Healthy and Refreshing Summer Mocktails

Drinking is a huge part of our social lives, especially in NYC. We “grab drinks” to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while; meet a new romantic interest over wine; get caught up on office gossip after work with happy hour cocktails, and celebrate achievements with champagne. But drinking can also be a fraught business for some people: What do you do if you’re pregnant? Or don’t like drinking? Or simply don’t feel like it at that moment? As much as we don’t like to admit it to ourselves, we give people a hard time for not consuming in the same way we are: “You’re not drinking?? Why?? What’s wrong with you!?” is a refrain I’ve heard and overheard many times. It’s not that all your friends and coworkers want you to be an alcoholic; rather, it’s that indulging is way more fun together. Because nobody wants to be the weird person eating cake by themselves at a birthday party.

But not drinking–for whatever reason–really doesn’t have to mean that you’re a Debbie-Downer, party-pooper type! You can still celebrate and partake in the festivities even when abstaining from alcohol. And, what’s better, with these wonderful summer mocktails, you will also look like you’re having a drink–so no one can accuse you of being a boring sober person (I mean, who are these people anyway?). Check out some deliciously healthy and refreshing summer mocktail ideas below!

Lavender Lemonade: I love the idea of this recipe from Danielle Walker at Against All Grain because I love lavender–mainly in soaps and gardens. But it can also be amazingly refreshing! Just be careful not to add too much or your drink will end up actually tasting like soap. Walker recommends using thyme or rosemary if you’re not such a lavender lover.

Rosemary Blueberry Smash: Another Danielle Walker recipe, this one calls for muddled blueberries and sparkling water to top it off!

Spanish Dancer: Okay, microwaving saffron might seem like a step too far for a mocktail. But this recipe is just so unique and I love that deep yellow color! I also love the incorporation of vinegar to give it a kick and combat the sweetness of the orange juice.

Celery Shrub: And speaking of vinegar… If you’re interested in mocktails but you’ve  never heard of shrubs, you’re seriously missing out. But no longer! A shrub is a mixture of vinegar and syrup that you can add to sparkling or tonic water (or hard alcohol if you so desire) for a tart thirst quencher. Sun Basket uses honey instead of sugar in the syrup for a slightly lower glycemic index beverage.

Cucumber Mint Limeade: This is actually a recipe on the Stevia in the Raw website, believe it or not. I would substitute the stevia for a tiny dash of maple syrup, though, as I don’t love sugar substitutes (sorry, Stevia). And while it may seem obscure, you can actually find cucumber sparkling water from La Croix, Spindrift or Polar. Cucumber and mint–sounds pretty much like essential summer to me!

Ginger Beer Mojito: Ginger beer is definitely having a moment. I’m seeing a proliferation of different bottles of the stuff in grocery stores and even bodegas. And no wonder: it’s wonderful on its own or as a mocktail mixer as it has that spicy ginger kick that makes you forget you’re not drinking alcohol. But definitely only use high quality ginger beer: this recipe recommends Bundaberg, but there’s also Fever Tree.

Strawberry Orange Mango Kombucha Mocktail: So you may not be all about muddling and chopping mountains of fruit for what is essentially sparkling juice, but I am super excited by the new trend of kombucha cocktails and mocktails! With its vinegary, fermented complexity, kombucha is an amazing substitute for alcohol (and also complement if you are going to be imbibing). This recipe is basically like kombucha sangria and is super fruity and fresh.

Blood Orange & Ginger Soda: This recipe requires preparing your own ginger syrup (don’t worry, it walks you through it), but you can store it in the fridge for a while and use it for lots of other drinks–and even in desserts! Be sure to use blood oranges as they have a very different taste from regular oranges.

Watermelon & Lime Soda: Another homemade “soda” with ginger syrup! The great thing about both this recipe and the blood orange one above is that it’s up to you how sweet you make them. I personally like just a hint of sweetness, focusing more on the tangy, sour, and spicy aspects of my mocktail. Making your own soda ensures you’re not inadvertently adding tons of chemicals and corn syrup into what is supposed to be a refreshing summer quaff!

Cucumber Fennel Cooler: The fennel in this one makes it so unique: that slight, savory licorice flavor is surprisingly refreshing–and has lots of digestion-boosting properties to boot!