The experts: bartenders on how to turn 16 classic cocktails into mocktails – from a negroni to a mojito

<span>What are the best booze-free options out there?</span><span>Composite: Getty Images</span>
What are the best booze-free options out there?Composite: Getty Images

There is nothing better on a summer’s evening than sipping a cocktail as the sun goes down. And, as the variety of non-alcoholic options increases, there is no need to miss out if you are teetotal or moderating your drinking. So, what are the best booze-free varieties going? Bartenders share their favourite recipes.

Raspberry meringue

“Combining, blending and presenting ingredients in a novel and refreshing way are the fundamental principles in any form of cocktail making, even without alcohol,” says Simon Pearson, the co-founder of the Great Chase restaurant in London. It has been alcohol-free since its inception, which “surprised the locals”, he says.

Pearson likes to draw inspiration from classic prohibition-era drinks. One of the venue’s most popular offerings is a raspberry meringue, which is based on a clover club (gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and egg white). It comprises a “botanic-heavy alcohol-free gin and beautiful balance of lemon juice and tart raspberry syrup, which gives an undercurrent of sweetness, with pasteurised egg white. If you want to make it vegan, use aquafaba,” says Pearson. “Combine and shake for 10 to 15 seconds, ideally with one or two large cubes of ice, to cool the drink without diluting it too heavily.”

The resultant meringue head should be no more than half a centimetre thick, he says. “I wouldn’t recommend using shop-bought lemon juice. If you want to be super-nerdy about it, it should be freshly squeezed, then rested at room temperature for three to five hours.”

Venice fizz

“This is close to an Aperol spritz,” says Pearson. “We use a bitter orange cordial made by Gimlet Bar. It is a rich, deep, sweetness counterbalanced with a bit of tonic water. We infuse it with hibiscus leaves and top it up with alcohol-free rosé wine.” No hibiscus to hand? Pearson sings the praises of humble herbs: “Rosemary, thyme, mint – slap it about a bit and stick it in your drink and it will release beautiful oils. Make up for the aromatics that you’re losing by not having a punchy alcohol with some beautiful, fresh garnishes.”

Kir royale

This is a simple one to whip up, says Pearson. “Use a dash of elderflower cordial – you can go as simple as Bottlegreen. Put it into a champagne flute and top it up with any half-decent alcohol-free prosecco. Then you’ve got a bright, refreshing drink not dissimilar to a kir royale that contains two ingredients and takes 30 seconds to make.”

Pina colada

Max Hayward, the bar manager of Lab 22 in Cardiff, says there has been a huge shift towards young people drinking less. The availability of non-alcoholic spirits and wines means that bartenders can give guests a really good experience, “instead of dismissing them with: ‘Oh, well, you’re not drinking, so you don’t get the fun stuff in the bar.’”

Lab 22 has six non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu. One of Hayward’s favourites is called transparency, an update on a pina colada. “We use Lyre’s non-alcoholic white rum and a bit of coconut syrup. We then take pineapple juice and clarify it using coconut milk. It sounds a bit mad, but the acid in the pineapple juice causes the milk to curdle, so the mixture ‘splits’. Then, when you strain it through a cheesecloth, it comes out clear, but with a lovely, creamy texture and some flavour of the coconut milk.

“This technique is normally used in milk punch cocktails, where an entire punch is clarified the same way, but we decided just to clarify the pineapple juice, so that we could make a non-alcoholic version.”


“I absolutely love non-alcoholic sparkling wine,” says Hayward. “It has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years.” His go-tos are Lyre’s sparkling wine, “which tastes like a cava with juicy apple notes”, and Nozeco. “Normally, if you’re making something like a spritz, you’ve got to be really mindful of how much booze you’re putting in as the base, because you’re topping it up with fizz and you don’t want to blow people’s heads off,” he says. “But if you’re making it non-alcoholic, you can use a lot more robust flavours.”

Hayward recently won Everleaf’s Spritz Challenge with an apple and thyme cordial, tonic and non-alcoholic sparkling wine. What makes the perfect spritz? “Fresh fruit is your friend. A lot of cocktails will contain fruit liqueur, or modern cocktails are very technique-heavy, with lots of infusions and stuff going on. But, honestly, all it takes is a bit of muddling of some fresh fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, then shaking it with mint or basil, for extra interest.”


“For a non-alcoholic mojito, you can use apple juice instead of rum,” says Hayward. “A mango and basil mojito is one of my favourites. Instead of using mint, muddle some mango and churn it around with basil leaves – it is fantastic on a sunny day.”


“There are so many strange flavours that do not exist in the alcohol world that we can play around with,” says Nicolas Medicamento, the tasting room manager for low- and no-alcohol destination Club Soda in London. Medicamento previously worked as a bartender at the Savoy’s American Bar, where a Manhattan is a staple of the menu. How can it be recreated without booze? “We reduce some non-alcoholic red wine with figs, rosemary, brown sugar and black pepper, which gives the sensation of the vermouth that you have in a Manhattan. The spirit base is one of the most important things to consider: we go for a blend of Rebels malt blend and either Kahol Malt Abbey, if our guests want a smoky touch, or Sober Whiskey, which gives oaky and minty notes.”


“Sour flavours are where it becomes really exciting in the alcohol-free world, because it can be simple fruit like lemon, lime or grapefruit, or you can try fermented products,” says Medicamento. For a punchy sour, “mix 50ml of your favourite non-alcoholic spirit with a single shot of lemon or lime, for your sour side. Then your sweet side can be honey, sugar – whatever you like. Shake it and you will have an amazing sour cocktail.”

