As the Holiday Season approaches, many of us are looking forward to family gatherings and events to mark the season. However, all of us working in eldercare know that alcohol consumption is increasingly compromising to our health as we age. Alcohol can aggravate fragile digestive tracks, as well as simply not metabolize well for seniors. Even 1 drink over Thanksgiving can lead to a nighttime of discomfort for our senior family members.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we have to deny them (or ourselves) the simple pleasures in life. There is nothing better than a delicious drink in a fancy glass to make any gathering more festive.
Mocktails were once the invention of clever barkeeps who wanted to let underage kids have a fancy drink alongside mom and dad at nice restaurants. There are classic mocktails, such as the Shirley Temple, mostly designed with a sugary kid’s palate in mind. However, in our increasingly health-conscious and aging population, mocktails are earning a place of their own as an adult drink. The Internet is awash with recipes, but don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s half the fun!
The Holiday Season is a great time to get out the fancy cocktail glasses and shakers. Whether you have friends and family who prefer not to drink alcohol, or if you just need to pace yourself, festive mocktails can be both fun and satisfying. If you have not had much mixology experience, here are a few quick tips.
- A few fresh ingredients go a long way – fresh squeezed lemon, lime and orange juices make drinks extra healthy and delicious. Squeezing can be a little messy, but it’s worth every drop. Do it a day ahead if that helps.
- Fruit nectars can really add depth. My favorite is apricot nectar, but peach nectar is also excellent, and with its intense orange color, it’s great for fall drinks. Nectars are heavy and can be used for layering in the glass (heavier liquids on the bottom, lighter liquids on top for a two-toned effect).
- Make your own special syrups – simple syrup is a standard ingredient in cocktails used to sweeten drinks. It can be made ahead and stay in your fridge for up to 2 weeks. It’s comprised of equal parts water and sugar, combined, brought to a boil until the sugar is fully dissolved, then cooled. Now get creative. Add a fresh rosemary sprig during boiling (removed before storage). Or fresh ginger. Include cloves, anise, or cinnamon. OR, use the syrup or just plain water to thin down jams and jellies for flavorful additions or layering under a different colored liquid.
- Get out the blender, blenderized fruits (fresh or frozen) and ices are a great base for many-a-mocktail.
- Add some sparkle – carbonated beverages give drinks texture and fizz on the tongue. Tried and true mixers include tonic waters, club soda and ginger ale – but don’t be afraid to experiment. There are lots of soda flavors and flavored club sodas out there these days. Only warning, with lots of juice and fruit ingredients – avoid sugary sodas and too much sweet flavoring. Diet varieties work great in mocktails.
- Add some heat – one the tell-tale characteristics of alcohol is the heat you feel when you swallow. Experiment with tiny pinches of cayenne or cinnamon; OR better yet, make a simple syrup hot by adding dried chilies or Szechuan peppers during boiling – use sparingly.
- Presentation matters – use fancy glasses, rim them with colorful sugars and make fancy garnishes. For the holidays, colorful and tasty juices include cranberry and pomegranate. Pomegranate seeds also make a lovely garnish, as do fresh cranberries. Fresh fruits like cranberries can be frozen and used instead of ice cubes to add color to the top of a glass or punch bowl. Be creative!
Finally, if you really miss the flavor or sensation of your favorite hard spirit – go ahead and add it, but use sparingly. And of course, sip slowly…