I haven't posted much the last week or so. Mr. Darcy and I are deep into the adorable fun that is Christmas with our giddy little girls.  I hope you are also enjoying this "most wonderful time of the year."

Last Christmas I shared a video of the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol with you.  This year the Patrick Stewart version was recommended to me.  Stewart is a wonderful actor and while I'm still partial to the Scott version, I think Stewart's tribute to Scrooge and Christmas is well worth a watch.  Enjoy!
Party season is upon us!  And where there are parties -
there are cocktails!  But first...
I am starting this post with a VERY clear disclaimer.  The following information is NOT intended to sound like you should LOOK like you're drinking alcohol.  I don't drink alcohol. Never have, never will.  I hope that you'll see the intention of this post is to:
a) help you have more fun at parties where cocktails are being served
b) NOT be the frumpy person wandering around with the can of Diet Coke in her hand and c) be an influence for good.

In my many years as a business road warrior I was subjected to a lot of happy hours.
A lot.  There were many, many, many client dinners and conference parties.  I don't drink but a lot of business is done over drinks so I had to come up with a strategy to deal with all these social drinking moments and I found one that worked very well.  When it was suggested to meet over drinks and discuss whatever project we were working on, I'd always offer to buy the first round.  (A corporate credit card is a thing of beauty!) It put me in a sort of power-position right from the start and allowed me to join in, even though I wasn't "joining in."  I was the leader at the beginning, instead of the girl hanging back from the bar (and the business!) with the can of Diet Coke. 
I rarely ran into a client or colleague who was drinking just to get drunk. They always ordered savvy, sophisticated drinks and I would ask why they chose that particular libation.  They knew I wasn't drinking and they had a good time sharing their knowledge and preferences.  Let me just tell you, the world of fine liqueurs is fascinating! 
The scotch's and whiskey's alone are mind boggling.  

For a long time I was stuck in the Shirley Temple rut.  I love how a Shirley Temple tastes, but it got boring pretty quickly.  I added Club Soda with a Twist, but still... pretty boring.  So I started hunting down new virgin cocktails to order and this post is to introduce those favorites to you.  I've also given you the recipes so you can make them at home. 
But before I do, let me share with you a fascinating thing that happened on these occasions. Since I was often the first one ordering the drinks, I made it "ok" for others in the party to order non-alcoholic drinks.  It was always a pleasant surprise when I'd order a virgin-whatever and others would say, "That sounds good. I'm not in the mood to drink tonight."  It's pretty easy for us non-drinkers to refuse alcohol.  Not so easy for drinkers in front of their peers who know they drink.  Just one person doing it first made it "acceptable" for others to do the same.  (hence the "influence for good.") It was nice. 
And now... on to the fun stuff!

Shirley Temple
6 ounces ginger ale
1 1/2 tsp. grenadine
Garnish: orange slice and/or maraschino cherry


Ginger ale + Lemon juice + Orange juice + Pineapple juice + Grenadine syrup

You can tell the bartender "Heavy on the (whatever flavor you like best)." I prefer heavy on the pineapple.

A few tips for ordering:
  1. Know your ingredients.  An inexperienced bartender may not be familiar with the name of the mocktail you're ordering but can probably whip it up if you say, "Oh, it's X with a splash of Y and Z."
  2. Have a backup.  If the bartender doesn't have the ingredients for a particular drink, know what you're going to ask for instead.  I default to a simple Shirley Temple or Club Soda with a Twist, rather than play try-your-luck with 10 different drinks. 
  3. Check the house specialties. Some bars and restaurants pride themselves on creativity and may have a special house mocktail.
  4. Nicely reiterate you want it virgin or non-alcoholic.  You never know if your bartender knows or heard you, especially in a noisy room or if you are ordering through a cocktail waitress.
  5. Keep your "You don't drink?" answer simple.  This isn't the time for a sermon or soap box lecture.  A friendly, short, "Nope. I don't drink." served with a smile will suffice. If the conversation goes further (you may have someone very interested in why you don't drink) feel free to expound but remain very aware of the tone of your conversation. 

Virgin Mary (Virgin Bloody Mary)
Ideal if you're not in the mood for a sweet fruity drink.

3 ounces tomato juice or V-8
3 ounces cranberry juice
1/2 tsp. Tabasco (more to taste)
1 tsp. lime juice
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
Garnish: cilantro sprig, celery stick, lime wedge, or pickle!

Pour all ingredients over crushed ice. Stir, garnish, and serve.

If you're an iced tea drinker you'll enjoy this one. I make a killer version with cherry vanilla herbal tea and raspberry lemonade.

Arnold Palmer
1 part iced tea
1 part lemonade
Sugar, to taste
Garnish: lemon, mint, or a slice of kiwi

Pour iced tea (sweetened or not) and lemonade over ice; stir and garnish. To make it with the fancy layers, pour the lemonade over ice first, then slowly add the iced tea.


Winter Warmer

3 parts pear nectar
1 part cranberry juice
A big squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Garnish: lemon and cinnamon stick

Pour the pear nectar, cranberry juice, and dash of lemon juice over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a glass. Pierce a perfect round lemon slice with a cinnamon stick and add to the glass.


Faux Kir or Virgin Kir Royale
(pronounced k-ear. I've been pronouncing it wrong!)

1 tsp. raspberry syrup or grenadine
6 oz. sparkling cider, chilled
Garnish: fresh raspberries

Put a teaspoon of syrup in a champagne flute, add the sparkling cider, and float several raspberries on top.


Mock Mojito Fizz without the fog

4 or 5 sprigs of fresh mint
1 lime
1 oz. simple syrup
6 to 8 oz. soda water
Garnish: lime wedges and mint sprigs

Muddle* the mint (reserve one sprig for garnish) with the simple syrup in the bottom of a tall glass. Add ice cubes. Squeeze half of one lime into the glass, reserving the other half for garnish (slice it into three or four wedges). Top with soda water. Stir, drop in lime wedges, and decorate with the last sprig of mint. *"Muddle" means smash it up with the back of a spoon.


Sophisticated Lady

6 half-inch slices of peeled cucumber
dash of salt
6 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. simple syrup
Juice squeezed from half a lime
Garnish: salt and sugar, cucumber slice

Mix a teaspoon each of salt and sugar in a saucer or shallow bowl. Moisten the rim of a wine or martini glass and press the rim into the salt-sugar mix. Add ice to the glass. In a separate glass or bowl, muddle the cucumber with a sprinkle of salt. Add that to a shaker of ice, along with the cranberry juice, simple syrup, and lime juice. Shake well and pour into the prepared glass.


Baby Bellini

2 oz peach nectar
chilled sparkling cider

Pour the peach nectar into a champagne flute. Slowly add the sparkling cider to fill glass.

I skipped the frozen drinks because those aren't often served at a cocktail party and they're pretty self-explanatory. Most everybody knows they can order a virgin version of a daiquiri, pina colada, or margarita.  I also skipped the near-beer because... ewwww.

And when I say it'll help you have more fun, it's because you'll get to enjoy and sample things you normally wouldn't.  You can get a Diet Coke any old time but few non-drinkers  keep the fixings for a fun cocktail on hand.  After this, however, maybe you'll keep Rose's Grenadine or Sweetened Lime Juice stocked in your pantry. Makes any dinner party or simple dinner with your hubby much more unique! It'll kick your traditional spaghetti up to a whole new level.  It's something about sipping sweet drinks from pretty glasses.  You'll wind up toasting each other, you'll play footsie under the table, you'll let the dishes wait...