By RJ Johnson

Well here we go. This lockdown seems like it is never going to end and already we know that people are still drinking.

That is not a bad thing. I care deeply about the industry of adult beverages and I want at least some of the companies I work with to still be getting some sort of income. After all, those of us behind the bar would be horrified if you all turned into a bunch of lightweights during this time in quarantine and we basically have to deal with a bunch of 21 year olds all over again when we get to see you again. We are very much looking forward to that day, and we are excited to see it happen, while also being committed to being safe and making sure that you are all safe as well, just like always.

All of that being said, there is a growing trend in bars and restaurants across the country. There is a number of people that want to go out to bars and nightclubs and not get intoxicated, but also not be bored by the choices of drinks they are able to get while not imbibing. Whether they are pregnant, the designated driver for the evening, or they have made the choice to be sober for life, mocktails are something that bars should be offering. At most locations if you decided not to drink you are offered the choice of one or two flavors of non-alcoholic beer, Coke, Diet Coke, or Sprite. You could also switch it up and get a soda water with lime, but it’s still boring. As bar professionals we have the skill sets to make a lot of interesting and fun drinks behind our bars, and it is our responsibility to offer them without alcohol if that’s what the customer is requesting.

For this week’s column I wanted to show you some simple ways that you could add some sweet and spicy to drinks for home consuming while we are hunkered down. Using base ingredients that you probably have laying around you can become your own home mixologist and maybe learn how to use ingredients in a creative way. To make this process as real as possible I only used items that I found in my own cupboards and fridge.

First up, the Virgin Mary. Maybe you don’t even want to give up drinking, but you still crave the flavor of this tasty classic and you don’t want to start out your day by getting wasted. The base for the Mary is always going to be tomato juice, Clamato or V8. From there on out it is completely up to you. Get wild with it. Put some of your favorite spice in there. Sriracha? Wasabi? Tabasco? That’s entirely up to you. After that add some smoky flavors that you enjoy. A classic is Worcestershire, but I have used liquid smoke, Ponzu, and even A1 sauce to achieve the flavor. Now there is an unspoken rule with Mary’s that you should probably have something green in it. This can be celery, pickled green beans, or even just a lime.

After that, shake or stir and enjoy!

So, unless you are a bartender or someone that entertains a lot you might not have a shaker at home. That is quite all right. Find a small plastic or metal cup that fits inside the rim of a larger glass. Shake it up like your favorite barman and you will begin to feel like a pro!

Maybe you are someone that is more in the mood for something sweeter. Dessert in a glass shall we say. That’s ok too! Check in your coffee cabinet and see what you have laying around. There is nothing that says hot cocoa mix has to be hot! Why not shake it up with some milk or cream, add in some whipped cream and maybe a dash of vanilla extract. Then pour some chocolate syrup inside a chilled glass, fill with ice, and pour in your Virgin Mudslide! Don’t worry about those calories, we are all gaining weight right now.

If tropical drinks and nightclub cocktails are more your speed, let’s check out what we have for tea. Tea is one of the most versatile ingredients when it comes to mixology. There are so many flavors from local businesses like Kobuk Coffee and Summit Spice and Tea. You can cold brew it or make some in a French Press and let it chill.

To add some more density to those flavors, items like juice or apple cider vinegar can add the punch that you are looking for without going overboard and trying to make Kombucha. The trick is to add just a little bit of stronger flavors at a time. Find the flavor you are looking for and write down what worked and what didn’t. That way, when we are all able to congregate again you can make it in a larger batch for your friends that want to party without getting wasted

So maybe you only have a couple ingredients at home, or you really miss the taste of whiskey. I get it, I love the way whiskey tastes, but I don’t like the way it makes me act. There are rumors of non-alcoholic whiskey and gin hitting the U.S. markets soon, but for right now we have to take it back to the basics of this delicious spirit. When I am making a whiskey mocktail I go back to my memories of all of the different words that people have used to describe their favorite brand to me. Smoky, smooth mouth feel, bitter and sweet, among a myriad of other adjectives. Then I start looking for ingredients that can be used to recreate those sensations. Liquid smoke, maple syrup, black strap bitters or molasses. Mixing these with some ginger ale or a cola and you can create a pretty convincing mocktail to satisfy those urges.

As someone who considers myself a mixologist, I know how much fun this can all be, much like an amateur baker like to find their own successes when creating recipes, half of the fun is in the experimentation.

Yes of course, you can add alcohol to any of these, but with flavors this fun, no hangover tomorrow, and all of your memories intact, why would you want to?

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