(This is the first installment of Drink to Your Health, a series of recipes for alcohol-free drinks. Each week for the month of January, we’ll feature a different drink developed for one of the various reasons that people abstain from the hard stuff.)
Taking a “dry January” has become a frequent resolution among regular drinkers.
We’ve tried it ourselves in past years; we’re in favor. The holiday season is like one extreme marathon of overindulgence, and finding equilibrium after January 1 can require a move of similar intensity.
It’s not just the lack of booze that we miss during these bouts of liquor-free living, though we do sometimes crave the relaxing effects of a whiskey neat. It’s also the complexity of flavor that boozy beverages provide: an ideal balance of bitterness, acidity, sweetness and heat that soda, juice and water lack. Coffee and tea can fill this bill in the morning, but the evening hours demand a different jolt.
Juniper syrup mimics the herbal quality of gin, minus the booze factor.
This dead-simple syrup can be made ahead of time and quickly mixed into a beverage that quietly echoes the herby comfort of a Gin & Tonic. Juniper berries provide herbal resinous heat and lemon peels—pith included!—add acidity and slight bitterness.
If you’re entertaining guests who haven’t sworn off the sauce, make the drink with sparkling wine instead of tonic. Just be sure to garnish the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks differently so that you can keep them straight.
Meet juniper syrup’s key ingredients.
Gin-Free & Tonic
Contributed by Kaitlyn Goalen
2 oz Juniper syrup*
1 oz Lemon juice
4 oz High quality tonic water (such as Fentimans)
Garnish: Lemon wheel Glass: Collins
Combine the juniper syrup and lemon juice in a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with the tonic water and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel and serve.
*Juniper syrup INGREDIENTS:
Peel and pith of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Juniper berries, lightly crushed
1 pinch Loose black tea
2 ½ cups Water
1 cup Demerara sugar
In a heatproof bowl, add the lemon peel, juniper berries and tea. In a small saucepan, bring 2½ cups of water to a boil, then pour over the lemon mixture. Let it sit for 15 minutes to infuse. Strain the infused water into a measuring cup and return 2 cups of the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. Add the Demerara sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool completely before using. Store the syrup, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Kaitlyn Goalen is a writer, editor and cook based in Brooklyn and Raleigh, N.C. She is the editor and co-founder of Short Stack Editions, a series of single-subject, digest-size cookbooks, and has contributed to a variety of national publications.