How to make complex, balanced zero-proof cocktails – The Denver Post

A new era of moderation seems to be upon us, with people — especially you healthy, clean-living millennial types — drinking less overall and having lighter forms of booze when you do drink.

The current trend seems to be driven by factors as diverse as physical and mental-health concerns, access to increasingly legal marijuana and the #MeToo movement’s bringing back to the fore old arguments about the role alcohol may play in abusive behavior.

New products are chasing this trend, some delicious, some atrocious, some – like the trendy nonalcoholic botanical spirit Seedlip — that can charm or vanish, depending on the rest of the drink. Meanwhile, bars catering to nondrinkers are popping up to welcome the sober and the “sober curious,” driven by “sober influencers,” a term that encapsulates our cultural moment, in which it’s sometimes difficult to find the line between genuine goodness and the performance of it.

I tease, but even in the cocktail world, words matter. Many have concluded that the word “mocktail,” which describes a booze-free cocktail, suggests a lesser drink or a lesser drinker. These days, you’re more likely to see terms such as “zero-proof,” “spirit-free” and the like. I’m less a fan of terms such as “virtuous” and “guilt-free”; there’s just too much history of people, especially lady people, being guilt-tripped over innocent pleasures, and we should save our shaming for where it’s needed.

For years, nondrinkers were the vegetarians of the bar world: neglected by menus, eye-rolled by servers, forced to settle for soda. The few nonalcoholic drinks available tended to taste as if they had been siphoned from a kindergarten juice pouch.

Today, while not every bar can be Existing Conditions, the cocktail lounge in New York that has put complex nonalcoholic cocktails up top on its menu, any bar (or host) worth their rimming salt should have a go-to option, something better than a random tonic with a muddle of random fruit (those deserve the term “mocktail”).

A hurdle the industry hasn’t fully surmounted is how to make a bar into a place that someone who’s not drinking still wants to go, says co-owner Dave Arnold, author of the James Beard award-winning cocktail book “Liquid Intelligence.” A bar that provides bespoke cocktails for drinkers and throws Diet Cokes at the sober isn’t doing that.

“The message we want to send is that you are as important to us if you don’t drink alcohol as if you do,” he said.

How do you make a good nonalcoholic drink? Here are some tips: