How to Build A Better Mocktail

Treat your next non-alcoholic drink just as you would a cocktail. The same principles, taste profiles and techniques apply.

City Style and Living Spring 2023 How to Build A Better Mocktail glasses
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The Market

According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, twenty per cent of Canadians were drinking less than they had before the pandemic. While non-alcoholic beer dominates, increasing by more than 50% between 2013 and 2018 according to the Conference Board of Canada, non-alcoholic wine and spirits are becoming more prevalent.

City Style and Living Spring 2023 How to Build A Better The Market
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City Style and Living Spring 2023 How to Build A Better The Garnish
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Mocktail 101

Approach a mocktail just as you would a cocktail. The foundation is the same: blending disparate ingredients into a one harmonious drink. Think about the fundamentals of taste: sweet, sour, bitter, umami and salty.

City Style and Living Spring 2023 How to Build A Better The Formula
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The Formula

Unlike cocktails which generally follow a ratio of 2 parts spirit to 1 part sweet and 1 part sour, mocktails require more nuance. CSL’s formula? Pick two or three tastes to highlight in your mocktail. Essentially, the bulk of your mocktail will balance sweet and sour, then add a dash of one of the other tastes to add depth and interest.

CSL’s Mocktail Formula = 1 part sweet + 1 part sour + dash of bitter, salty and/or umami

The Technique

Layer flavour: What flavours do you want linger on the finish? Is there a top note?

Aqua Faba: If you want to keep your mocktail vegan, aqua faba is a great alternative to egg whites.

Bitters: There are a range of bitters on the market which give depth to your mocktail.

Chill: Chill your glass and add plenty of ice.

Blend: Use all the same blending actions as with a cocktail: shake, stir, muddle, strain.

The Mixer

Fresh juice is essential. As is an infused simple syrup: If you want to add other flavours like chili, spices, or herbs into your mocktail, the easiest way is to simmer the following and strain:

1 part water
1 part granulated sugar
¼ part flavouring

The Garnish

Not just for the look, herbs, candied fruit and salt all make excellent flavour enhancers. In fact, a premixed mocktail from a can will taste even better with just some mint muddled into the glass and plenty of ice. Some of CSL’s favourite shortcuts to added flavour, include:

Amarena Cherries




Recipe Basics

Master a few basic recipes and put your own spin on them with the tips above.

Agua Fresca

16 oz simple syrup

16 oz fresh fruit juice

0.5 oz lime juice

¼ cup mint leaves

Ice cubes or crushed ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pour mixture through a strainer. Serve over ice.


1 oz simple syrup

1.5 oz fruit puree

1.5 oz fresh lime juice

1.5 oz ginger beer


Combine fruit puree, simple syrup and lime juice and shake with ice vigorously. Strain into a copper mug. Top with ginger beer and stir.


1.75 oz distilled non-alcoholic drink

0.75 oz flavoured simple syrup

Sparkling water, to top

Combine non-alcoholic drink and simple syrup in a champagne flute and top with chilled sparkling water.


1.5 oz distilled non-alcoholic drink

1 oz fruit syrup

1 oz lime juice

2 dashes bitters

Fruit carbonated beverage (soda pop)

Combine all the ingredients except carbonated beverage in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake and strain into glass and top with carbonated beverage.

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This original article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.

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