Five (or Six) Secrets for Making Great Non-Alcoholic Drinks at Home


Matt Mount noticed it like everyone else pouring drinks for a living.

A well-traveled Portland bartender (Colosso, Paley’s Place) who spent many years at House Spirits (the original creator of Aviation Gin, now called Westward Whiskey), Mount now works in his own company’s craft cocktails. I’m brewing a potion with a merit badge. and bar catering service.

Whether you’re serving 150 people at a wedding or office party, or more at a public event like the Portland Night Market, you’ll also get real-time market research on preferences and trends. increase. “Suddenly everyone wants ranch water” or “White Claw is completely over”.

The most undeniable trend of the past few years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, is that people are looking for more sophisticated non-alcoholic beverages. Beyond bitters and sodas and lemonade and ginger beer, people want a wider range of options.

“It’s a well-made, delicious non-alcoholic beverage,” says Mount. “It becomes an exercise and everyone has their own reasons for it.”

Merit Badge began offering drinks such as Cucumber Coolers (Som Cucumber Mint Lime Cane Vinegar Cordial with Lemon, Ginger Syrup and Soda) at events. And in 2020, when bars and restaurants were closed, Mount began consulting Sucker Punch, a non-alcoholic concept in both home kits and goat block pop-ups.

These days, you can find non-alcoholic beverages in countless Portland restaurants. But here are his six pieces of advice from Mount if you want to increase your home bar repertoire as well.

1. Keep it fresh

If you want to make a drink, everytime I want to use fresh juices and herbs. But when it comes to zero proof, even more so. “You can get a lot of movement with it,” Mount says. “Lots of flavors.”

Citrus, of course, adds both brightness and acidity. To add heat and spice to people’s taste buds, consider juicing jalapenos (and use them sparingly!). Squeezed celery juice is also something that you can add a diluent to instead of water or soda while still balancing the drink and sharp ingredients.

2. Think like a cook

From both a technical and tasting standpoint, “Don’t think of it like a cocktail,” Mount says. “Actually, I’m cooking here! I’m making small meals. How do I keep those flavors interesting? What am I adding together, what’s going on?” [with] Texture and flavor, how dynamic is this? Are the flavors competing or do they work well together?”

One great tool to help with that is what Mount calls “my all-time trade secret,” but it’s no secret in most restaurant kitchens. Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s 2008 book. flavor biblean encyclopedia of ingredients and potential combinations and applications.

3. Take cues from vegetarians and vegans

If the best plant-based dish is to leave vegetables, legumes, and grains in place rather than substituting meat, it could be zero-proof.

Indeed, some people are still looking for non-alcoholic drinks that remind them of their favorite classic cocktails, while others still have so-called non-alcoholic drinks with traces of alcohol (some brands of bitter except). But some people don’t want that at all. That can mean a wide variety of flavors and drinking experiences for everyone.

“It’s hard not to refer to cocktails,” he says. “We still say ‘zero proof’ or ‘mocktail.’ But I think it’s nice and fun and new when we don’t look at it that way.”

4. Do more with Spirit Replacer

While there are all sorts of fake whiskeys, wine alternatives, and of course low-alcohol or non-alcoholic beers, Mt. I also like to think of it as an entirely new ingredient. .

“It’s fun just wondering what this is. How does this work?” he says. “What do you add to this? How do you not fill it up and how do you get away with it? Let’s keep this flavor going.”

Also, spirits substitutes can emulate the notes of certain liqueurs (spice, botanical, caramel sweetness) but not the same body or texture. So instead of using 1.5 to 2 ounces in cocktails like wine or whiskey, Mount uses as much as 3 ounces of Wildton in his recipes to give the drink more viscosity and mouthfeel.

5. One Secret Ingredient: Verjuice

A by-product of winemaking made from immature grapes (giving added bonuses of utilization and sustainability), verjuice is completely alcohol-free, less acidic than vinegar, and excellent for both cooking and cocktail making. increase.

“It’s not too sweet, has a great texture and great body,” says Mount. “It doesn’t taste like wine or grape juice, it just has another dimension. You can use it as a base, but [and it’s] good to drink ”

Mount’s favorite local verjuice comes from Montinoa Estate Winery in Oregon, but it’s seasonal and limited (you can find it online or at Providor Fine Foods in good time). A more popular nationally available brand is OliveNation’s Verjus du Perigord.

6. Let’s make a drink!

After our first interview, I told Mount what I had in the house, and he suggested some flavor combinations and cocktail suggestions. You will have to do a little cooking, pressing and experimenting yourself (including proportions and measurements). Here are the combinations he suggested:

• Stephen Smith ginger tea concentrate, lime juice, turmeric cardamom syrup topped with sparkling apple cider.

• Garnish with kombucha (depending on the flavor, this drink can be spicy and citrusy), celery, lemon wedges (to infuse the lemon oil into the drink) and orange zest.

• Mix PG Tips Tea Concentrate, Maple Simple Syrup, Fresh Sage, Angostura Orange Bitters, and Black Walnut Bitters with soda.

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