Bartender Jon Harris of Washington, DC’s Firefly has perfected four shockingly convincing alcohol-free drinks that mimic the mouthfeel and flavor of their boozy counterparts. Here are the secrets behind his amazing mocktails.
Old-Fashioned: To create a boozeless version of one of the booziest cocktails, Harris replaces whiskey with strong-brewed barley tea. “You are trying to capture the spice of the whiskey, a little bit of the bite and the malty sweetness,” Harris says. The barley tea, which Harris brews for 20 minutes instead of the 3 minutes that the package usually recommends, has all of those characteristics. To the chilled tea, he adds bitters, simple syrup, ice and a lemon twist, just as he would for a classic old-fashioned.
Gin and Tonic: “Mimicking gin is pretty easy,” Harris says. Simply infuse water overnight with the botanicals used in your favorite gin. “You know you’re going to need juniper berries,” he says. “And you’re probably going to have some citrus peel and various herbs. The water draws out all the flavor of the aromatics, so when you strain it, you basically have a clean tea ‘gin’ infusion.” For a faux “gin and tonic,” Harris uses about 4 ounces of the “gin” and adds to it tonic syrup like Jack Rudy’s, plus a touch of simple syrup and baking soda, to give it fizz and body without diluting it like soda water would. He pours the mix over ice and garnishes the drink with a couple of lime slices. “That’s my favorite,” Harris says. “It’s the closest to the real thing.”