The best part about summer afternoons—you don’t need an excuse to start drinking early. But when cocktail hour kicks off at 3:00 p.m. (or earlier; we won’t tell!), it can be easy to rush headlong into Drunktown long before you intend to.
Here’s a solution that won’t leave you feeling like a buzzkill: Simple cocktails that are equally delicious with or without booze. A tall order, we know. But I’ve seen this hibiscus mojito delight drinkers and non-drinkers alike. Hibiscus, lime, mint; what’s not to love?
The key is a hibiscus syrup, which sounds a little daunting but is as easy as boiling water. Were I in a cocktail bar, I’d make this syrup with real hibiscus flowers, but let’s simplify things a bit. The tea brand Tazo (available at pretty much any high-end grocery store) has a flavor called “Passion”—it’s got strong hibiscus flavors along with rose hip and orange peel. Make a super-strong cup of Passion, stir in sugar, and you’ve got a hibiscus syrup. It’s really that easy.
Syrup in hand, shake it up with lime, mint, and soda. It’s a great drink for teetotalers at a summer party, pregnant ladies at cocktail hour, sophisticated kids who want a cocktail of their own, or your friend who probably needs a break before that next fully-loaded libation. (Said friend might not even notice it’s virgin.)
And for those looking for something a bit stronger? Sneak in some rum—an ounce of white rum will do, but an ounce of funky Jamaican rum, like Appleton Signature Blend, is way better. For gin fans, an ounce of Beefeater does nicely. So does an ounce of Knob Creek bourbon. Or any vodka you’d want to pour in. Go wild.
1.5 ounce hibiscus syrup
1.5 ounces lime juice
10 mint leaves, with more for garnish
1 dash orange bitters (contains trace alcohol, can be omitted)
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with club soda to fill, approximately 3 ounces, and stir briefly to combine. (If you’re using booze, pour an ounce of your spirit on top). Garnish with more fresh mint and a straw.
Hibiscus syrup (makes 3/4 cup, enough for 4 drinks)
1 bag Tazo Passion tea
1/4 cup sugar
In a heatproof mug or measuring cup, pour 4 ounces boiling water over one Passion teabag. Let steep for 15 minutes. Stir in sugar, until fully dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.