Summer is the perfect season to let loose and relax. It’s also the right time to host parties, bring your mixing skills to good use, and serve refreshing cocktails. But when your guest list is a combination of spirit lovers and teetotalers, it’s best that you have a few mocktail recipes up your sleeve, too. Let this guide to cocktails and mocktails help you differentiate between the two and give you tips on how to make great party-ready beverages.

What are cocktails and mocktails

Mixing different types of drinks is said to be an age-old practice since the 18th century. And when your mixture calls for at least one alcoholic ingredient plus sugars, bitters, and water, this combination is called a cocktail. Though it is not certain as to who created this drink concoction, the origin of the word cocktail is said to be derived from the colours of mixed drinks resembling that of a rooster’s tail.

Of course, not everyone can drink alcohol for various reasons. Some are too young or old for alcoholic drinks, while others need to abstain for medical reasons or religious practices. This then gave rise to what is now known as mocktails—a mixture of non-alcoholic drinks to imitate cocktails. While lacking the alcoholic component, mocktails can be as exciting as its boozy counterpart and, with the right ingredients, can be a healthy refreshment alternative.

The addition of alcohol in cocktails naturally makes them different from mocktails in terms of flavour and feel. But the best part about serving mocktails is their flexibility. Keep a bottle or two of spirits around so you can easily add them to glasses for guests who like their drinks spiked. Moreover, experts from Cocktail Gastronomy, a group of award-winning specialists for custom-designed cocktails, noted that cocktail recipes can easily be converted into mocktails, depending on the ingredients used. In particular, they suggested that vodka-based cocktails are easily converted into mocktails due to vodka’s neutral grain spirit base.

Cocktails vs Mocktails
Make the most of fruits in season and turn them into refreshing party drinks like this pear puree recipe from KitchenAid that you can serve as a cocktail with champagne or as a mocktail with sparkling apple cider. Image adapted from the Kitchenthusiast.

Partying with the right cocktails and mocktails

Knowing how to whip up great-tasting drinks is great especially if you get to serve them at your parties for everyone to enjoy. With so many mocktail and cocktail recipes you can find and try, the best way to limit your options is to match your drink with your party in mind. Here’s a mini list of party themes with drink suggestions and recipes from Cocktail Gastronomy.

Party Cocktail or Mocktail Recommendation
Afternoon Party Cocktail: Le Grand Fizz
Its refreshing taste combined with the fragrance of elderflower liqueur is perfect for an afternoon party set by the poolside or at the garden.
Recipe
30ml Vodka, 30ml St Germain Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime wedge, then top up with soda water in a wine glass
Baby Shower Cocktail: Kir Royale
For celebratory parties like a baby shower, a champagne-based cocktail is the perfect choice.
Recipe
Fill your glass with Cassis liqueur then top with bubbly champagne
Mocktail Version
Use non-alcoholic sparkling wine then add blueberries and strawberries in the glass
Barbecue Cocktail: Aperol Spritz
Pair your well-loved barbecued meats with this cocktail that has taken the world by storm!
Recipe
60ml Aperol (orange-based Aperitif), 90ml Prosecco or sparkling wine, and 30ml soda over lots of ice in a wine glass
Christmas Cocktail: Christmas Cosmo
This vibrant drink with Christmas flavour adds flair to your holiday parties.
Recipe
30ml Vodka, 15ml Grand Marnier, 30ml cranberry juice, and 10ml lime juice. Add ingredients into a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass
Summer Entertaining Cocktail: Paloma
A Mexican staple, the combined sweet, bitter, salt, and sour flavours will keep your guests refreshed on a hot summer day.
Recipe
30ml 100% Agave Blanco Tequila, top up with pink grapefruit soda and fresh lime wedge
Mocktail Version
Skip the tequila then perhaps add some vanilla syrup

Another good way to help you choose the right mixed drink for your parties is to have a go-to recipe that suits any occasion. And if you are after the perfect cocktail drink, Cocktail Gastronomy suggests the currently popular Aperol Spritz. For mocktails, Seedlip is a good choice. Made of distilled non-alcoholic spirit in two flavours of herb and spice then mixed with tonic or lemonade, this drink gives the same feel of gin and tonic without the alcohol.

Cocktails vs Mocktails
A popular cocktail trend, the versatile Aperol Spritz is perfect for any celebration.

Important tips for making great cocktails and mocktails

Once you have finally decided whether to serve cocktails or mocktails at your party, the next step is to have your ingredients and your mixing skills ready. And to help you wow your guests with every sip, we’ve listed down a few tips to help you make the most impressive drinks.

1. Use good quality ingredients

No, you don’t have to spend a lot to get good quality liquor. Do experiment with mid-range priced bottles and find the ones that you like best. Cocktail Gastronomy also noted that as cocktails mostly contain alcohol, their flavour is largely dependent on the alcohol’s quality. Even simple ingredients like ice also matter in making the perfect party drink. A good trick is to fill your ice trays with distilled water then use the frozen cubes to keep your cold drinks cool. For mocktails, buy the best-tasting juices. Using 100% real fruit juice is also a good way to add natural sweetness to your drinks and to cut down on extra sugar. Whenever possible, make your juices and syrups from scratch. Like cooking, homemade ingredients for drinks give the best results.

2. Follow the recipe

The ratio of alcohol to flavouring is important just like when you are adding seasoning to your home-cooked dishes. The recipe of your party drinks are made for a reason, as noted by Cocktail Gastronomy. More specifically, following a recipe helps in preventing hangovers or putting in more calories into your mixture. Using accurately measured ingredients is also an important factor in making good cocktails and mocktails. Make sure to use the proper cocktail-making tools for measuring and mixing rather than merely eyeballing your spirits and syrups.

3. Know when to shake or stir

Not all mixed drinks need a cocktail shaker. Some drinks with distilled spirits, like whiskey and gin-based cocktails, are best stirred. On the other hand, certain drinks need to be shaken to form bubbles. This often applies to drinks that have citrus, egg, cream, or simple syrups in them. These are generally thicker ingredients that need to be shaken for a more homogenous result. Make sure to go with the recipe and use the proper mixing technique. Of course, you can always try to experiment to see which works.

4. Observe the right temperature

Remember the saying serve cold foods cold and hot foods hot? It applies to drinks, too, as temperature greatly affects their taste. So to make your cold drinks taste good longer, serve them in prechilled glasses. Hot toddies, on the other hand, is best enjoyed in preheated mugs.

5. Spruce it up with a pretty garnish

Finally, they say that you eat with your eyes first, and this goes the same for your drinks. While a great-tasting drink is enough to keep your party in full swing, adding a fabulous garnish is a good tip to make your drinks look ready for any party. Some great garnish suggestions include a sprig of fresh herb, a slice of fruit, a few edible flowers, salt or sugar around the rim, a sprinkle of cracked spices, and a good choice of glassware. If you have a food dehydrator at home, Cocktail Gastronomy offered the idea of using dehydrated slices of fruits to garnish your drinks. They’re not just simple to make but taste wonderful, too.

Cocktails vs Mocktails
The light blush of the Paloma makes a great contrast with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a slice of grapefruit.

Aimee Arcega

Aimee is a content writer for Kitchen Warehouse and a foodie at heart. Also a trained pastry chef, she bakes in her spare time to make people happy.

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