With the popularity of non-alcoholic spirits and alcohol-free mocktails on the rise, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a high-quality, premium drink, with all the fun and flavour of a beautiful cocktail without having alcohol as the base ingredient.

So, whether you’re participating in Dry January, or you’re simply curious to see what all the fuss is about, we’ve written this comprehensive guide to teach you everything you need to know about non-alcoholic spirits and cocktails. We’ve even added in some of our favourite mocktail recipes as a bonus!

What is a mocktail?

A mocktail is a non-alcoholic drink designed to replicate the flavours, nose and overall experience of an alcoholic cocktail – from that first invigorating sip right down to the long finish. So what are they made of? Ask a skeptic and they might tell you that “mocktail” is just a fancy word for fruit juice. At one time they might even have been right. But today the truth is much more satisfying! 

Made from a delicately balanced blend of ingredients that can include non-alcoholic spirits, spritzers, cordials, syrups, creams, fruits, botanicals and aromatic spices, mocktails have become every bit as complex and compelling as regular cocktails.

What is a non-alcoholic spirit?

The term ‘non-alcoholic spirit’ refers to both 

  1. Distilled botanicals which have been filtered  to remove the alcohol, and
  2. Macerated and extracted botanicals made without alcohol.

In either case the ABV (alcohol by volume) content of a non-alcoholic spirit is below 0.5% (nearly the same as a ripe banana). By comparison the minimum ABV of an alcoholic spirit is 15% and often rises well above 40%.

Purple mocktail with lemmon

What do non-alcoholic spirits taste and smell like?

With so much variety this question is a hard one to answer. While some non-alcohol spirits are indistinguishable from the original, many have distinct differences. Take Caleno’s Juniper and Inca Berry for example, this clear non-alcoholic spirit is a perfect substitute for gin with a strong flavour profile of juniper berries and delicate spice but it’s also deliciously tropical with notes of pineapple. 

The key variance in the nose and flavour of non-alcoholic spirits lies in the brands who seek to reproduce the strong ethanol finish of an alcoholic spirit (usually with some kind of chilli) and those who prefer more subtle flavour profiles to add depth and intrigue to their creations.

How are non-alcoholic spirits made?

A huge amount of work goes into crafting these light libations and every brand has its own unique method. Non-alcoholic spirits such as rum, whiskey and brandy are distilled in a similar process to alcoholic spirits, from either wine, fermented fruit or grains in an elaborate process of mixing, steaming and decanting. 

Over the course of approximately 6 weeks, distillers mix a combination of fresh ingredients such as berries, spices, nuts, herbs and fruit with neutral grain spirit and water in order to match the flavour profiles of alcohol as precisely as possible. The mixture is then boiled or steamed to remove the alcohol and concentrate the flavours, resulting in a wonderfully delicious, non-alcoholic spirit. 

Here are some examples of ingredients that go into non-alcoholic spirits:

  • Non-alcoholic gin - Juniper berries, coriander seeds, dried lime, cinnamon and lavender are all ingredients you may find in some non-alcoholic gins to mimic the fruity and floral flavours.
  • Non-alcoholic rum - Baked apples, raisins, vanilla and almonds are common ingredients found in non-alcoholic rums to get the dark, fruity and spiced flavours.
  • Non-alcoholic vodka - Cucumber, coriander, apples and pepper are ingredients often used to craft non-alcoholic vodka.

What caused the rise in popularity of mocktails?

Mocktails  have been around since the 1930s. It’s believed that the Shirley Temple was one of the first non-alcoholic drinks created and you’ll probably find quite the heated debate amongst professionals over who actually made it first. It wasn’t until the ‘80s however that the term ‘mocktail’ was coined in a magazine advert and the phrase stuck!

Over the last year, mocktails have soared in popularity, with trend-spotters calling 2020 the ‘Year of the Mocktail’.  And with major supermarket players like Waitrose reporting a 180% rise in the sale of non-alcoholic beverages year on year it’s easy to see why. The cause of this popularity rise is all thanks to the ‘Dry January’ challenge, a month-long sobriety challenge which prompted many to make permanent lifestyle changes as part of a longer term health and wellness movement.

What are the best non-alcoholic cocktails?

If you’re beginning to explore the exciting world of mocktails, there are a few classics that are always a hit! Here are just a few of the best non-alcoholic cocktails, plus some brand new alcohol-free drinks from NIO Cocktails that we can’t wait for you to try. 

1. Ginger Sour

Tangy and delicious, the ginger sour mocktail offers a refreshing kick. Perfect for the festive season, this mocktail also works wonderfully well during the summer months too when you’re looking for something fresh and full of flavour. 

2. Shirley Temple

As the one that started them all, the Shirley Temple is a deliciously fruity and fizzy mocktail that’s simple to make. Simply pour in ¼ ounces of Grenadine and 3 ounces of either lemonade or lemon juice, then top up with 3 ounces of ginger ale, gently stir to combine and finish off by using a couple of maraschino cherries to garnish. This refreshing cocktail is one that everyone needs to experience! 

3. Virgin Bitters

Our Virgin Bitters mocktail delivers the same depth of flavour and wonderful aromas of a Negroni, without the alcohol. With a blend of non-alcoholic distillates, this mocktail delivers gentian herb and cardamom on the palate with a subtle spicy and fruity finish – the perfect aperitif. 

Virgin Bitters Mocktail

4. Mango Mule

For a truly tasty tropical delight, the Mango Mule mocktail is a perfect choice. Blending together fresh mango chunks, ginger beer and lime, this sweet mocktail has a delicious kick to it. will  One sip and you’re transported to a tropical beach.

5. Lemongrass Citrus

Lemongrass is a wonderful herb, with a fresh, citrusy flavour that’s both sophisticated and refreshing, so of course, it was the first  choice when it came to creating our sweet and vibrant Lemongrass Citrus mocktail. The aromatic blend of non-alcoholic distillates with an exotic twist of Grenadine makes this mocktail both punchy and smooth.  

It’s clear that mocktails are here to stay and we’re thrilled to add two excellent quality, alcohol-free drinks that you won’t want to miss out on!

Lemongrass Citrus Mocktail

Alcohol-Free Gifts

Looking to get someone an alcohol-free gift? Whether it’s for their birthday, Christmas or just to say you’re thinking about them, our exclusive box of 6 mocktails is ideal. Featuring our popular Virgin Bitters,Lemongrass Citrus and Ginger Sour, there’s something for everyone to love. Fun, unique and thoughtful, this gift is the perfect way to to try something different while also enjoying some old favourites too

Planning an exciting event for friends or family? Take a look at our how to create the best dinner party menu.

Whatever mood you’re in, we’ve got a wide range of cocktail flavour profiles to choose from that everyone is sure to enjoy.