Liz Scott can often be found at her kitchen table, mixing drinks and creating new cocktails. But Scott isn't the traditional mixologist. Her recipes are missing one key ingredient: alcohol.
A caterer, trained chef and recovering alcoholic, Scott has found there is a wide audience of people like her, looking for alcohol-free beverages. Whether they don't drink because they're recovering from alcoholism, because of religious beliefs or health concerns or any number of other reasons, it doesn't mean their parties should be any less festive.
"Heavens yes, a party should be just as fun if you're not drinking," said Scott, author of "Sober Celebrations: Lively Entertaining Without the Spirits" (Cleveland Clinic Press, $24.95). The book features menus of food and drink pairings, all sans alcohol, for a variety of occasions. "I know a lot of times people think if alcohol isn't involved a party will be dull, but it certainly doesn't have to be that way."
Think outside the wine box
Thinking outside of the wine box is key when throwing a sober shindig. Beverages aren't limited to fruit juices and sugary-sweet punches - they can offer the same zest and zing as a fine wine or cocktail.
A few dashes of flavored vinegar can give drinks a bite and reduce the sweetness of a concoction. Flavored waters, teas, seltzers and innovative juices are also ideal when mixing up a mocktail.
"No one wants to drink a Diet Pepsi with their gourmet meal," Scott said. "There are plenty of options other than traditional drinks. You can still pair drinks with food, but you have to be a little more creative."
Doing a bit of legwork and research is helpful in crafting drinks. To create a mocktail similar to the alcoholic version, find out what ingredients are in the original, and try to match them.
One of Scott's favorite drinks is a replacement for the traditional cabernet sauvignon. Her version, Cranbernet Sauvignon, is made with black currant juice, unsweetened cranberry and grape juices, seltzer and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
"Another sober friend of mine and I sat down at the table for a whole day and just became chemists," she said. "I did my homework and found out that cabernet sauvignon has black currant undertones, so that was a good place to start. We just mixed up flavors and finally found the Cranbernet Sauvignon. It's perfect with a steak."
Celebrations don't need to be an all-or-nothing deal. It's OK to mix drinkers with non-drinkers, but be courteous of your guests, Scott said. Tell attendees ahead of time if the party is alcohol-free, and make sure non-drinking guests - especially those newly into their recovery - are comfortable drinking from a wine or cocktail glass.
"It's fine to serve the drinks in a traditional wine glass or such," Scott said. "But it doesn't hurt to ask ahead of time if someone is OK with that. The most important part of a sober celebration is to be creative and be courteous. Your guests will appreciate your efforts on both ends."
SideBar: Cranbernet Sauvignon
1 cup black currant juice
1⁄2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1⁄2 cup no-sugar-added red grape juice
1⁄2 cup plain seltzer
11⁄2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Stir together all the ingredients in a glass pitcher. Allow to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature, then divide between two 10- or 12-ounce wine glasses. Serve immediately.
Source: "Sober Celebrations: Lively Entertaining Without the Spirits"
(Cleveland Clinic Press, $24.95)
Margarita in the Buff
Three 12-ounce cans of frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed and undiluted
Three 12-ounce cans of frozen limeade concentrate, thawed and undiluted
3 cups confectioners sugar
18 cups crushed ice
Three 1-liter bottles of orange-flavored club soda
Lime slices for garnish
Work in three batches, one for each pitcher. Place one can each of the lemonade and limeade concentrate, 1 cup of sugar and 6 cups of crushed ice into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a pitcher, cover and freeze. Repeat twice more with remaining ingredients.
When the mixture has become firm (several hours later), remove the pitchers from the freezer and allow to thaw slightly for 30 minutes. Whisk one bottle of club soda into each pitcher until the margarita is slushy. Pour immediately into prepared glasses and serve.
Ginger Mint Juleps
1 cup fresh mint leaves, washed and all stems removed
11⁄2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups boiling water
3⁄4 cups fresh lemon juice
11⁄2 quarts ginger ale, chilled
Mint sprigs for garnish
Place the mint leaves, 1⁄2 cup of the sugar and a few tablespoons of water in a small mixing bowl. Muddle together using a pestle or the end of a wooden spoon, until the mint leaves are well crushed and the ingredients are combined.
Pour in the boiling water and the remaining sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a pint-size container and chill until ready to use. When ready to serve, mix together the julep, lemon juice and ginger ale in a large pitcher. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish with a mint sprig.