Whatever you want to call them—zero-proof, temperance, or the controversial “mocktail”—non-alcoholic cocktails are increasingly popular. Today, no drink menu is complete without at least a few options that expand beyond ginger ale and lemonade.
Luckily, several writers have released books in the past few years that focus on N/A cocktails, ranging from approachable drinks for home bartenders to complex sips that would be right at home on a bar menu. Many of the drinks in Julia Bainbridge’s Good Drinks and Elva Ramirez’s Zero Proof Cocktails are sourced from bartenders around the country, while Camille Wilson’s Free Spirit Cocktails and Maureen Petrosky’s Zero Proof Drinks and More offer plenty of recipes that don’t require fancy tinctures or specialty ingredients. Derek Brown’s Mindful Mixology, meanwhile, takes inspiration from old temperance recipes and makes the case that N/A drinks that can be just as sophisticated as their boozy brethren.
Each book differs slightly in voice and viewpoint. As a litmus test, we offer each author’s stance on the most famous (or infamous) booze-free drink: the Shirley Temple.
Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason
Julia Bainbridge (Ten Speed Press, $23)
Published in “Sober October” 2020, this book was informed by a cross-country road trip the author took to visit bars and sample non-alcs (her preferred term). The writing style is crisp and acidic, like many of the drinks featured in the book. Many of the recipes are labor-intensive, such as the deconstructed N/A Pimm’s, but worth the effort. Bainbridge provides a key ranking of the commitment level each cocktail requires. In general, the drinks featured tend toward savory, spicy, tart, and dry flavor profiles.
Shirley Temple stance: The “Don’t Call Me Shirley,” sourced from Will Stewart at Houston’s Coltivare, is a tart affair, employing saba (a cousin of balsamic vinegar), sherry vinegar, and lemon juice. All that acid is balanced by Luxardo cherry syrup (instead of grenadine) and OJ, shaken until foamy and served in a tulip glass. A Luxardo cherry garnish remains, though it’s joined by an orange slice and a sprig of mint. “It’s far from a Shirley Temple,” says Bainbridge. “Respect it!”
Zero Proof Cocktails: 90 Non-Alcoholic Recipes for Mindful Drinking
Elva Ramirez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22)
This insidery book, released in 2021, is sprinkled liberally with familiar names from the bartending world. “Think like a bartender” is urged from literally the first sentence. There’s a brief history of temperance as well as the contemporary “Dry January” movement. Drinks are high effort—sous vide, hydrosols, and bespoke cordials and consommés abound—but yield multilayered libations that would be welcome on any fancy leather-bound cocktail menu. The photos are lush and enticing.
Shirley Temple stance: In Ramirez’s world, the Shirley Temple does not exist. The closest the book comes to the mocktail is the Pomegranate Phosphate, a 19th-century soda-fountain-style drink by Erick Castro of Raised by Wolves in San Diego. The cocktail stirs grenadine and acid phosphate in a pint glass with pebble ice, topping it with club soda and a lime wheel and brandied cherry garnish.
Free Spirit Cocktails
Camille Wilson (Chronicle Books, $20)
Cocktail blogger Camille Wilson, also known as The Cocktail Snob, shares 40 non-alcoholic recipes, including no-proof takes on classic drinks like the Mockarita and the Free Collins. A section is dedicated to homemade syrups such as turmeric syrup, which finds its way into her Passion Fruit Punch, and spiced cranberry syrup, the star of her festive Spice Girl cocktail.
Shirley Temple stance: Wilson gives the childhood favorite an upgrade with a homemade cherry vanilla syrup in her This Is the Remix recipe. “I used to be so excited to go to weddings and order [a Shirley Temple] at the bar,” she writes. “Well, Shirley was due for a bit of a makeover. But not to worry, the flavors don’t stray too far from the original we all grew up loving.”
Zero Proof Drinks & More: 100 Recipes for Mocktails & Low-Alcohol Cocktails
Maureen Petrosky (Robert Rose, $25)
Released in January 2021, this book has a laid-back and approachable vibe. Drinks are brightly-hued and easy to make, with plenty of tips for customizing to taste (“less gingery,” “less sweet,” etc.). Many of the drinks can be made without first making or purchasing a specialty ingredient and feature crowd-pleasing flavor profiles. The book also includes a chapter focused on low-ABV “session” drinks and another on big-batch booze-free punches and pitchers.
Shirley Temple stance: The “Shirley T” is positioned as a classic but updated with a half-ounce of strained fresh lime juice and spicy ginger beer in place of ginger ale and lengthened with club soda. Plus maraschino cherries—“as many as you like.” Petrosky wisely counsels simple changes in size, glassware, and sweetness to transform the drink into “something more sophisticated.”Continue to 5 of 5 below.
Derek Brown (Rizzoli, $40)
This 2022 release from mindful drinking advocate and bartending veteran Derek Brown includes options for drinkers across the spectrum, whether they’re looking for low-ABV cocktails or abstaining from alcohol altogether. For the 30 non-alcoholic recipes in the book, he draws upon upon old temperance recipes, such as Orgeat Lemonade and the Griscom Cooler, a long drink that he turns into a sour. A section entitled “If We Don't Use Alcohol, Then What?” covers all the ingredients Brown uses for his recipes, including fruit syrups, acid phosphate, and teas—plus an explainer on non-alcoholic spirits, wines, and beers.
Shirley Temple stance: The only actual reference to the childhood drink in Brown’s book: “And let’s not start with the Shirley Temple.” However, he reaches for grenadine in non-alcoholic drinks including the Kitten Whiskers (inspired by David Embury’s Pussyfoot), for which he combines the pomegranate-flavored syrup with fresh orange and lemon juices and aquafaba.