Beer, wine, and spirits are often considered adult staples, from Sunday brunch to family Thanksgiving dinners. Still, for those who live sober– either by choice or medical necessity– these events often mean drinking low-effort options like soft drinks or water.
Mocktails, or cocktails without alcohol, are a significant upgrade to soda, so long as they are as thoughtfully crafted as their more “grownup” sibling.
Often, mocktails fall into the trap of resembling something more like a fruit juice cocktail than an alcohol-free variation on the complex, well-considered flavors of adult beverages.
If you want to be the host or hostess that teetotalers flock to for get-togethers, you’ve got to up your game.
I’ve gathered up a list of 13 of my absolute favorite mocktail recipes, from fabulously fruity non-alcoholic sangria to the sweet-and-salty virgin margarita.
These drinks might lack liquor, but they certainly don’t fail to deliver on the fun.
Virgin Piña Colada
The piña colada hails from Puerto Rico circa the 1950s, and it’s been the national drink of the archipelago since 1978.
You can whisk yourself away on a tropical breeze of fresh pineapple juice and cream of coconut with a virgin piña colada.
This summertime standby is a blended treat de jour for those who prefer to spend their days basking in the sun on a sandy shoreline.
When it comes to this creamy concoction, “sans rum” doesn’t mean “sans fun.” Fresh fruit toppings like pineapple wedges and maraschino cherries make this virgin drink more like a dessert than a refreshment.
You can never go wrong with a tart twist of citrus in your mocktail!
The citrus fizz combines grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and club soda into a mouth-puckeringly delicious mocktail you’ll want to sip on again and again.
A popular alternative recipe requires swapping out grapefruit juice for pureed peaches or peach nectar, perfect for those who prefer the harmonious combination of sweet and sour.
Just be sure to use fresh peaches if you go this route, as canned will likely make the drink a bit too saccharine and mask the zesty undertones.
Either recipe provides all the bubbly fun of an alcoholic drink, especially when garnished with a slice of citrus on the rim.
Made famous by the curly-cued actress that serves as its namesake, the Shirley Temple is a quintessential mocktail that’s as darling in appearance as it is delicious in flavor.
To get that charmingly pink hue, ginger ale parties with a splash of grenadine– sweetened pomegranate juice– and a plump maraschino cherry.
Finish it off with a sprig of mint for a bit of color contrast, and it’s done!
Shirley Temples are best on the rocks and make a great party punch for the little ones.
Brunch isn’t brunch without a tall, icy glass of Virgin Mary, a mocktail take on the classic brunch cocktail the Bloody Mary.
While this slightly spicy, savory mix of tomato juice, lemon juice, Worchester sauce, celery salt, black pepper, and hot sauce isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, there are plenty of tried-and-true variations that might change your mind.
Some favorites include horseradish, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, wasabi, and ginger. Each adds its own particular “kick,” so be sure to experiment until you find the right balance.
The virgin mojito is brisk refreshment in a glass, thanks to its all-star foundation of freshly-squeezed lime juice, simple syrup, sparkling water, and muddled mint leaves.
Every sip is bright, slightly tart, and deliciously sweet.
Swap out the simple syrup for a drizzle of raw honey for a divine treat.
The earthiness of the honey cuts through the citrus, while the bubbliness adds a necessary lift that elevates and harmonizes the entire concoction.
Non Alcoholic Sangria
A cheery, burgundy-colored glass of non-alcoholic sangria is the year-round solution to a non-alcoholic alternative for social gatherings, as you can easily swap the fruity accouterments according to your local, seasonal selection of produce.
In the summertime, stick with an array of tangy citrus, like lemons, limes, and oranges.
Swap out the traditional red wine for a mix of grape, orange, and lemon juice, then finish it with lemon-lime soda.
Near the holidays, you can opt for cranberries, oranges, and cinnamon sticks mixed into a ginger ale, red grape, cranberry, and orange juice blend.
Moscow Mule Mocktail
With its ubiquitous copper mug and cozy ginger spice, the Moscow mule is an aesthetically-pleasing cocktail that begs to be shared amongst friends.
The mocktail version maintains all of the best flavor tones of the original without the alcohol content.
The base of the Moscow mule is ginger beer, which offers a more nose-tickling, earthy flavor than its carbonated cousin, ginger ale.
