Mocktails: Most — or even all — of the fun, none of the mess

By Gen Louise Mangiaratti, Vermont Country Magazine.

Do you want a tasty beverage that won’t make you sloppy?

Mocktails, or fancy drinks without alcohol, are rising in popularity, and can be found at bars and hangout spots around Southern Vermont.

I started experimenting with mocktails after I realized that often, what I am really after are sugar and having a sensory experience. Lowering my inhibitions is a bonus, but not a necessity, and often not worth the cost of lost mental clarity or alcohol-induced anxiety (I am, in fact, an anxious person). Some people cannot safely consume alcohol or simply do not choose to, so they stick with mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages exclusively. Others, such as myself, enjoy mocktails as an opportunity to change things up. Whatever your reason: It’s valid!

I own a metal cocktail shaker, and was very excited to use it. To make my own mocktail, I combined several things I like: tart cherry juice, maple syrup, lime juice, ice, and, as I would later regret, club soda. A science experiment ensued, and this is how I learned not to put anything carbonated in a cocktail shaker. Once that was cleared up, my sweet, tart, slightly effervescent concoction looked nice in a martini glass.

If you’d rather leave it to the experts, your local bars have got you.

A virgin strawberry mojito, left, next to a regular mojito at Bar 580 in Brattleboro. Bartender Camilla Evans said fruit puree is a key ingredient in many of the bar’s mocktails. Gen Louise Mangiaratti — Vermont Country.

At Bar 580, you can ask for the cocktail of your mood in a mocktail, or virgin, form. On a recent visit, bartender Camilla Evans prepared for me a virgin strawberry mojito. Side by side with my partner’s regular strawberry mojito, we had a hard time aesthetically telling them apart. Even after sipping each, the difference was subtle.

My G-rated concoction was made with mint, simple syrup, lime slices, strawberry puree, and soda water. For most mocktails at this bar, Evans noted, fruit puree adds taste and texture.

“We 100 percent support people who are non-alcohol,” Evans said.

At Midnight’s, a new bar in Brattleboro, I went in about a week after opening and asked Evangeline Rera, the owner, if she did mocktails.

She made me a concoction of soda water, two splashes of pink lemonade and three splashes of cranberry, garnished with a maraschino cherry. She likened it to High Noon hard seltzers. Since Midnight’s doesn’t serve drinks in cans or bottles — only drafts — she makes some patrons a similar concoction to what she made me, but with vodka.

I worked on my virgin High Noon with a friend who nursed a martini, and did not feel left out. At least in this situation, I found it was more about the sweet and fizzy sensory experience than the buzz. 

I worked on my virgin High Noon with a friend who nursed a martini, and did not feel left out. At least in this situation, I found it was more about the sweet and fizzy sensory experience than the buzz. 

Some places, like The Good Spot in Brattleboro, take the mocktail game to a new level, using health-conscious ingredients and “adaptogens,” or plants and mushrooms used in herbal medicine to relieve stress.

An aerial view of a peppermint cacao creme mocktail at The Good Spot in Brattleboro. Gen Louise Mangiaratti — Vermont Country.
A jalapeno cucumber margarita mocktail at The Good Spot in Brattleboro. Gen Louise Mangiaratti — Vermont Country.

“It just kind of all comes from that perspective of healing yourself and learning how to do that in different ways,” said Trish Naudon Thomas, an herbalist and co-owner of The Good Spot with her husband, Chris Thomas. “This is just one option of helping yourself.” She gave the example of someone stopping by on the way to a stressful meeting and asking for a CBD beverage for calm. 

Fitting the no-alcohol atmosphere, the space is family-friendly, with games and puzzles and a cozy corner for live music. The day I was there, Trish served a lemonade to a little girl, and told her that if it was too sour, she could adjust it.

The menu is diverse, with health-conscious, all-ages options for beverages and a few snacks. For those seeking the flavor of a favorite cocktail, there is a whole section of mocktails inspired by their alcohol-themed counterparts. The day my partner and I went in, I had a jalapeno cucumber margarita, and he had a peppermint cacao creme — obviously very different experiences. 

Mine was made with, according to Trish: jalapeno and cucumber-flavored organic cane sugar, a shot of no-alcohol mezcal (the bar is equipped with an array of no-alcohol, botanical spirits, sometimes labeled “functional spirits”), fresh-squeezed lemon and lime, and soda water, with a house-made salt rim of jalapeno and rock salt. It was intense enough to nurse, like one would a cocktail; the botanical spirit blended with the jalapeno and citrus gave it a “bite.”

As for the peppermint cacao creme, it was made with, Trish said: non-alcoholic whisky, peppermint cacao organic cane simple syrup, oat milk and cinnamon — more of a wintry experience, while mine was more like summer.

When asked what goes in to choosing the ingredients, Trish said, “They come organically.” 

“We’re like, let’s just get a bunch of stuff, and then I sit back here and mess around with them,” she said.

I took a poll in a local Facebook group, and other places residents recommend to get mocktails include: Vegan A.F., A Vermont Table, Kipling’s Tavern, Echo Restaurant &Southern Vermont mocktails Lounge, and Tower Bar & Lounge — all in Brattleboro, and Fat Crow in Newfane. This is just Windham County, where I live, and I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list. So wherever you go, remember: It never hurts to ask.

Gen Louise Mangiaratti, is editor of Vermont Country magazine and is arts & entertainment editor for Vermont News & Media. She lives in Brattleboro with her cat, Theodora, and welcomes your post-idyllic holiday music recommendations at gmangiaratti@reformer.com.

Vermont Country magazine

Vermont Country has a hyperlocal focus on the Green Mountain lifestyle, its personalities, events, attractions and culture. The magazine appears six times a year, designed to complement the state and four-season living. VtCo magazine is a Southern Vermont publication of Vermont News & Media.

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