Today many of us have decided to cut back on alcoholic drinks or eliminate them entirely. But you don’t need to forego delicious, amusing refreshers during cocktail hour. It is Carolyn today, bringing you some ideas to get you started on delicious mocktails. Since I’ve given up having wine with dinner every night, my husband makes me a mocktail to drink while I cook. Every night it is a little different and always tasty.
An essential ingredient for a mocktail is a flavor element or two that elevates it above fruit punch. You want it to be strong enough that you sip rather than just glug it down. This can come from herbs, bitterness, or spiciness. Cilantro, mint, and ginger can always be relied on to jazz up a mocktail. And whenever a drink seems to need a little something extra, you can always rely on fresh lime juice. We go through lots of fresh limes. Soon you will be inventing tasty drinks on your own. Have fun naming them!
While fresh juices are always good, you can speed up preparation by using frozen limeade concentrate. It’s also good to have a bottle of homemade mint syrup on hand. Prickly pear syrup always adds a southwest flavor. People have been eating prickly pears in the Southwest for around 10,000 years and it has become part of our local heritage. I write more about this in my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. It seemed we’d have few prickly pears this year because of drought early in the summer. But the rains have come. And come! Suddenly there are lots of prickly pears. But if you have some, you can find directions for making them into syrup here in a previous SavortheSouthwest post.
Of course, if you wish, you can always add alcohol of your choice to these tasty drinks.
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
No need to pluck the leaves off the stems. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let steep for an hour. Strain and store in a bottle. Refrigerate until needed.
Here are some easy drink recipes:
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons mint syrup
Tonic water (diet or regular)
Combine cilantro, limeade concentrate and water in blender and blend. Strain into glass over crushed ice. Stir in mint syrup and top with tonic.
2 tablespoons frozen limeade
1/4 inch fresh jalapeno
1/2 cup water
Blend limeade, jalapeno and water. Strain into a glass over crushed ice. Taste. If too spicy, add lime-flavored soda. Garnish with a lime slice.
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons mint syrup
2 tablespoons tonic or ginger ale
2 tablespoons prickly pear syrup
Combine orange juice, mint syrup and tonic or ginger ale in a glass. Carefully add prickly pear syrup down the side of the glass. It will settle and make a layer under the orange. Add crushed ice, careful not to disturb the sunset.
Why was Tucson named the first US UNESCO City of Gastronomy? How about 8,000 years of food history, the first agriculture in what we now call the United States, the first irrigation, and the fact that people in the Santa Cruz Valley still eat some of the same foods that the Native population enjoyed all those years ago. You can read the whole fascinating story in my new book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage.” And find recipes for these foods in “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.” UN