Whether you're hosting a backyard BBQ and want to serve a refreshing, hydrating drink, or you'd like a festive way to celebrate without alcohol, mocktails are the perfect beverage.

Chelsea Gloeckner, M.S. R.D.
Updated July 28, 2020
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Mocktails are a refreshing alternative to your classic cocktail—just minus the alcohol—and can be enjoyed all year round! But the ingredients you add to make your mocktail should not be overlooked. To make a mocktail that is not just soda or juice (or a combination of the two), there are a few key elements to you'll want to be sure to still include. These 4 tips will help you create a mocktail that feels special enough to celebrate with.

4 Key Tips for Turning Any Cocktail into a Mocktail

A good cocktail has a spectrum of flavors, a nice balance of sweet and sour, and often has components that provide bitterness (if you typically love a Classic Negroni or Old Fashioned) and texture (bring on the blended drinks!). Here's how to create any of these cocktail elements (or a combination of them) when you're making the perfect mocktail.

Mojito Mocktails

Pictured Recipe: Mojito Mocktail

1. Mix in some sweet & sour

The first way is to make a homemade simple syrup, which you can make using cane sugar or a sugar substitute if you're watching your blood sugars (like in this Fizzy Rosemary Cider Mocktail). To make your own simple syrup: Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Let cool for 30 minutes and then refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. (Makes about 1 1/2 cups.) If you're looking to amp up the taste, mix in different flavor elements by adding fresh rosemary sprigs or orange zest to the mixture as it boils.

As for sour, you can't go wrong with a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit juice. Start by squeezing in one wedge at a time till you reach your desired sour level.

agave-cucumber-lime-margarita
Credit: Andrea Mathis, M.A., R.D.N., L.D.

Pictured Recipe: Margarita Mocktail

2. Blend in some bitters

Many cocktails use bitters to add a signature taste to like in a Classic Negroni, Manhattan or Old Fashioned. (Side note, it is said that bitters stimulate your appetite before a meal, hence why they're called apéritifs, or an alcoholic drink taken before a meal as a appetizer, according to the dictionary).

Even though bitters technically do contain alcohol, the amount you use is so little that it's considered more of an extract (like vanilla or orange extract). So, consider adding a dash or two of bitters or as a fully non-alcoholic alternative, you could brew an over-steeped tea (the tannins in tea get bitter the longer it steeps) to recreate that bitter element.

Try a dash or two of angostura bitters or orange bitters in this Cherry Mint Spritzer.

3. Add in texture

There are several ways you can add texture to a mocktail. Bubbles from club soda, a flavored seltzer or tonic water are a quick and easy way to do so but you can also add texture by muddling fruit, cirtus zest or herbs in the glass before pouring in your liquids. Try your hand at crushing lime zest and mint leaves together with the back of a wooden spoon when making the Mojito Mocktails.

Or you can blend fruit in a blender to add creaminess. Bonus: you'll benefit from the filling fiber of the blended fruit, which will help slow down your sipping. Try this recipe for Minty Melonade, which blends honeydew, lime juice and mint in a blender, or this Summer Berry Citrus Spritzer, which blends berries, orange juice, lime juice, and honey together.

Or for fun mocktail spin, blend up a non-alcoholic take on classic blender drinks, like we do in our Virgin Banana Pina Colada and these Virgin Layered Strawberry Mango Margaritas. Especially during hot summer months, it's super fun to make a frozen mocktail to help you cool down.

watermelon mint mocktail
Credit: Andrea Mathis, M.A., R.D.N., L.D.

Pictured Recipe: Watermelon Mint Mocktail

4. Re-create that classic alcohol feel, sans alcohol

Many classic cocktails are astringent, which means they create a drying effect in your mouth. If you still want your cocktail to have that feel, mix in a non-alcoholic astringent, like cranberry juice, lemon juice or even vinegar. For a cranberry and lemon juice infused mocktail, serve up this Derby Dry Mocktail, which feels just as special to sip as it's cocktail cousin, the Mint Julep, which is typically made with bourbon, vermouth, orange and lime.

Or try this perfect balanced mocktail, SHED's Blood Orange Champagne Vinegar Shrub, made with a combination of fruit, sugar, seltzer and astringent vinegar.

5. Enjoy!

Whether it's sweet, bitter or full of bubbles, it's easy to take the elements of your favorite cocktail and turn it into a mocktail. These mocktails will make sipping with your friends and family feel special, no matter which recipe you whip up.