I've been on a little bit of a fitness kick lately, so I've been trying to cut down on booze. That might be hard this summer—there are few things that I like more on a hot day then sitting out by the pool with a beer or cocktail. To stay honest, I'm going to try to keep enough delicious nonalcholic drinks on hand that booze won't be tempting. Standards like lemonade and iced tea should get me through most days, and when I want something a little more exciting I'll try a mocktail with cucumber and shiso or rhubarb and lime juice. If you're looking to follow my example, keep reading for 17 of our favorite summery nonalcoholic drink recipes.
Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Lemonade
You could make lemonade by simply mixing lemon juice, water, and sugar, but you'd be missing out. A better choice is to macerate lemon rinds in sugar to make an intensely aromatic syrup, then to mix that with the juice and water. Maceration brings the flavorful essential oils out of the rinds, making for a more complex lemonade.
The Best Iced Tea
Chilling hot-brewed iced tea makes for a drink that's muddy and bitter. Southern-style sun tea tastes better, but leaving the tea in the sun holds it at a temperature that bacteria love. It turns out the safest, most effective method for brewing iced tea is also the simplest—just cold-steep whatever tea you'd like in the fridge for about five hours, then strain and serve.
The Best Arnold Palmer
If you were to mix our ultra-flavorful fresh lemonade and best iced tea you'd already have a tasty Arnold Palmer, but we can do even better. The water in the lemonade just dilutes the flavors, so we skip it and just mix the lemon juice and syrup directly into the tea. It makes for a strong drink, but pour it over a glass of ice and it'll be perfect.
Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Limeade
The exact same technique we use for our lemonade works just as well for limeade—macerate the rinds in sugar, strain, then mix the syrup with water and lime juice. You can macerate the limes in just a couple hours or let them sit as long as 12—any longer and the syrup will start to taste unpleasantly bitter. (You can also use the same technique with mango pits and skins!)
Frothy Iced Matcha Green Tea
Making iced matcha green tea is totally straightforward—all you have to do is mix matcha powder and water. The question is how best to mix the two. Hand-mixing with a bamboo whisk is traditional, but it's hard to get the tea nice and foamy. A hand blender performs better, but is a little over-involved for such a simple recipe. The easiest option? Just shake the powder and water together in a resealable container.
When making non-alcholic cocktails, we look for complex flavors that can mimic the intensity of alcohol. This refreshing drink uses fresh green apple juice and rice vinegar as a sweet, tangy base—the vinegar has cucumber infused into it for a savory note that makes the mocktail taste a little more adult.
There isn't anything quite like drinking a tall glass of cold mango lassi on a hot summer's day. Since we use canned Kesar mango purée, you don't have get your hands on ripe mangoes, and so the hardest part about putting the drink together is making the palm sugar syrup used to sweeten it. After that, it's a cinch: just combine the purée with yogurt, buttermilk, the syrup, some lime juice, and a smidge of salt, and pour the mixture into a big glass of ice. If you're not into mango, or if you want a refreshing lassi that isn't sweet, you can also make a salted mint lassi, which is just as easy and maybe, depending on your taste, even more delicious.
Fig and Balsamic Soda
This simple highball starts with our rich fig syrup, which is made with a combination of store-bought dried figs and oven-dried fresh figs. To make the drink we mix two tablespoons of the syrup with just a dash of tangy balsamic vinegar and a few ounces of seltzer, then garnish with a slice of fresh fig.
Rhubarb is known for being super tart, so you might be surprised to see that this juice is made with nothing more than rhubarb and water. Skip the temptation to add sugar—I promise that once you strain and chill the juice it will have a surprising balance of tartness and sweetness.
Booze-Free Rhubarb Lime Gimlet
This mocktail is made with a rhubarb and white wine vinegar shrub, which has a bracing burn that stands in for a shot of booze. We mix a couple ounces of the shrub with tart lime juice, then add maple syrup to soften the sharp flavors. Finish with chilled seltzer to taste.
This pitcher drink recipe plays to rhubarb's sweeter side by cooking it into a syrup with sugar, ginger, orange zest, and allspice berries. Once the syrup is cool, we mix it with tart lime juice and spicy ginger beer. If you don't care about staying booze-free, spike this with dark rum for a mean Dark 'n' Stormy.
This horchata variation gives the Mexican drink an Asian twist. We start with the standard base of rice and almonds, but steep in lemongrass and ginger as well. The result is bright, unexpected, and super refreshing. A couple tablespoons of agave nectar provide just enough sweetness.
Get the recipe for Lemongrass-Ginger Horchata »
Tangy Kumquat-Pear Juice
Most citrus peels shouldn't go through a juicer—they'll make the juice unpleasantly bitter. Whole kumquats, on the other hand, produce juice that is sweet and tart, with just a hint of bitterness. Fresh pear helps tame any astringency, and ginger gives the mocktail a little kick.
Sparkling Sumac Lemonade
Sumac probably isn't a regular presence in your kitchen, but it's worth a trip to the store to make this vibrantly colored lemonade. Made into a syrup, the fruit gives the drink a distinct dryness almost reminiscent of a good white wine.
Spicy Honeydew and Coconut Water Agua Fresca
This agua fresca starts with subtle, cooling honeydew juice. We stretch it out with coconut water, which is delicate enough to not overpower the melon and doesn't add too much sweetness. Don't think that this drink is too mild, though—we keep it from being boring with a spicy chile de arbol syrup.
Get the recipe for Spicy Honeydew and Coconut Water Agua Fresca »
Strawberry and Cantaloupe Agua Fresca With Thyme
Here we trade honeydew for cantaloupe—a traditional agua fresca ingredient. We blend the melon up with strawberries and a thyme syrup that gives the agua fresca a complex herbal note. The drink blends up pretty smooth, so you don't need to bother straining it unless you really want to.
Orange, Rosewater, and Mint Sparkler
If you're ever looking for a nonalcoholic alternative to a mimosa, this citrusy mocktail is for you. It's made with equal parts freshly squeezed orange juice and seltzer, plus lots of fresh mint and just a couple of drops of rosewater. Be careful with the rosewater—it can quickly become overpowering if you overdo it.