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Three alcohol-free cocktail recipes to try this winter

Camille Wilson shares non-alcoholic recipes from her new book

Image: Amanda Crommett

Forget the sugary-sweet grenadine and OJ mocktails of the past, the new generation of alcohol-free cocktails pack just as much of a punch as their boozy counterparts, as long as you know where to find the right recipes…  Enter: NYC-based Camille Wilson, aka blogger The Cocktail Snob. In her new book, Free Spirit Cocktails: 40 Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes, she proves that alcohol-free doesn’t have to mean fun-free with a whole host of delicious (and easy to follow) recipes. And no hangover to boot…

‘Mocktails sometimes get a bad rap and are considered boring. People don’t realise that they can be just as complex, thoughtful and delicious as a cocktail,’ says 34-year-old Camille Wilson.

Her blog, The Cocktail Snob, started as a creative outlet four years ago when Yonkers-born Camille moved to the city and discovered New York’s craft cocktail scene whilst studying for her Masters in Counselling Psychology. Something clicked, and she began trying to recreate the drinks she tried at home, documenting her creative endeavours online before going on to craft her own flavour-packed cocktails.

‘I’ve never been a bartender, or had formal training, it’s just been me experimenting in the kitchen,’ she says. ‘Science is not my thing. For me, this is the closest I'll ever get to being in a lab and pretending to be a scientist. It's my art. Making the rules is such a freeing, fun experience,’ she says.

Her inspirations run the gamut from twists on classics to seasonal fruit and vegetables, and her Jamaican heritage, and drinks are always presented with pizzazz. Now, with a loyal following of cocktail aficionados, Camille balances life as a content creator and writer with her 9-5 job in higher education.

Last year, whilst doing Dry January she was struck by how the mocktails she was drinking often seemed like an afterthought. So, she turned her attention to creating innovative mocktails, applying the same attention to detail to her alcoholic concoctions.

‘A lot of the time mocktails are just seltzer water or ginger ale, but they can be so much more,’ she says. One, for example, has a green tea base, while others use frozen ingredients, or spice, to add an extra, talking-point flourish to a serve. Keen to make them as accessible as possible, they eschew complex ingredients yet consider everything from flavour layering to garnishes.

Aiming to make every mocktail an occasion, she credits her family with her love for entertaining. ‘My parents love having people over, cooking and putting an elevated touch to the simplest things. My Mom, she’s not a big drinker, but Sunday dinners are a real tradition. Even for apple juice, she’ll open her china cabinet and pull out a proper stem glass to serve it in,’ she explains.

Camille’s belief in using what you have, and that gatherings with friends and family – or having a mocktail solo – warrant using ‘your fancy glasses’ is absolutely a sentiment we can absolutely get on board with. Plus, ‘upgrading glassware doesn’t have to be expensive, as you can find rare and unique pieces at thrift stores,’ she adds.

Camille hopes that the book will encourage more people, whether sober, sober-curious or trying Dry January, to be more adventurous when making spirit-free drinks.

Here she shares three of her guaranteed-to-impress mocktails from the book, which are perfect for the festive season, New Year and beyond…

Spicy Mockarita

Image: Jennifer Chong

‘This is not your average margarita. The sweet and tart base that we’re all familiar with is there, but muddled jalapeños help make this the perfect spicy twist.’

Serves 1

I N G R E D I E N T S

4 jalapeño slices
30 ml agave syrup
60 ml fresh lime juice
60 ml fresh orange juice
Lime wheel, for garnish

T O O L S 

Jigger
Shaker
Muddler
Knife
Citrus press

M E T H O D

1.  In a cocktail shaker, muddle the jalapeño slices with the agave. Add ice, along with the lime and orange juices. Shake until chilled. Pour into a lowball glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Camille’s tip

‘I use an agave syrup rather than a simple syrup, for a richer flavour. And these Spicy Mockaritas go down a treat for a girls’ night in, or games night.’

The Pom Bomb

Image: Jennifer Chong

‘The Pom Bomb lets you add some razzle-dazzle to your glass by freezing juice in spherical ice moulds. Put your juice ball in a glass, top it with ginger beer, and watch it slowly melt away as you sip.’

Serves 3-4 

I N G R E D I E N T S

120 ml pomegranate juice
120 ml mango juice
60 ml fresh lemon juice
Ginger beer, for topping
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish

T O O L S 

Jigger
Pitcher or mixing glass
Knife
Citrus press
Barspoon
Sphere ice mould

M E T H O D

1.    In a pitcher or mixing glass, add the pomegranate, mango, and lemon juices and stir to combine. Pour the juice mixture into the sphere ice moulds and freeze for at least 2 hours, or until completely solid. 
 
2.   To serve, place the frozen spheres into coupe glasses or wine glasses. Top with ginger beer and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Camille’s tip

‘The spherical ice mould I use has a hole in the top, and to get a perfectly round ball I use a funnel to pour in the final bit of liquid. If one side ends up slightly flat, don’t worry – just place that side down in the glass, it’ll help it stay put.’

Sweet Heat

Image: Jennifer Chong

‘The highlight of this cocktail is definitely the hot honey, an unexpected ingredient typically used only at the dinner table. As its name implies, hot honey adds both sweetness and heat to the drink. So this recipe is perfect for anyone looking for a little spice in their life.’ 

Serves 1 

I N G R E D I E N T S

90 ml mango juice 
30 ml hot honey (such as Rowse chilli fusion honey, or Hilltop hot honey)
30 ml fresh lemon juice 
Lemon twist, for garnish (optional)

T O O L S 

Jigger 
Shaker 
Knife 
Citrus press

M E T H O D

1.  In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine the mango juice, hot honey, and lemon juice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a lowball glass and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.

Camille’s tip

‘This one pays homage to my Jamaican heritage, as whenever I visited when I was a kid, one of my favourite things was eating mangoes fresh from the tree. Using hot honey gives an appealing sweetness, but an equal hit of spice.’ 

Free Spirit Cocktails: 40 Nonalcoholic Drink Recipes by Camille Wilson, photographs by Jennifer Chong, is out now (Chronicle Books, £14.99) 

Words by Ianthe Butt