Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—but unfortunately, so much of that holiday cheer seems to come from a cup full of booze.

From eggnog to buttered rum and mulled wine to Manischewitz, there are a number of special holiday drinks that start to pop up when the temperature goes down—and keeping away from them isn’t always easy.

But luckily, there are a number of strategies that can help you maintain your commitment to sobriety throughout these festive times. You just have to stay strong and get creative.

Staying Sober for the Holidays

Besides the abundance of boozy get-togethers, the end of the year is one of the hardest times to stay sober in general.

There’s a mixture of emotional, societal, and even biological triggers that may make sobriety especially challenging over the holidays, including everything from stress over family drama, over-commitment and planning, financial strains, and a busy schedule and seasonably decadent diet that may throw you off your regular sober routine.

Plus, many people travel for the holidays, spending these stressful times away from their recovery support system. And even the lack of sunlight can set off a mild depression that might make it harder to stay sober.

One of the best ways to combat these issues is to address them before they even come up.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation recommends entering into the holiday season with a sobriety plan already in place. This can include anything from scheduling an online AA meeting to finding the closest AA meeting to where you’ll be staying.

Avoiding known risks is another good way to stay sober, especially if you’ll be traveling to old territory that may trigger deep emotional responses. If there are certain friends or family members you associate with drinking or other drama, it may be best to politely decline any offers to hang out.

But if you do decide to attend any parties, there are still ways to protect your sobriety. The foundation recommends bringing a sponsor or a sober friend along, always having an exit strategy, and always having a non-alcoholic drink in hand.

Mocktail Miracles: The Key to Staying Sober These Holidays

Indeed, many holiday party hosts are intent on ensuring everyone is eating, drinking and being merry and they may offer many times to get you a drink, without even realizing what they’re doing.

Having one already in hand is one way to side-step this potential problem. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boozy and it definitely doesn’t mean it has to be tasteless.

In fact, there are a number of non-alcoholic cocktails that are even more delicious (and not to mention healthier) than their spiked counterparts. And you don’t even have to be at a party to enjoy them!

Spiced Hot Cider

A perfect replacement for mulled wine, boozy mulled cider, or hot toddies, this toasty drink is good for keeping you warm—and clear-headed.

How to Make It

Making this non-alcoholic drink is pretty simple!

First, you’ll need:

  • 8 cups apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon sticks)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 orange, cut into slices
  • Optional: Whipped cream and extra cinnamon sticks for garnishing

Putting it together is as easy as combining everything (minus the toppings) in a saucepan, then warming the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the drink is suitably hot. Make sure to occasionally stir your non-alcoholic cocktail while it warms up.

Then transfer the mixture to a suitable pitcher—or straight to your mug—before topping it off with whipped cream and indulging in something truly delicious.

Non-Wine Spritzer

On the lighter side of things, we have this perfect, bubbly replacement for spritzers and champagne, making this non-alcoholic drink the perfect New Year’s Eve companion.

How to Make It

The beautiful thing about non-alcoholic spritzers is that the possibilities are nearly endless.

You’ll just need:

  • Something to make it bubbly. (Think: Sprite, sparkling water, or kombucha.)
  • Something fruity. (Any combination of fruit juice and actual fruit should do.)
  • Optional herbal mixers to take things up a notch.

A particularly good and seasonally-appropriate combination is an Apple Cranberry Spritzer, which combines equal parts apple and cranberry juice, a dash of Sprite, and a few actual cranberries plus a sprig of rosemary for that pop of extra goodness.

Virgin Old Fashioned

A booze-free spin on the classic, this is the perfect mocktail choice if you like going old school.

How to Make It

Much like with its whiskey-soaked namesake, the ingredient list for this non-alcoholic cocktail is a little fussy. (But worth it!)

You’ll need:

  • 1 oz. strong-brewed barley tea, chilled
  • 1/3 dropper of bitters
  • 5 dashes molasses bitters
  • .25 oz. simple syrup
  • .5 oz. apple cider
  • Splash of club soda

First, prepare the tea. Boil 10 oz. of water then pour over two tea bags. Allow the tea to steep, then place the cup in the fridge.

Once the tea is chilled, mix it together with the other ingredients, and if you’re really feeling fancy, garnish your masterpiece with two cherries and an orange peel.

Buttered Rum Mocktail

A virgin version of the real thing, this is the perfect holiday mocktail treat for anyone with a sweet tooth.

How to Make It

And, perhaps appropriately, assembling this non-alcoholic drink is a nearly half-mixology, half-baking venture.

First, what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar or sugar substitute (Splenda, et al)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Half and half or heavy cream

First prepare the butter mixture by combining the butter, both types of sugar, and all the spices in a mixing bowl, then beat with an electric mixer (or just a good old wooden spoon) until everything is thoroughly combined.

You can then either store this key ingredient in an air-tight container in the fridge or use it right away.

When you’re ready to make your mocktail, scoop 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter mixture into a mug. Pour about ¼ cup boiling water over the top and add one or two tablespoons of half and half or cream. Stir to combine and drink to bliss out.

Eggnog

Traditionalists might have a hard time enjoying the holidays without a glass of eggnog. Luckily, the classic drink works just as well as a non-alcoholic cocktail.

How to Make It

Another mocktail whose ingredients list might read more like a Christmas cookie recipe, this non-alcoholic drink is just as decadent as the original.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4cup sweetened, condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (Optional: More for garnish)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make it, first combine the milk, condensed milk, cloves, and cinnamon in a saucepan over low heat. Once the mixture has been warmed through, increase the heat to medium until the combination is boiling, but not a rolling boil.

In the meantime, beat the eggs and sugar together in a separate mixing bowl, until you get a nice light color and a fluffy texture.

Slowly add one tablespoon at a time of the hot milk mixture to the eggs and sugar, stirring the combination together each time.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to spoon the entire milk mixture into the eggs! Once the egg/sugar/milk combo has a nice, fluid texture, you can transfer the mixture back into the saucepan, then put the whole thing on medium heat for 3-5 minutes, while stirring frequently.

You’ll know your non-alcoholic eggnog is nearly ready when the mixture is thick enough to leave a clean line on the back of your spoon. Then it’s time to add the cream, nutmeg, and vanilla to the mix, heating the whole thing through without bringing it to a boil.

Pour through a strainer to get rid of the chunkier spicy bits, then refrigerate in an airtight container for at least an hour.

By that point, it should be exactly the right time to enjoy this supremely delicious holiday treat.

But if you want some holiday help staying sober outside the kitchen, you can find your closest AA meeting or call 800-839-1686Who Answers? if you want to discuss other treatment and rehab options.

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