Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions — Seasonal. Refreshing. Alcohol-Free. by Clare Liardet, The Experiment (2018), 144 pages, $14.95
What started a few years ago as “Dry January” or “Drynuary” — a way to recover from the overindulgence of the holidays by starting the new year free of alcohol — has evolved into what USA Today has called “the hot trend.” The now year-round focus on zero-proof libations has inspired cutting-edge restaurants and bars to revisit their cocktail menus and create grown-up spirit-free drinks far beyond the Shirley Temples, Roy Rogers, rum-free mojitos, and Virgin Marys of decades past.
Along with the new recipes has come a new language. “Mocktails” are so over. These are not drinks to scorn. Zero-proof, no-proof, spirit-free, and NA (no alcohol) is the more respectful (and accurate) way to describe the new generation of dry drinks.
In January, Food & Wine magazine dedicated its Bottle Service pages (a new section that debuted in 2018 to “celebrate modern drink culture”) to nonalcoholic drinks, suggesting that bringing the trend home is not about stocking your bar — but about stocking your kitchen.
Enter Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions — Seasonal. Refreshing. Alcohol-Free. Author Clare Liardet, a British chef and cooking teacher currently working at the Talbot Inn in Mells, Somerset, England, approaches mixology in much the way she approaches cooking, making use of seasonal herbs, fruits, and vegetables from the inn’s garden, supplementing them with make-ahead syrups and some “quick fixes” that bring additional color, depth, and complexity to her concoctions.
The introduction is just three paragraphs. This is a cookbook, not a treatise on the benefits of a spirit-free lifestyle. “An alcohol-free period is a brilliant opportunity to go wild with adventurous and delicious drinks,” Liardet writes, and we’re off to look at some basic equipment — some (like a shaker, muddler, or jigger) familiar to people with home bars but others (like canning jars) better known to home cooks. The lists of ingredients and garnishes that follow give a hint of things to come: bitters and celery salt mix it up with teas, kombucha, tamarind, and turmeric. Recipes for sugar syrups and shrubs (a vinegar-based alternative to fruit cordials with a long history in Europe and the Middle East) are the mise en place of many of her drinks.
The list of “quick fixes” — including Crodino, an NA bitter aperitif from the maker of Aperol and Campari, and Seedlip, an alcohol-free distilled spirit produced expressly to create zero-proof cocktails — offers a simple way out of the more intriguing but labor-intensive recipes that follow.
The drinks recipes — some cocktail-like and others more in tune with smoothies and immune-boosting concoctions — are divided into six chapters. The first, “New Starts” offers drinks Liardet says are “perfect for new beginnings and setting new goals.” There’s a simple Blood Orange Sunrise here, along with a fresh, hot-sweet, aromatic take on a Virgin Mary and a golden Ginger, Turmeric, and Chile Tea. “Friday Nights” includes drinks that can be prepared for one or scaled up for a group, ranging from a simple Blueberry Julep to a Kombucha Spritz that calls for 11 ingredients. The recipes in “Lazy Sundays” exemplify a brunchy state of mind, what with the Chile and Lime Margarita the author first tasted on an Australian beach, and several variations on the Virgin Mary, including one built on beet rather than tomato juice.
“Long Summers,” a collection of coolers, spritzers, and shrubs — including an alcohol-free version of that old British standby, the Pimm’s Cup — introduces a series of seasonally defined drinks. “Wood Smoke Warmers” follows up with riffs on cold-weather favorites, like an Autumn Sangria and an Earl Grey Hot Toddy. The recipes collected in “Fireside Glow” close the book (and the evening) with after-dinner drinks, like a luxurious chocolate After Eight Martini, Espresso Mint Martini, and Pomegranate Negroni.
One of the things many people miss when they stop drinking alcohol is the ritual that goes along with popping a cork, pouring a glass of wine, or building a cocktail. Dry offers many opportunities for an adventurous cook to create new rituals, as well as quick fixes for the impatient teetotaler who just wants a drink — and wants it now.
Chile and Lime Margarita
5 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ½ oz. chile-infused syrup (see below)
1 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
3 limes, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt
Wedge of lime
Slices of lime to garnish
Combine the lime juice, chile syrup, orange juice, and sliced limes in a pitcher and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour some salt on a plate, slide the wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, then dip the glass in the salt.
Fill the glass with the margarita and ice and serve garnished with slices of lime.
Makes a 13.5 oz. bottle
¾ cup water
1 cup sugar
4 red chiles, sliced in half lengthwise
Add all ingredients to a pan and bring to a boil. Allow them to bubble for 5 minutes until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Pour into a sterilized jar or bottle.
— recipes from Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions — Seasonal. Refreshing. Alcohol-Free.