The Holidays 2019 Edition were full of celebration, festivity, friends and family. It was also a time of decadence and indulgence: Things we would not ordinarily eat (we’re looking at you, gravy), sweets we would not regularly consume, drinks we don’t stir up on a weekly basis all became part of last month’s party menu.
And now what? It’s time to host book club, and we’re done with wine. And we’re not alone. We’re learning there are others out there abstaining for calories, cholesterol or other lifestyle reasons. (#dryjanuary) What do we serve them or ourselves?
Pull up a barstool and let us pour you a zero-proof or low-octane drink. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Ginny Lawhorn, the beverage writer for our sister publication, Baltimore Style, offers this guide to the best beverages with a reduced impact. Hello, #newyearnewyou!
DIY ‘La Croix’
High-quality bitters, like spirits, are made with precision and care, making them a staple of the craft cocktail scene. Bitters production can be likened to steeped gin distillation — bitters are created by macerating botanicals, such as fresh citrus fruits, aromatic herbs or whole spices and barks in a high-proof grain spirit.
Despite an average alcohol content of 45 to 50 percent, the minute serving size of spirit-based bitters reduces the proof down to nearly zero when added to the sparkling non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. This magic in a bottle, which dates back as far as the ancient Egyptians, provides the same opportunity for flavor exploration in mocktails as cocktails.
Allow your winter guests to create booze-free signature sippings with a bitters highball station. Provide fun, festive garnishes to help spur creativity.
Ginny’s bartender tip: Flavored vodkas generally come in around 10 to 20 proof points lower than non-flavored vodka. Stock flavored vodka on the station for a lower ABV option. Also, put down a dark runner or placemats — dark bitters stain.
Pearfection: Allspice bitters in ginger ale garnished with fresh pear
Thanks a Bunch: Rose water and lavender bitters in sparkling water with candied lemon garnish
The spritz has been a staple beverage in Europe for generations. The drink’s popularity has transcended region and has taken America by storm over the last few seasons. Traditionally, a spritz is an herbaceous spirit, such as Aperol or Campari, stirred in prosecco with a splash of club soda served over ice. Pairing fresh (or organic) juices with rich
aromatics in sparkling water is sure to satisfy any palate, quenching your desire for carbonation while negating the alcohol content.
Ginny’s bartender tip: Want to keep spirits in your spritz but lower the impact? These spirits are each under 30 percent ABV, and they reveal dynamic, complex personalities when served in sparkling water: Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur; St. Germain elderflower liqueur; Pimm’s No. 1 Cup; Heering Cherry liqueur; and Edinburgh Rhubarb & Ginger liqueur.
Organic pineapple juice
Elegant Elderflower Spritz
1½ ounces St. Germain
Fresh basil and mint
Without the need to rely on prosecco for the spritz, we can repurpose it for a perky punch. Many old-school punches rely on sugar over substance with bottled juices and cordials or brandy. This build embraces fragrant elements, layered with fresh citrus and lots of bubbles. It’s further elevated with fresh herbs.
Party Thyme: Vanilla Grapefruit Thyme Prosecco Punch
24 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
4 ounces lemon juice
18 ounces vanilla simple syrup
48 ounces cold soda water
50 ounces (two bottles) well-chilled prosecco
Fresh thyme, sage and grapefruit
In a punch bowl, combine grapefruit juice, lemon juice and vanilla simple syrup and then whisk together for 30 seconds. Add soda water and stir gently. Add one handful fresh thyme, one handful fresh sage and one split vanilla pod. Top with prosecco immediately before serving and stir gently.
Ginny’s bartender tips: Keep cubed ice on the side or use a Bundt pan to make a decorative ice ring. If you have a raised punch bowl use a base of cubed ice, then arrange with the fresh ingredients for a pop of extra color. For a non-alcoholic version, substitute lemon-lime soda for the prosecco.
And one more recipe …
Them Apples Chai Toddy
16 TAZO chai black decaf tea bags
128 ounces of water
64 ounces apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
2 oranges, sliced into semicircles
2 seasonal red variety apples, sliced
8 whole cinnamon sticks
In a large stockpot bring 128 ounces of water to a gentle boil, turn off heat and add 16 tea bags. Cover pot and allow tea bags to steep for five minutes. Remove tea bags and discard. Add your choice of apple cider or unfiltered apple juice, stir and return to low simmer. Add oranges, apples and cinnamon. Stir to combine, cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or to taste. Reduce heat to lowest setting and serve warm.
Ginny’s bartender tip: This drink is a stress-free, two-to-one ratio easily adjusted to the size and needs of your party.
Photos by David Stuck
Ginny Lawhorn is the founder of Baltimore Cocktail Week and an award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres, Harbor East.