Being pregnant during the holidays has its pros and cons, I am discovering. On the upside, I’m counting on getting some maternity clothes for Christmas or Hanukkah, sparing me an expense that would otherwise be an annoyance (after all, I’m only going to wear the stuff for a few months).
On the downside, though, expectant mothers are told to avoid a whole roster of foods that can carry some sort of risk to the fetus: cold cuts, unpasteurized cheese, high-mercury fish, eggs that aren’t cooked through, and the list goes on. After sushi and sunny-side-up eggs, the thing that I am missing most this season is being able to have a glass of wine or a celebratory cocktail. That beer my husband and I are home-brewing? Off-limits for now.
So, lately I have been getting acquainted with a part of the menu I used to ignore: “mocktails.” Going beyond the usual soft drinks, some bars and restaurants are starting to get creative with their nonalcoholic beverages—good news for pregnant ladies, designated drivers, people younger than 21 and anyone else abstaining from alcohol.
I got my first taste of mocktails as a little girl, ordering a Shirley Temple on those rare occasions when my family ate out at a real restaurant. Even though I never saw an adult drink one of these sugary concoctions, I always felt very mature ordering one. It had all the trappings of a grown-up drink: multiple ingredients, a flashy name and, most important, a maraschino cherry garnish.
These same elements—with slightly more sophisticated ingredients—form the modern mocktail. There are whole books of mocktail recipes aimed at pregnant women, including Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-to-Be, by Natalie Bovis-Nelsen (who blogs as The Liquid Muse) and Margarita Mama: Mocktails for Moms-to-Be, by Alyssa D. Gusenoff. The drinks have names like the Cosmom, the Baby Bump Breeze and the Swollen Feet Fizz.
Some mocktails are simply “virgin” versions of common cocktails, altered only by the omission of alcohol, or with a little seltzer, ginger ale or another ingredient replacing the booze. A Virgin Mary, for instance, might have tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, horseradish and celery salt—everything but the vodka.
But there’s no need to stop there. Herbs, spices, unusual fruits and flavorings can all elevate a drink to mocktail status. One restaurant near me makes a drink with pineapple, lime and orange juices, seltzer and fresh basil leaves. Martha Stewart combines ginger syrup with sparkling cider and garnishes it with cinnamon sticks and crystallized ginger.
Ethnic markets and the international aisles of the supermarket are good places to look for other ingredients to play around with: tamarind (often available fresh or in juice or concentrate form at Latin American or Asian grocers) for a spicy-sweet flavor; rose or orange blossom water (at Middle Eastern markets); pomegranate syrup (ditto); or one of the unusual soft drink flavors from the U.S.-based Latino brand Goya or imported Mexican sodas (Jarritos is a popular brand), including Jamaica (hibiscus flower), pineapple and “cola champagne”.
The best part of going alcohol-free is that you won’t feel like George Foreman after the Rumble in the Jungle the next morning. Unless, of course, you’re suffering from morning sickness.