The holidays can be a challenging time if you don’t drink alcohol and it’s easy to see why; almost every party, get-together, and family dinner inevitably seems to involve wine, beer and/or spirits. It’s difficult to ignore when social media is flush with pictures of artisan cocktails, ads for craft distilleries, and overflowing champagne flutes. If you’re opting to go alcohol-free and if you’re someone who loves to host cocktail parties, keeping a well-stocked alcohol-free bar is easy to do and gives you and your guests a special beverage to look forward to.
Best bets for an alcohol-free bar
Be sure to have plenty of alcohol-free options stocked. An easy and tasty out-of-the-bottle option is Hill Street Beverage Company’s line up of alcohol-free wines and beers. These award-winning wines and beers give you all the taste of standard wine, without the alcohol, perfect for offering your guests alternate options that pair well with foods of the festive season.
Pairing alcohol-free wines with food
Wondering how to pair Hill Street wines with foods? Check out our quick guide below:
A classic food-friendly wine, merlot makes friends with many flavours. An easy-drinking red with a velvety palate and fruity body makes it a classic accompaniment to grilled meat, rich sauces, pizza, pasta, and classic casseroles.
Recipes to try
A classic and complex grape, chardonnay flavours run the gamut from fresh and fruity, to buttery and complex. This quaffable white pairs well with seafood, fruit, curries and even egg dishes.
Recipes to try
Not just for toasting at celebrations, Brut, or sparkling wines, can make a great meal accompaniment. The delicate palate and lively carbonation make it a perfect match for lighter fare, salads, seafood, Asian dishes, salty snacks, and dessert!
Recipes to try
Why stock an alcohol-free bar?
There are several good reasons why stocking an alcohol-free bar is a great idea and they primarily involve being aware of the needs of your guests, their safety and their health (as well as your own.) Just think, those friends who are planning on being the designated driver have something to look forward to that isn’t the customary can of cola or sparkling water. If you have friends and family in recovery or who are pregnant and breastfeeding they’ll sincerely appreciate the effort you’ve made to include them in the celebrations. For those who just want a serving or two of alcohol, having plenty of selection in terms of alcohol-free options is a smart choice.
Must-have items for an alcohol-free bar
Although your selection of mixers will depend on the drinks you like to make one thing is for certain, they should be best quality whenever possible. With regular cocktails the focus is usually on the alcohol and mixers are often considered an afterthought. When making alcohol-free cocktails the inverse is true and the focus will be on the mixer. Look for fruit juices without added sugar (or make your own fresh juice with a press), unflavoured and flavoured seltzer water, kombucha, tonic water, and non-alcoholic ginger beer.
Garnishing a mocktail is just as much fun as with a cocktail and it’s the perfect time to let your imagination run wild! Paper-thin slices of dried citrus, fresh herbs, edible flowers, rimming salts and sugars, and fresh fruit can easily transform even the simplest non-alcoholic beverage into a thing of beauty.
Simple syrup is used to add a controlled amount of sweet flavour to cocktails. It can easily be made at home by bringing 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to boil over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and remove from the heat. Store in a jar or squeeze bottle in the fridge for up to a month. You can make a flavoured simple syrup by adding pieces of raw ginger, fresh or dried herbs, lavender, coffee grounds (strain before decanting), or a tea bag to the boiling water and allowing to steep until the simple syrup cools.
A reliable source of ice is an essential component of any alcohol-free bar, the only question is how fancy you want to get! Basic cloud-free ice cubes can be made in an ice cube tray using pre-boiled water from a kettle. If you want to go the extra mile you can add pieces of fruit or fresh herbs to the ice cube tray before adding the water (stick with sturdier herbs on the stem such as rosemary and thyme for an elegant look.) Specialty ice cube moulds can be found at kitchen supply stores and can be used to make large squares, spheres, and even stars.
Champagne flutes, wine glasses, highball glasses, and lowball glasses are just some of the glasses to choose from when putting together a home bar (alcohol-free or not.) There’s no need to invest a lot of money into a glassware collection, there’s always a very good chance one will accidentally get broken during the festivities. Champagne flutes and wine glasses (with and without stems) should be hand-washed whenever possible and makes an ideal job for guests looking to help clean up after the party.
These tools aren’t a strict requirement but add a touch of ease and authenticity to any home bar: Muddler, citrus juicer, bar towel, shot glasses, cocktail shaker and strainer, ice tongs, tiki glasses and umbrellas, and an ice bucket.
*A note on bitters: Bitters, while not consumed in large quantities, are made from a combination of herbs, fruit or other botanicals and hard alcohol (often over 40 per cent alcohol.) Bitters should generally be avoided when stocking an alcohol-free bar.