I love a well-mixed classic cocktail, but sometimes I prefer to socialize without alcohol. A request at a bar for a nonalcoholic drink usually yields some overly sweet juice-and–club soda mocktail, when what I really crave is that perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and sour.
So I set out to see if I could replicate some classic gin-based cocktails, talking to as many bartenders as I could for suggestions. My friend Shaher Misif, a bartender at Cantina in San Francisco, came up with a brilliant idea: infuse nonalcoholic red and white wines with botanicals. Since the wine has enough body to extract and sustain the flavors of the botanicals, the resulting drinks are more satisfying and rich-tasting than those made with infused tea or simple syrup.
Using his idea as a starting point, I was able to create virgin versions of three classic cocktails that anyone would be happy to sip: a Virgin Gin and Tonic, Virgin Negroni, and Virgin Pimm’s Cup. I still love a good cocktail, but now I have the option of enjoying a balanced nonalcoholic one.
Photos by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com