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The Virgin Guide: Temperance Cocktails in 2020

January 17, 2020

The Up & Up cocktail at Rosalinda.
The Up & Up at Rosalinda. (Photo: Rick O'Brien)

By Erin Henderson

Welcome to the Roaring 20s where one of the biggest drink trends is… temperance.

I know, right? Seems like the Gatsby-esque fantasies I’ve been having of a decade’s worth of fabulous frivolity and tipsy escapades may be 100 years too late — and even in Toronto’s glam club district, that’s not at all fashionable.

Instead, the 2019 holdover of non-alc and low-alc drinks is still going strong. Seedlip, a no-alcohol “spirit,” used for making top-notch zero-proof cocktails, is featured on our drink tours for the teetotallers in the group. Some of the great bars and restaurants that serve Seedlip cocktails in Toronto include Rosalinda, PrettyUgly Bar, The Drake, Momofuku Kojin, Supernova Ballroom, The Walrus, Bar Isabel, Alo and Aloette, and Mahjong (and the list is growing).

Our local retailer is stocking more low- and non-alcohol products too, and you can expect to see ever more come the summer. And if you attended any of our Patio Parties last summer, you will remember the Wines of New Zealand booth was showcasing some superb wine offerings featuring alcohol levels below 10% (a whopping 25% less alcohol than average bottles).

Now, back in the day, when we still used awkward terms like, “mocktail,” an abstainer was an afterthought, whose best hope at a party was for a cranberry juice with soda.

As Sarah Parniak, Toronto-based marketing manager for Seedlip and a seasoned mixologist, points out, the trend to no/low alcohol cocktails has become “much more normalized in the past year, which is nice to see.” Today, the non-drinker has a selection that’s just as enticing as the full-on imbiber, with the added bonus of staying classy and zero hangover to deal with the next day. (However, if the need strikes you, read our helpful hints of battling the booze flu here.)

Go “green” at Rosalinda

Vegan Mexican restaurant Rosalinda — besides being a jewel of delicious and classy plant-based cuisine in the heart of downtown Toronto — has featured delicious temperance cocktails since opening almost two years ago. Our non-drinking tour guests are always delighted when they taste Rosalinda’s cocktails — and surprised to find out that some of them have no alcohol. And this is refreshing: Rosalinda charges just $9 for these non-alcoholic cocktails, making it easy to order a second, or third. With its brilliant shade of green, the Up & Up (pictured above) makes a bold statement.

The Up & Up

1.5 oz Pinot Noir verjus (un-fermented grape must)
.75 oz Seedlip Garden 108
.75 oz hoja santa lemon sherbet (syrup made of traditional Mexican herb and lemon)
.75 oz fresh cucumber juice
.75 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 oz soda
Add all ingredients except soda to a shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain into a 12 oz highball glass. Add soda and fresh ice.

From Vancouver with temperance (and love)

A few years ago, when the temperance movement was just gaining steam, I went in search of some quality prohibition cocktails—and found them in spades in the cocktail-forward little city of Vancouver. Now, we happily share them with you.

It’s all about balance

Whether booze-filled or booze-free, good cocktails are all about balance, says Lauren Mote, the mixologist mastermind behind Vancouver’s Bittered Sling bitters. “There is no reason why zero proof cocktails should be absent from menus,” she says. “In fact, it's the integral balance of flavours that becomes the key variable, not solely the use of spirits."

Cherry Mule

.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz  cherry-star anise syrup (see recipe here)
2 dashes Bittered Sling Suius Cherry Bitters

Build ingredients in a collins glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer, stir gently (swizzle) and serve with two cherries on a pick.

Taking it slow

When entertaining abstainers, show them a little love. “Nothing is more boring than a cranberry soda,” says Shaun Layton, who spent years developing great drinks at some of Vancouver’s best bars. Shaun says while he’s happy to make any drink a guest orders, but prefers to create mocktails that are “long” and “built” (won’t you feel hip using your new barkeep lingo?) “Drinks that are refreshing, and not downed in one sip,” he says.

Peachy Smash

1 oz peach purée
1 handful mint
.33 oz ginger syrup
.33 oz fresh lime juice
soda water

Add ingredients to a Collins glass, smacking mint before putting in the glass. Top with crushed ice, stir and top with soda. Garnish with a nice sprig of mint.

A healthy alternative

Justin Taylor, a Vancouver-based bartender created this light and tasty non-alcoholic drink with as much care and attention as he would any other drink ordered at the bar. To us, this is light and refreshing, and dare we even say... healthy? 

Mary Smith

1 oz cucumber juice
1 oz apple juice
0.5 oz honey water (1 part water, 1 part honey)
0.5 oz lime juice
3 oz Tealeaves Floral Jasmine Green Tea

Add ice to a large collins glass, build ingredients over ice, and stir to incorporate and garnish with cucumber slices.

You are in control

Whether imbibing or abstaining, a professional bartender will be happy to make you whatever drink you want, says another Vancouver-based barkeep David Wolowidnyk. “Obviously, the person ordering a virgin drink wants to stay away from alcohol for whatever reason, and the duty of a professional Bartender is to make sure that the needs of all guests are well taken care of regardless of what is ordered.”

Pear-Ginger Cocktail Punch

4 cups (32 oz) pear nectar
3 cups (24 oz) apple juice
3 oz ginger juice
1 cup (8 oz) cinnamon syrup
1 tsp citric acid
soda water

Mix all the ingredients in a large pitcher and stir until combined. Fill a tall glass with ice, and pour in juice until 3/4 full. Top with soda and garnish with a cinnamon stick.


Parts of this article are based on a blog post that first appeared on The Wine Sisters blog. Some extra bits of reporting courtesy of Dick Snyder.