One concern with non-alcoholic drinks is that they are full of sugar, but Medicamento says the booze-free cocktails on Club Soda’s menu contain no more than one-third of the calories of alcoholic cocktails.

DIY syrups

Soral Chavda is a Hertfordshire-based scientist turned mixologist who runs Soralina, an events and cocktails business. “I grow a lot of herbs and edible flowers in my garden to use for garnishes or botanicals to flavour infusions,” she says. Chavda makes homemade syrups with seasonal ingredients, including elderflower and blackberries. These give the edge to non-alcoholic concoctions and are surprisingly easy to make.

“A simple syrup is a 1:1 or a 2:1 sugar-water solution,” she says. “You can infuse this with citrus zest – lime, orange, lemon, pink grapefruit – or any herbs. Making a basil syrup is as simple as sugar, water and basil.” Boil it in a pan, or use a microwave or a hot-water tap, then leave to cool.

Lemon drop

For lemon syrup, “add citrus zest into your simple syrup, then let it infuse, preferably overnight, or at least for a few hours”, says Chavda. “Measure a shot of your syrup and a shot of non-alcoholic spirit, then add some ice and top it up with a nice soda, lemonade or a flavoured mix from Fentimans or Fevertree.

“You could also make a twist on a classic cocktail, like a lemon drop, with 25ml of a non-alcoholic spirit such as Seedlip Grove 42. Shake it up in a cocktail shaker with fresh orange juice, fresh lemon juice and 25ml simple syrup.”


“Alcohol is a good carrier of flavours. When you take the alcohol away, you have to make up for it,” says Monica Berg, who was named the most influential person in the bar industry in 2023. At her bar, Tayēr + Elementary in London, there are always non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu – when we speak, it is a pistachio and almond blossom drink – but they aren’t specifically listed as being alcohol-free, so people sometimes get a shock.

One of the bar’s previous non-alcoholic interpretations was a negroni. “There are products you can buy that are good substitutes, such as from Amarico [a producer of non-alcoholic aperitifs],” says Berg. “But if you break down the flavour profile of a negroni, you have all the herbs and botanicals that go into the vermouth; you have the juniper that goes into the gin; and you also have the bittersweet – the orange notes that come from the Campari. So a lot of the time it’s about just understanding the flavour profile that goes on there. We used an earl grey tea as a base, because it has some very similar notes, along with bitter orange, Everleaf Forest [a bittersweet non-alcoholic aperitif] and juniper.”

Kombucha Shirley Temple

“Kombucha is a great starting point for a drink,” says Berg. “Treat it like any other soda. If you wanted to do a less sweet Shirley Temple [ginger ale and grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry], for example, you could use Jarr ginger kombucha and add pomegranate syrup.”

Foraged-flower cordial

The forager Eoghan Proudfoot runs Proudfoot & Co, a non-alcoholic drinks lounge in Winchester, Hampshire. “I don’t really term us a non-alcoholic bar any more than a bubble tea shop is,” he says. “But I wanted to set up a space that everyone could enjoy late at night – like they have in many places across the world that don’t have a pub-based nightlife.”

The Hampshire Honeydew on the menu is an “Anglo-Saxon-style ferment made with local herbs, our own vinegars and honey from our own apiary”. Rather than settling for homemade elderflower cordial, he recommends experimenting with “fragrant edible flowers such as meadowsweet, lilac, black locust, dog rose, honeysuckle, pineapple weed and gorse. They can all add something a bit different to this usual summer staple.”


At Mother Mercy in Newcastle, “non-alcoholic cocktails are made in exactly the same way as the alcoholic versions, but with the alcoholic components removed or substituted for equivalent products”, says the co-owner Neil Donachie. For their take on a non-alcoholic paloma, you will need 50ml Seedlip Citrus, 30ml freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, 15ml freshly squeezed lime juice, 15ml agave syrup, one grapefruit peel and grapefruit soda. “Add everything but the soda to a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Pour into a highball glass with cubed ice. Top with the soda and garnish with a slice of grapefruit,” says Donachie.

The Medicine

Alessandro Palazzi has worked at Dukes in London since 2007 and, at 66, is renowned for his experience. Palazzi doesn’t drink alcohol during the week, as his shifts go on until the early hours. What does he drink while he works? “I am a ginger maniac and drink something called The Medicine,” he says. “I put some fresh ginger in the blender, plus fresh lemon juice and a big piece of cucumber, then put it in some water. It is very good for digestion, as well. I am like an old vintage car and have a few pains here and there, so that is why we call it The Medicine. Some people at the bar have asked for the recipe; if they find it too sour, I say to add some agave syrup or honey.”

Definitely not a martini

Dukes is the bar at which Ian Fleming nurtured his love of martinis and where the phrase “shaken, not stirred” was immortalised. Palazzi says it is impossible to make a non-alcoholic martini, but he is always happy to make something bespoke. His default recipe is: “Fresh cucumber, lemon juice and elderflower cordial topped up with sparkling water. It looks nice, which makes the person feel special.”

What would Palazzi make for James Bond if he had a hangover? “A bullshot, which is a bloody mary using consommé.” Booze optional, although Palazzi thinks Bond would be unlikely to have a dry day.