The Bottle Chronicles: Drink to Your Health
By Alexis Abel
Every January, about 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The most popular are health-related: to lose weight, stop smoking or exercise more. While more than half of all resolution-makers abandon their goals by the six-month mark, resolutions can be a powerful way to bring positive change into your life.
This year, my resolution is to run the Lincoln Half Marathon on May 1. I started running last spring, and eventually competed in the Governor’s Cup 15k in October. But my drinking habits didn’t always correspond well with waking up early for a Saturday morning run.
Besides the nasty hangover, the biggest problem with alcohol is its effect on sleep quality and hydration. Therein lies the problem: as your Bottle Chronicles correspondent, it is my solemn duty to sample a variety of wines, beers and liquors each week. But instead of swearing off alcohol as I train, I’ll be practicing moderation as I tack on the miles.
If you’re looking to exercise more, lose weight or simply reduce your alcohol intake, or if you can’t drink alcohol for other reasons (pregnancy, age, religious or dietary restrictions, or you just hate the taste), this week’s Bottle Chronicles is for you.
Take the alcohol out of a cocktail and what are you left with? Well, not much, right? Alcohol provides a central role in making cocktails balanced and nuanced in flavor. But at the same time, axing the alcohol doesn’t mean you’re stuck with drinking an old-fashioned Shirley Temple.
Making alcohol-free drinks as complex and flavorful as a true cocktail can be a challenge, but by stocking your fridge with a variety of fruits, juices and mixers, you’ll make the most of your mocktails. I recommend:
- Fresh citrus: lemon, limes, tangerines and oranges
- Simple syrup, light agave nectar or honey
- Sodas: Club soda, tonic water, lemon-line and ginger ale
- Flavored syrups like vanilla or hazelnut
- Fresh fruit and berries
- Ginger root
- Fresh herbs like mint, lemongrass and basil
For equipment, you’ll need a shaker, muddler and strainer, but in a pinch, a jar with a tight-fitting lid and the back of a spoon will work just as well.
Simple syrups for big flavor
One easy trick to flavor your fauxtinis is to create infused simple syrups, which add sweetness, flavor and volume to any drink.
Aromatic-Infused Simple Syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Aromatics (1/4 peeled and sliced gingerroot; or 2 vanilla beans, split open; or 1/3 cup fresh herbs – mint, basil, rosemary, thyme)
Heat sugar, water and aromatics in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil. Allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture and discard solids. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Lemon Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- Zest from ½ lemon
- ½ cup lemon juice
Heat sugar, zest and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil. Strain the mixture and discard solids. Allow to cool completely. Stir in lemon juice. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Use this same recipe with limes or oranges.
If you’re cutting back on sugar, try equal parts Splenda Granular or stevia and water. You can also warm and infuse honey or light agave nectar.
Here are five fauxtini recipes to try for when you need a break from the buzz.
Take advantage of winter citrus with this spicy, refreshing mocktini.
- 1 ½ ounces clementine juice (about two clementines)
- ½ ounce lime juice (about ½ lime)
- ½ ounce ginger-infused simple syrup
- Lemon-lime soda, ginger ale or club soda
- Clementine or lime wedges for garnish
Add ice, clementine juice, lime juice and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Shake 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into a martini glass. Top with soda. Garnish with clementine or lime wedges. Serves one.
Super Antioxidant Fauxtini
Rich in Folate, Vitamin C and antioxidants, this combination of pomegranate, fresh berries and lime gets a kick from sparkling ginger ale and protects you from free radicals at the same time.
- 2 ounces pomegranate or pomegranate-blend juice
- 5 to 8 raspberries or blackberries
- Pinch of sugar
- ½ ounce lime juice
- Ginger ale
- Fresh berries for garnish
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle fresh berries, lime juice and a pinch of sugar until crushed. Add ice and pomegranate juice. Shake 10 to 15 seconds and strain into a martini glass. Top off with ginger ale. Float a few whole berries on top for garnish. Serves one.
Dry Grape Grigio
Grapefruit adds dry citrus notes to grape juice while grenadine adds sweetness and color. Serve this instead of pinot grigio at your next dinner party.
- 3 cups white grape juice
- 1 cup grapefruit juice
- 1 tablespoon grenadine
Mix ingredients in large pitcher or decanter. Chill and serve in wine glasses. Serves four.
Usually made with Brazilian cachaça, a fermented sugarcane alcohol, this fruity drink has all the kick of the original without the alcohol.
- ½ small lime, diced
- ½ small orange, diced
- ½ small lemon, diced
- Sugar cube
- Ginger beer
- Mint leaves for garnish (optional)
In the bottom of a mixing glass, add lime, orange and lemon juices, sugar cube and a dash of ginger beer. Muddle to release juices. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and a mint sprig for garnish. Serves one.
If you’re the designated driver this Mardi Gras, there’s no reason you too can’t enjoy this fruity, festive beverage. Your head will thank you in the morning.
- 3 ounces pineapple juice
- 3 ounces orange juice
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- ½ ounce grenadine
- Fresh pineapple and orange for garnish
In a hurricane glass, pour juices and simple syrup over ice. Stir and then top with grenadine syrup. Garnish with pineapple and orange slices. Serves one.