- I tried three celebrity-chef mocktail recipes to find the best nonalcoholic option.
- Geoffrey Zakarian’s recipe was my favorite thanks to the kick from the spicy ginger beer.
- I was hopeful for Aaron McCargo Jr.’s mocktail but, ultimately, I was underwhelmed.
- Ree Drummond’s virgin mango margarita would be great with or without alcohol.
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Whether you’re cutting back on alcohol, going dry for a month, or looking for family-friendly drinks, mocktails are a fun substitute for cocktails that boast all of the delicious flavors without the side effects of liquor.
Although I love a good nightcap, I wanted to see if I could find a delicious alternative to my regular cocktails.
I typically look for drinks that are more light and refreshing, so I decided to experiment with a few fruity mocktails from celebrity chefs Aaron McCargo Jr., Geoffrey Zakarian, and Ree Drummond.
Read on to find out what I thought of each recipe and which ones I plan to make again – with or without liquor.
McCargo Jr.’s tropical mocktail with passion-fruit juice sounded delicious
McCargo Jr., the winner of the fourth season of “The Next Food Network Star” and the face of “Big Daddy’s House,” has a simple, tropical mocktail recipe that combines three types of juice and club soda.
I was most intrigued by and excited about the addition of passion-fruit juice, a flavor used in one of my favorite cocktails from a local restaurant. The recipe also calls for white-grape and apple juice.
Altogether, this option cost me $8.67 for enough ingredients to make several more servings.
This was the easiest recipe to make
It really doesn’t get any easier than this.
I combined the juices in a small pitcher, moved the mixture into a glass filled with ice, and topped off the drink with club soda.
I did wish there was some kind of garnish to make the final product feel more like a cocktail. The tropical flavor would pair great with a lime wheel, pineapple wedge, sprig of mint, or even a mini umbrella.
The passion-fruit flavor didn’t really come through, and all I could taste was the white-grape juice
The first few sips mainly were club soda, which is not entirely pleasant on its own. So, I gave the drink a stir and tried it again.
Although I couldn’t taste the club soda anymore, I didn’t fall in love with the actual flavor. I mostly noticed the white-grape juice, which isn’t my favorite drink to begin with.
The experience certainly didn’t feel like I was enjoying a cocktail. Instead, it mostly reminded me of sipping on a glass of grape juice.
Still, this option would be a great family-friendly recipe for special celebrations, but I’d use less grape juice and more of the passion-fruit alternative if I made this again.
I couldn’t wait to try Zakarian’s sparkling cocktail with ginger beer
One of my favorite cocktail ingredients is ginger beer. Although it isn’t alcoholic, it adds a nice spice and carbonation to some of my go-to orders. I was also excited that this recipe includes fresh-fruit garnishes.
That said, I had high hopes for Zakarian’s mocktail, which tops a combination of pineapple, mango, and lime juices with ginger beer.
I went with an extra-spicy alternative of the latter, which cost $3.49 and was the most expensive addition to any of these recipes.
As a whole, making this mocktail added up to $13.82, but there were enough ingredients, and even garnishes, to whip up far more than the four servings this recipe states.
This was another easy drink to throw together
Although it took a little bit longer to come together than the first recipe, Zakarian’s sparkling mocktail was still easy to make.
I filled a cocktail shaker with ice, then added the mango, pineapple, and freshly squeezed lime juices. I shook it all together for about 10 seconds, then strained the mix into an ice-filled glass, leaving a bit of room at the top to pour in the ginger beer.
I garnished the finished product with a pineapple wedge and a slice of mango.
This mocktail could almost pass for an alcoholic drink
I enjoyed every sip of this drink.
The pineapple and mango juices gave it a tropical flavor and sweetness that perfectly paired with the spicy ginger beer, which gave the mix a kick that resembled a real cocktail.
The extra garnishes also made it look and feel like a restaurant-worthy cocktail.
This recipe was the closest substitute for an alcoholic beverage, but the spicy ginger beer might be too overwhelming to serve at family functions with kids.
The Pioneer Woman’s recipe calls for just 4 ingredients
Drummond’s virgin mango margaritas sounded delightful, refreshing, and easy.
There are only four ingredients, including ice. I couldn’t find a jar of mango at the store as the recipe requires, so I bought a bag of the frozen alternative instead.
I also cut this recipe down to a quarter of the original serving size, because it makes a lot.
In addition to ice, the recipe includes lemon-lime soda and sugar, but I wasn’t sure if extra sweetener was going to be needed. In fact, I was worried this drink would turn out too sugary.
This mocktail was the cheapest of the three to make, adding up to $3.38. Although I cut the recipe, which says it’s for eight people, it still made three to four servings.
My blender struggled to combine all of the frozen mango and ice cubes
I had to add about four times the amount of soda just to get anything to break down.
Next time, I’ll be sure to let the mango completely unthaw or leave out the ice cubes if the fruit is frozen.
The drink was delicious, even if the texture wasn’t perfect
This virgin margarita was really good and refreshing. It mostly tasted like mango puree and was very sweet.
It definitely didn’t pass as a cocktail, but I still thought it was yummy.
I did find a few larger chunks of mango and ice from my blender issues, but overall I’d happily make this again, with or without alcohol.
Zakarian’s sparkling mocktail will be a regular drink for me
In total, I was able to make at least four servings of every recipe for under $30, so these are great options for people looking to save a bit of money while also cutting back on alcohol.
Since the initial test, I’ve already made Zakarian’s mocktail a few more times, and I’ve even added rum to make it into an actual cocktail – either way, it is amazing.
The flavor is sweet, spicy, and refreshing.
I’d also love to try Drummond’s drink again with unthawed mango chunks, and I’d probably skip the extra granulated sugar since the mango and soda are already so sweet.
As for McCargo Jr.’s passion-fruit mocktail, I’d include way less grape juice, as that flavor was very overpowering.
And in the future, I’d definitely add some garnishes to Drummond’s and McCargo Jr.’s recipes for that special touch and cocktail flair.
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