The Non-Alcoholic Cocktails That Food & Wine Staff Actually Drink
What we order at the bar (and mix up at home) when we're not drinking booze.
Even if (especially if?) you're fond of cocktails, there are probably times when you want to take a break from booze. Whether it's for health reasons, designated-driver reasons, or just-wanting-to-take-a-beat-after-holiday-revelry reasons, it's always helpful to have an actually enjoyable non-alcoholic drink order on standby—not just for dry January, but all year round. From fancy shrubs to good old-fashioned soda, here are the dry drinks we lean on most.
Non-Alcoholic Spirits and Tea
"I’ve been obsessed with Seedlip ever since I came across it on the menu at Oxalis, in Brooklyn. My favorite non-alcoholic drink is actually from Oxalis’ menu, and it’s called Jasmine. It has just three ingredients: Seedlip grove, 'champagne acid,' and green tea. Perfectly balanced, a little fizzy, and not at all sweet. Goes with literally everything."
—Oset Babur, Associate Restaurant Editor
Bitters and Seltzer
I used to drink a truly revolting quantity of Diet Coke every day, but then I learned to love myself. I couldn’t quit the bubbles, though, and swapped over to unholy amounts of fizzy water and RIP my tooth enamel, but it’s still no doubt a healthier option. I mean, where does all that caramel coloring go? Anyhow, seltzer, soda, carbonated water, whatever is great and I could drink it in my sleep, but sometimes I like to add a little oomph with some bitters (Angostura is dandy, but I’ll switch it up to celery, rhubarb, or mixologist mustache hair bitters) and a squeeze of whatever citrus is around. I don’t care what kind; I’m a rebel and I’ll never ever be any good. Not that it’s anyone’s business what anyone else is putting in their mouth, but it looks like a cocktail if anyone is wondering and you don’t feel like answering questions about why you’re not drinking, and also bartenders understand it as a code for “I’m not drinking right now (or maybe ever—again, no one’s business), but I still wanna hang,” and they’ll make sure you’re hooked up all night, you bubble-loving maniac.
—Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor
Diet Coke and Grenadine (aka Diet Roy Rogers)
"Everything comes full circle: When I was a kid my go-to fancy drink was always Coke and grenadine: a Roy Rogers. Specifically, I’d only order it at a beloved Mexican cantina in my hometown where they’d always accommodate a request for extra maraschino cherries. But as I’ve since come of drinking age, I explore and appreciate all sorts of flavors from sweet to citrusy to spicy in my cocktails. But as I’ve come of, well, just age in general with my twenties a distant dot in the rearview mirror, I’ve had to pace myself. So when my wife was pregnant and I was going mostly alcohol-free in solidarity, I got a hankering for a cherry Diet Coke while at bar birthday party. I asked the bartender if they could make that possible and they immediately replied “Yeah, grenadine and Coke. A Roy Rogers.” So here I am, nearly thirty years later, ordering the same fancy drink I did when I was coloring the placemats. Okay, I still color the placemats. Considering how few places actually serve Cherry Diet Coke (let alone Cherry Coke), you could even consider reviving this booze-free beverage named for a Hollywood cowboy a life hack."
—Adam Campbell-Schmitt, Associate News Editor
"In the wintertime, when I feel chronically dehydrated and always in need of a Vitamin C boost, my go-to just-got-home-from-work drink is a simple grapefruit spritz: a tall glass filled halfway with ice and grapefruit juice, then topped up with seltzer and a few dashes of Fee’s Rhubarb Bitters. Way more tonic than a Gin & Tonic ever could be."
—Adina Steiman, Deputy Digital Editor
The Freshest Gatorade
"I usually take a chunk of preserved lemon, some fresh lemon juice, and sugar or honey, muddle it and top with soda water. It also works without the preserved lemon and with a big pinch of sea salt, but I like it with simple preserved lemon. Lime or lime pickle is also nice, which then makes it a kissing cousin of chanh muoi. It's basically Gatorade, but fresh."
—Mary Frances Heck, Senior Food Editor