You can find various “brews” of this virgin drink, with darker selections boasting a complex dryness and lighter ones bringing a touch more sweetness.
You’ll also need fresh lime juice, muddled mint, simple syrup, and plenty of ice. Serve in a mule mug, and enjoy!
Strawberry Cucumber Mojito Mocktail
If you want to take your virgin mojito to the next level, strawberries and cucumber are a natural choice for this Cuban classic.
The cool, crisp flavor of cucumber brings just a touch of “greenness,” while the ruby red, succulently sweet strawberry provides a balanced sweetness.
I recommend swapping out plain sparkling water with Blackberry Cucumber LaCroix. It brings all the bubbles you would get from sparkling water with a subtle but welcome hit of blackberry and cucumber that enhances the overall taste.
If you don’t want to give up your new favorite mocktail once the strawberry season is over, try fall fruits like cranberries, pomegranate, or passion fruit.
For those of us who can’t wait for our weekly trip to their favorite Mexican restaurant for tortilla chips, queso, and a pitcher of margaritas for the table, you can save a few dollars and the tequila calories with a designated driver-friendly DIY version.
The secret to making this margarita mocktail a faithful recreation is agave nectar.
Top-shelf tequila comes from agave, a succulent native to Mexico that gives the liquor that unique earthy, honey-like sweetness.
Other ingredients include lime juice, lemon juice, orange juice, seltzer water, and plenty of ice for blending into a sweet and sour slush. Pour into a salt-rimmed glass, and proceed to the fiesta.
The tequila-based Paloma (dove in Spanish) originated in 1950s Mexico, but the drink’s remarkably modern and complex flavor palette has carried its popularity well into the modern age.
Initially, the two-ingredient recipe brought together the agave-based liquor with a generous pour of Squirt grapefruit soda, but more contemporary mocktail iterations rely on the same trick as the virgin margarita to achieve that ubiquitous tequila flavor without raising your BAC.
Buttery, vegetal agave nectar comes together with the bitterness of grapefruit juice, lime, club soda, and a pinch of salt to take your taste buds on a mini vacation.
From the first sip, you’ll feel like you’re lounging on the Cancun coastline, cold drink in hand.
Peach Bellini Mocktail
After your tour of Mexico, we’ll head to Venice next, where the gorgeously girly peach bellini rose to prominence.
With its fruity flavors and swirls of sunset-worthy pink, orange, and red ingredients, this is the ultimate in Instagram-worthy mocktails.
You’ll combine peach puree– preferably from fresh, summer-ripe fruit– with your choice of sparkling juice.
White grape or apple are the most popular choices, but you can swap out any flavor you prefer, like lemonade or mango, to suit your tastes.
With their simple, understated ingredients list that plays nicely with a wide range of other flavors, peach bellinis are perfect for amateur mixologists who want to try their hand at creating a trademark mocktail.
Dry Cranberry Spritzer
Not sure what to do with your leftover cranberry juice once you’ve finished a recent batch of non-alcoholic sangria?
Add to your growing repertoire of expert-level mocktails with a dry cranberry spritzer.
It’s as simple as combining sparkling apple juice, cranberry juice, lime juice, and a lime wedge garnish.
You can reduce the sugar by trading out the sparkling apple juice for Diet Sprite or club soda with an extra splash of lime juice.
Each offers a unique flavor profile, so play around with ingredients and ratios until you find your favorite.
With its bright green color and tart flavor of green apple schnapps, appletinis are a fun option that you can recreate with a bit of help from Monin Granny Smith Apple Syrup.
Your drinking friends will be green with envy when they see you sipping on this sweet-as-pie mocktail.
Pair up the Monin with apple juice and lemon juice, then serve shaken, not stirred, in a martini glass.
You can pay homage to the classic martini by trading in the olive or cocktail onion skewer for thin apple slices on your swizzle stick.
Which Mocktail is Your Favorite?
I hope you found this list of my favorite mocktails helpful and a valuable addition to your home bartending repertoire.
While mocktails might not be your go-to nightcap, they’re perfect for welcoming sober guests to your get-togethers and ensuring designated drivers know how much you appreciate them getting your loved ones home safe.
If you’re new to mixing your drinks and want to rank amongst the pros, check out our top picks for cocktail-making classes you can take online or expand your whiskey knowledge with our favorite flavored options.