticks
1 cup granulated sugar
Put the pineapple, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes until the pineapple breaks down. Remove from heat. Discard the cinnamon and press the pineapple through a fine mesh sieve into a glass jar. Stir in sugar to dissolve. Refrigerate.