There’s no better way to beat the heat than to enjoy a refreshing, ice-cold drink, but for the increasing number of New Yorkers who prefer to drink sans alcohol, soda, lemonade, and iced tea can get a bit boring. Whether you like drinking mocktails to keep off the alcohol-related calories, or because you prefer to pass on the spirits entirely, I have compiled a list of the freshest mocktail (and cocktail) bars and recipes for the summer.
The NoMad Hotel
1170 Broadway @ 28th Street (Flatiron)
The NoMad hotel offers a “soft cocktails” section that fits right in with the rest of their award-winning cocktail program. The Peter Piper packs a punch with pineapple, black pepper, pickled passion fruit and lime; whereas the Gingered-Ale is cool and refreshing with ginger, lime, Demerara sugar, and sparkling mineral water. Among their alcohol-containing choices, the Nod to Nothing seems the most summer-appropriate: it comes with dry gin, jasmine pearl green tea, apricot, sage, and lemon.
38 East 19th Street (Gramercy Park)
ABC Cocina’s seasonal menu is complemented by mocktails and cocktails made from the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients available. The Mango Iced Tea, Rhubard Lemonade, and Jala Basil are all great choices. For those who drink alcohol, ABC Cocina offers a modern twist on the classic summer negroni with their Mezcal Lavender Negroni.
Saxon + Parole
316 Bowery (Lower East Side)
Many associate Saxon + Parole with their whiskey, so you might be surprised to hear that they have an impressive offering of non-alcoholic beverages. The Bell Pepper Lemonade is made with fresh red bell pepper juice, and the Salia’s Housemade Shrub uses organic vinegar to add a kick to local seasonal fruits and herbs. Gin drinkers will enjoy the Andaluisa, made with coconut-cucumber soda, sea salt, lemon, strawberry, raspberry, and Aviation gin.
72 University Place (Union Square)
This new restaurant has already earned a Michelin star, thanks in part to its previously Michelin-starred chef John Fraser. Innovative cocktails and house-made sodas accompany a menu full of vegetarian and vegan eats. The Pear & Cardamom and Blackberry & Juniper sodas are perfect for hot summer evenings, and the aptly-titled Spring-Summer is made with fresh rhubarb, mezcal, and pickled strawberry.
If you’re entertaining at home, the following recipes can be easily adjusted for those who wish to add alcohol to their drinks:
Basil Limeade Slushies
(From Food and Wine)
8 cups ice
4 cups water
3 cups fresh lime juice
3 cups lightly packed basil leaves, plus basil sprigs, for garnish
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups soda water
In a blender, working in batches, blend the ice with the water, lime juice, basil leaves and sugar. Pour the limeade into chilled glasses. Top with 2 tablespoons of the soda water, garnish with the basil sprigs and serve.
Optional: Stir in a bit of rum before serving.
Salted Meyer Lemon And Sage Pressé
(From Bon Apétit)
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup simple syrup
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 12-oz. can club soda
2 quartered Meyer lemons
Muddle lemons, sage leaves, simple syrup, and salt in a pitcher. Just before serving, add club soda and stir to combine. Serve over ice.
Tip: Regular lemons will work if you don’t have Meyer lemons, and a nice gin would pair well with this.
1 large fresh pineapple
1¼ cup sugar
11 sprigs fresh lavender and/or rosemary
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Cut the peel from the pineapple, remove the core, and cut the fruit into 1-inch pieces. Place the fruit in a food processor and pulse until the pineapple is crushed but not puréed. Transfer to a large nonreactive pot, add the sugar, 4 cups water, and 3 herb sprigs.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
Gently press the solids to extract the juice. Cool and stir in the lemon juice. Serve over ice garnished with the remaining herb sprigs.
Optional: stir in dark rum before serving
Orange, Rosewater, and Mint Sparkler
(From Serious Eats)
1/4 cup mint leaves, loosely packed and removed from their stems
6 oz. (3/4 cup) fresh orange juice
2 drops rosewater
6 oz. (3/4 cup) seltzer
Muddle the mint leaves gently in a mixing glass. Add orange juice, rosewater, and seltzer, stirring gently to combine. Pour the sparkling orange juice mixture into two ice-filled Old Fashioned glasses and serve immediately.
Tip: if you don’t have a muddler, the handle of a wooden spoon will work.
Whether you’re entertaining at home or out on the town, these options should keep you cool and refreshed this summer. Experiment with fresh fruits and herbs, house-made sodas, and even vinegar to bring elegant flavor profiles to non-alcoholic drinks, or try updated versions of classic summer cocktails to keep things fresh.