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A Mixologist's Guide To 'No-Proof' Cocktails


The alcohol-free cocktail isn’t an oxymoron.

“Mocktails,” as the boozeless concoctions have been called by some, are getting more popular — not just among millennials, who are drinking less than their parents, but among people seeking healthier lifestyles, pregnant women and people who simply don’t feel like having alcohol.

Derek Brown is finding ways to cater to drinkers who don’t want to drink. He’s a Washington, D.C., bar owner, bartender and author of the book Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World.

At his Columbia Room bar in D.C., he says he’s moving the “no-proof” cocktails from their own menu section to be alongside the boozy drinks in the main section.

Just in time for a nonalcoholic Memorial Day, Brown offers a few tasty recipes.


An alcohol-free version of a drink usually made with bourbon:

Spirit-Free Lion’s Tail

5.5-7.5 oz. coupe/ (use a sour glass)

2 oz Seedlip 94

1 oz allspice-infused maple syrup*

1 oz lime juice

1/2 oz aquafaba (chickpea water)

Dry-shake, add ice and shake a second time. Strain into chilled glass. Float star anise on foamy head.

* Heat 1 cup maple syrup with 4 whole dried allspice berries for 5 minutes. Strain out allspice and allow syrup to chill.


Brown also recommends a sophisticated variation on lemonade:

Orgeat Lemonade

(adapted from Jerry Thomas’ The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix Drinks)

10-12 oz. highball/ (use a large bar glass)

1 oz. orgeat syrup

2 oz. lemon juice

Shake well and strain into highball. Add ice and top with sparkling water to taste. Garnish with seasonal berries.


And for an advanced, “zero-proof” cocktail, Brown shared a recipe with some exotic-sounding ingredients:

Apollo’s Crown

(Use highball glass)

1 oz bay leaf soda syrup*

0.25 oz oleo saccharum

1 dash Fee Bros. black walnut bitters

1 dropper acid phosphate

5 oz sparkling water

Build in highball. Stir to combine. Add ice. Garnish with torched bay leaf.

*Bring 10 bay leaves, 8 oz cane sugar, 8 oz water, and 2.25 g citric acid to a boil. Simmer for 10 mins. Strain, seal, and refrigerate.

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