We’ve found that having a drink in hand that looks and tastes like an alcoholic beverage is super helpful for staying on track and not feeling like you are missing out. Alcohol-free beers are a great option if they are available and you enjoy them. But, ordering mocktails out can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to avoid a sugar hangover.
Check out these tips from two sober curious dietitians for ordering healthier mocktails at a restaurant or bar.
1. Check menus ahead of time, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any non-alcoholic options.
Ask your waiter or bartender if they have anything available that isn’t on the menu, or if there is a special cocktail that can easily be made without alcohol. Asking what options are available shows that there is a demand for boozeless beverages!
2. Ask the bartender to transform your favorite traditional drinks into alcohol-free and low-sugar versions.
Mojitos and Bloody Marys are examples of classic cocktails that can be easily made without the addition of alcohol.
Concerned about how much sweetener they are adding to your drink? Just ask them to keep it to less than ½ fluid ounce, or 1 tablespoon.
3. Look out for frozen and -ade drinks
These can be loaded with sugar, particularly if prepared with a pre-made mix. Instead, enjoy a fresh margarita on the rocks, for example.
4. Avoid regular sodas, and go slow with tonic water and ginger beer.
If you choose drinks that include these ingredients, be mindful of the quantity. Seltzer water and club soda are good alternatives if you like carbonation but want to minimize added sugar.
5. Add a splash of juice to seltzer or water to add flavor and a boost of antioxidants.
While all juices have something to offer in the way of nutrients, pomegranate, cranberry and tart cherry juice are particularly high in antioxidants. Choose 100% juice and be on the lookout for drinks made with juice cocktails and nectars, as these will have more sugar.
6. Choose unsweetened over-sweetened tea.
Add sweetener to taste. That way, you are in control of the sugar content of your drink!
For more info on added sugar and juice, check out our blog post on crafting healthy mocktails
7. Infuse flavor into drinks using fresh herbs, spices, or pieces of whole fruit
Ask the bartender to muddle fresh herbs, like mint, in your drink. Or ask them to incorporate a flavored syrup into a drink, such as ginger or lavender syrup, into a mocktail. A little goes a long way!
8. Kombucha makes a great alcohol-free alternative!
BUT it can have a decent amount of sugar. Stick to an 8-ounce portion, or ask for a kombucha spritzer made with seltzer and a splash of lemon or lime juice.
9. Think outside the box!
Classic cocktails are great, but don’t be afraid to play around and invent your own drink! Here are some recipe ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Pomegranate juice with seltzer and a splash of lemon and lime juice, or ginger juice (this is like a grown-up version of a Shirley temple!)
- Orange juice and seltzer with a splash of ginger juice (this is a rough mock-mimosa)
- Muddled mint with pineapple juice, seltzer, and a splash of lime juice
- Muddled berries and seltzer with a splash of lemon or lime juice
- Muddled basil and cucumber with seltzer and a splash of lemon juice
Want more mocktail inspiration? Order our book Mocktail Party!
10. Dress up your mocktail
Especially if a bartender is crafting a custom mocktail for you, don't forget to ask for garnish or to include a salted rim, etc. We've found this really adds to the experience.
11. Enjoy mocktails in moderation
Sip your drink slowly, and really take the time to enjoy it! Pair your mocktails with food, particularly if they are higher in sugar. Having some protein and fat will help to balance out the carbohydrate content of drinks so that you don’t have a sugar crash later on.
Keep in mind: mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages may be triggering for some individuals who are in recovery. Always follow the guidance of your healthcare provider and/or sponsor before making these drink alternatives a part of your regular routine. Remember, there is no "right" path to alcohol-free living - do what serves you!
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