If, like us, you had a slightly overindulgent holiday then you might well have decided to make your January a dry one, after all, new year-new you eh?
The good news is that just because you aren’t drinking, doesn’t mean that your drinks have to be boring.
In this blog, we are going to look at some tasty, non-alcoholic ingredients you can play with, then over the course of the next couple of weeks we’ll give you some recipes you can use them in.
In general, we have tried to select ingredients that will help to give your soft drinks a bit of kick and personality. They might not all be to your taste but we are sure that you’ll find something here that’s for you.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, let’s get cracking.
Green tea is the quintessential ‘detox’ drink and as such, we thought it deserved to be at the top of this list. Delicately caffeinated and boasting numerous health benefits it’s surely an integral part of anyone’s dry January.
Easily paired with a squeeze of honey and a splash of lemon juice to make a simple and delicious iced tea cocktail, it’s versatile and fragrant and just begging to be used in light, soft cocktails. You can brew your Green tea in advance and leave it in the fridge should you like to be well prepared.
We like Twinings’ ‘Simply Sencha’ as it’s got a slight sweetness to it which is incredibly moreish, but almost any brand will do. We’ll definitely be using this as a base for an iced tea at some point during January.
Another ingredient with well-known health benefits (We promise this isn’t becoming a health ad well-being blog), good-quality cider vinegar is supposedly good for the skin, blood sugar, weight loss, gut health and all number of things but most importantly of all, it’s delicious.
Vinegars are particularly good for drawing flavours out of other ingredients, try some grapefruit and orange peel, steeped in your cider vinegar for a week, cut with a little bit of simple sugar syrup to make an awesome shrub that you can use like a cordial in just about any cocktail.
Vinegar in cocktails isn’t a new thing, it’s been used for about as long as cocktails have been mixed, so whilst it might sound unusual, give it a try and you might be surprised just how well it works.
Like many of the other things on this list, ginger isn’t new or particularly clever but it is bloody delicious. It also, like many of the other things on this list, lays claim to considerable health benefits. It’s reported to treat nausea, aid in muscle recovery, regulate blood sugar, promote good heart health and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Most importantly, for our purposes at least, ginger brings a bright, warm heat to any drink in which you choose to use it. Generally speaking, you’ll need to break the ginger up to get the most out of it, so we would advise juicing it.
The easiest way to juice ginger in your kitchen (assuming you don’t have a hard-fruit juicer) is to chop it into small cubes and chuck it into a blender. Take the pulped ginger out of the blender and put it into a clean jay cloth or tea towel. You can then squeeze the juice out of this into a glass or small bottle and refrigerate.
You can also chuck a few slices into your green tea as you brew it, making a delicious cocktail of its own right but also saving you valuable juicing time.
Unfortunately, ginger doesn’t keep very well once juiced and will lose its heat if left for more than a day or two.
We’ve given ginger its own heading, but the rest of these are probably broad enough to bundle in here. Spices have been used for years to add intrigue and depth of flavour to food and cocktails. They are versatile and delicious with all sorts of applications.
You’re likely to already have a favourite spice, and whatever that is, now is a great time to make use of it. The ones we will be considering are cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and peppercorns.
With approximately seven-times the vitamin C content of oranges, chilli peppers are a brilliant way to add a bit of bang to your January soft-drinks.
Generally, when you’re buying chillies you have to strike a balance between strength and flavour. Jalapeños tend to err more on the side of flavour, whereas little birds-eyes are far more strength orientated.
When you use chilli in a drink, you aren’t looking for scalding heat or blow-your-face-off intensity, but a subtle warmth on the back of the throat which will add depth and richness to whatever you choose to make.
It’ll take a little bit of practice, and only you will know how much heat you enjoy, but get it right and it makes for an incredibly rewarding soft-cocktail.
This list is far from comprehensive, there’s millions of different things you can use for your January drinks but this is definitely a good start. Try experimenting with these ingredients and see what you come up with, we’ll have some fool-proof recipes coming your way over the next two weeks.
We’d love to see what you come up with, you can get in touch with use using @copperpotbar on Twitter or Instagram, or find us on Facebook.
Whilst we love writing recipes and blogs, our real calling is in bar consultancy, if you’ve got a bar or restaurant that needs some training, a new menu or you’re looking to set up a new project we would love to be a part of it. Email Sam@copperpotbar.com to get in touch.
Photo credit: Brooke Lark