Learn to make the Fluffy Fizz from Vena’s Fizz House in an online class.  Photo courtesy of Vena’s Fizz House

After over five months of pandemic-related stress, many people’s livers could probably use a break from alcohol. That once meant flavored seltzers, sugary sodas or fruit juices, but the mocktail industry has grown exponentially, and now bartenders are often known for their mocktail-making skills as well. I reached out to several Maine bartenders who are doing impressive things with nonalcoholic beverages to learn what advice they have for home bartenders and what menu options exist for nondrinkers.

The most common advice was to put as much care and attention into the ingredients of a mocktail as you would into a cocktail. Fresh ingredients are key, especially when you’re trying to coax maximum flavor from a fruit, an herb or a vegetable. Vegetables, you say? Look no further than Chaval’s $10 Teetotaler (which should be called the Beetotaler): celery juice, chilled strong black tea, lemon, olive brine, simple syrup and beet syrup (beet, orange rind, orange blossom, honey, brown sugar and water), topped with ginger beer and garnished with frozen sweet beet cubes. If beets aren’t your thing, Chaval also has a Cobbler mocktail that I suspect is berry good. Asher Boisvert, Chaval’s new bar manager, advises home bartenders not to be afraid of salt when creating a mocktail.

Baharat’s $5 spritzer mocktail. Photo courtesy of Baharat

Baharat bar manager Arvid Brown says that “ultimately the presence of alcohol or lack thereof doesn’t change your baseline goal, which is to make something that will be unique and delicious.” Baharat’s $5 spritzer is based on his house-made lime cordial using black limes, a Middle Eastern ingredient that is essentially dehydrated, slightly fermented limes.

Cocktail Mary owner Isaac MacDougal strives for “something that has complexity and strength of flavor so that one can sip the beverage in much the same way as a cocktail.” His current mocktail offering is the $14, 200-milliliter (almost two drinks) Cabana Boy Cherry (Seedlip Spice, Bitter Love Cherry and lime). Black Cow bar manager Liz Smith is another fan of Seedlip nonalcoholic spirit replacements, although her go-to substitute is water, often infused with cardamom or cucumber to avoid the drink turning into a “sugar bomb.”

Defense of the Realm from the East Ender in Portland. Photo courtesy of East Ender

East Ender general manager Arryan Decatur offers three $6 mocktails: Defense of the Realm (ginger beer, honey, lime), Dog Kennel Lane (pineapple, raspberry, chile, club soda) and Sour Patch Kid (blueberry dry soda and house-made raspberry shrub). Decatur uses mixers like club soda, tonic, vinegar, coffee and bone marrow to add nuance to his concoctions.

Dylan Suagee, bar manager for Gather in Yarmouth, has four $6-$7 mocktails on his menu: Golden Milk (coconut and oat milk, turmeric, allspice, cardamom, black pepper and sugar, served chilled or steamed), Switchel & Soda (a New England restorative made from ginger, molasses, lemon and cider vinegar), Tamarind Dark & Stormy (ginger beer, soda water and a house-made tamarind-maple syrup) and the Hibiscus Cooler (soda water, lime and grapefruit juices, and hibiscus-agave syrup). Suagee appreciates the health benefits of various ingredients, advising home bartenders to swap out refined sugars for maple syrup or agave.

One cannot write about mocktails in Maine without mentioning Vena’s Fizz House. In addition to more than a dozen mocktails, Vena’s sells “Fizz Ed” online classes for groups of 4-40 people on four different mocktail topics. Its most popular mocktail is the Fluffy Fizz: cherry, lemon and lime, topped with cotton candy. Owners Steve and Johanna Corman recommend that, whatever the ingredients, home bartenders start with a balance of 12 ounces of seltzer to 1 ounce sour/citrus to 1 ounce natural sweetener, plus a dash of bitters.

As much as I love a good cocktail, I’m looking forward to experimenting with these mocktail ideas. Cheers!

Angie Bryan is a former diplomat who is enjoying getting acquainted with her new home in Portland, one cocktail at a time.

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