Daylight savings has hit and the smell of chargrilled meat is wafting from balconies and backyards across the city. There’s nothing quite like a mid-week barbie to bring on all the not-quite-summer-but-still-nice feelings.

Everyone knows that nothing goes down with a steak sanger as well as a sangria. But everyone also knows that it’s Mon/Tues/Wed/etcetera night and while the heart is always willing, the head says no. Sorry sangria, better to say no on a weeknight than a weekday morning right before your 9am meeting with the boss, right?

Besides party-pooper work, there are many other reasons why you might not want to indulge this season. Skipping the alcohol for a night, a week, a month or even forever is fast becoming a thing. Alas, for many of us giving it up is hard because we miss the ‘full stop’ alcohol so nicely provides at the end of the day.

Which is where mocktails aren’t mocking anything. They’re a fabulous sub for alcohol in any drinkable moment. You can make one with a zero-alcohol spirit substitute (see below), or skip the spirit and muddy together cordials, fizzies and fruit juices.

Mocktails have been around since early last century. The Shirley Temple is thought to be the very first mocktail to hit the scene – ginger ale with a dash of grenadine, maraschino cherry and a sprig of lemon. It was a drink as sweet as Shirley herself and while these days it’s favoured more by the tween set at family barbecues, it’s still a drink whipped up around the world.

Take a leaf out of the Shirley book and make sure your virgin drink has the same careful balance of flavours as a regular cocktail demands. Grab a fizzy base like a mineral, soda, softie or tonic water. Add a squeeze of something acidic like a twist of lemon or orange zest, then a splash of sweet syrup (this is where your shrub skills come into their own, the more vinegary the better).

The ritual of the careful preparation, that first satisfying sip – a good mocktail recipe means it’s all there, no alcohol required. Give one of these non-alcoholic beverages a shake, rattle and stir and see if you agree.

A mocktail recipe for that sangria you’re now craving

  • 1 tin diced pineapple
  • ½ orange, thinly sliced
  • ½ lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 passionfruit, cut into quarters
  • 500ml cranberry juice
  • 500ml ginger beer
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves
  • 250ml lemon mineral water
  • 1 cup frozen red grapes to serve

Put all the fruit into a 2 litre glass jug and top with the cranberry juice and ginger beer. Stir through half of the mint and refrigerate until needed.
Just before serving, add the lemon mineral water, remaining mint and frozen grapes. Stir well.

They’re a fabulous sub for alcohol in any drinkable moment.

Plus three sans-alcohol spirits to try

Hellfire Inspirit – $39
Just the thing to sub into any gin-style cocktail, this very-pink mock-gin is made with Tasmanian blackcurrants. In all honesty, it tastes nothing like gin, but it with its own bold, bright flavour kick, it doesn’t have to.

Lyre’s Spiced Cane Spirit – $44.99
Strong caramel and molasses notes with a delicious spiced vanilla kick make this the perfect substitute in any rum-based cocktail (Dark and Stormy, anyone?).

Vera Winter Spell – $49.95
Vera isn’t quite as low-key as Vodka, but she’s a good alternative. She’s a very herby, spicy full drink who’s equally lovely neat over ice as she is in a fruity mocktail.

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