With nutritious ingredients such as kombucha, ginger, and mint, mocktails can be tasty and healthy.
While there’s evidence that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic, people are now looking to bring their drinking down a notch — or stop drinking altogether. One beverage industry analysis published in 2022 found that drinking alcohol is on the decline, with millenials and high-income consumers slashing their alcohol bills the most.
Whether you decide to cut back on or give up alcohol to benefit your wallet, your health, or any other reason, you have plenty of beverage options besides plain water.
The Health Benefits of Taking a Break From Drinking Alcohol
There’s scientific proof that pressing pause on alcohol (or avoiding it forever more) can help you look and feel better. A study published in July 2022 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry shows that alcohol may accelerate biological aging. Another study, published in July 2022 in the journal The Lancet , found that people under 40 should avoid alcohol because of the risks that come along with drinking (while older people may benefit from an occasional drink, like a glass of red wine).
Booze can interfere with sleep, another vital component of good health. “Alcohol prior to bedtime allows you to fall asleep faster, but your quality of sleep is impaired, so you’ll wake up feeling less well rested than if you didn’t have alcohol or if you had just one drink,” says Christine Palumbo , a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Naperville, Illinois. Research confirms that higher alcohol intake is associated with poorer sleep quality.
Cutting back on alcohol has been shown to help lower your risk for several chronic diseases. “Alcohol increases the risk of several cancers, including colon and breast cancer, per the National Cancer Institute . Even just one drink a day can increase your breast cancer risk ,” says Karen Ansel , a registered dietitian nutritionist on Long Island, New York.
“People forget that alcohol is a known carcinogen ,” adds Palumbo. One small study published in May 2018 in the journal BMJ Open found that healthy individuals who abstained from alcohol for one month showed improved markers associated with cancer.
The drinking uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately had a big impact on the population’s health. A modeling study published in December 2021 in the journal Hepatology found that a one-year increase in alcohol is estimated to result in about 8,000 additional deaths due to alcohol-associated liver disease .
Going booze-free may also have benefits for your mental health. Nondrinkers tend to rate their well-being highest, suggested a study published in July 2019 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal . Researchers also observed that for women, quitting alcohol was associated with better self-reported mental well-being. They didn’t see the same effect for men but concluded that kicking the habit may still be emotionally worthwhile for men. Also, even light drinking (one drink per day) is associated with harm to the brain, including reduced brain volume, per research published in March 2022 in the journal Nature Communications , and the impact on the brain is even bigger if people consume more.
So if you’re considering going on the wagon, you’re in luck. Research published in November 2020 in the journal Psychology and Health supports the perks of foregoing alcohol for a month: Participating in Dry January (when people are encouraged to abstain from alcohol during the month) increased study participants’ well-being and ability to handle stressful situations, and the results were more pronounced for the people who were able to successfully complete the challenge.
Why You Should Consider Trading Your Cocktail for a Mocktail
What’s making it easier than ever to cut back on alcohol is the fact that there are so many alternatives. First, there’s the nonalcoholic craft beer movement, with brands like Al’s, Athletic Brewing Company, Bravus, and Partake gaining huge followings. There are also craft nonalcoholic wines (like Töst and Ariel) and spirits (like Seedlip and Curious Elixirs). More bartenders are having fun creating innovative alcohol-free drinks that aren't full of sugar and syrups packed with artificial ingredients.
“Mocktails are definitely a wellness trend," says Palumbo. “So many of us are trying to minimize the toxins in our body, whether that’s with the makeup we put on, the cleaners we use around the house, or the food we eat — so avoiding alcohol is another piece of this low-toxin environment we’re creating.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking moderately reduces the risk of alcohol-related issues. The CDC defines “moderate” as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines define one drink as 5 ounces (oz) of wine, 12 oz of beer, or a cocktail with 1.5 oz of liquor per day.
If you’re looking to limit or eliminate alcohol from your diet for any reason, these 10 tasty mocktail recipes, created by registered dietitians, can be great alternatives.
Sparkling Blood Orange Mocktail
“Made with freshly squeezed blood orange juice, this mocktail uses one of the most beautiful citrus fruits available in winter,” says Marisa Moore , a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Atlanta. Not only does the citrusy drink taste good (it’s also made with vanilla, lime sparkling water, and a little bit of honey), it’s good for you. “Blood oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C , which is essential for healthy cells, healing, and immune function,” adds Moore. So you’ve got a great excuse to whip up this drink if you notice a cold coming on.
Get the recipe at MarisaMoore.com .
Dawn Jackson Blatner
You can feel like you’re on a getaway with a sip of this sangria mocktail — whether you’re enjoying it in the heat of summer or the dead of winter. The secret ingredient that gives the drink its bold flavor and bright red color? Hibiscus tea . Fruit gives the mocktail a hint of sweetness that you expect from sangria without any added sugar. Just be sure to eat the apples and oranges for some extra fiber and vitamin C .
“For a summer variation, try hibiscus, berry, or peach tea and fruits like berries , plums, and peaches,” suggests Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Chicago. For a warm, winter variation, use orange spice or cran-apple tea, plus fruits like clementines, cranberries, and pomegranate , Blatner advises.
Get the recipe at DawnJacksonBlatner.com .
Moscow mules, traditionally made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, are a refreshing favorite, and this booze-free version delivers all the same great flavors without the hangover. “What makes this mocktail is the ginger kombucha ,” says Kaleigh McMordie, RDN , a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Lubbock, Texas, and the founder of LivelyTable.com. “Not only is kombucha full of gut-healthy probiotics but it's usually lower in sugar than most mixers, though you still get the bubbles and flavor.”
In the traditional cocktail, ginger beer is used, an ingredient that’s high in sugar, according to an article published in March 2016 by the BBC . You’ll get to sidestep it in this recipe and likely won’t even notice the swap.
While kombucha includes trace amounts of alcohol due to the fermentation process, it is not regulated as an alcoholic beverage as long as it contains less than 0.5 percent alcohol (and the alcohol percentage doesn’t increase once it’s been bottled). A glass of wine, for example, has about 12 percent alcohol , so it’s unlikely that kombucha would be of any consequence for someone trying to avoid alcohol.
Get the recipe at LivelyTable.com .
Strawberry Sparkling Mocktail
Too-sweet mocktails can give you a sugar rush — but this one uses fresh strawberries for natural sweetness, which are balanced by the tartness of lemon juice. Plus, you also get some nice nutritional perks. "Both strawberries and lemons are great sources of vitamin C, which is a nutrient our bodies don't produce, meaning we need to get it from the food we eat,” says Tara Rochford , a registered dietitian nutritionist at Butler University in Indianapolis and founder of Tara Rochford Nutrition. “Vitamin C helps to keep our skin healthy and glowing, aids in wound healing, and helps keep our immune system strong.” Cheers to that!
Get the recipe at TaraRochfordNutrition.com .
Pomegranate Ginger Sparkler
Opt for this drink if you want to get your antioxidant fix. “The pomegranate juice packs in potent anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called polyphenols that protect cells against damage,” says Lindsey Pine , a registered dietitian nutritionist at the University of Southern California Hospitality in Los Angeles and founder of Tasty Balance Nutrition. “Those polyphenols may have a positive effect on memory and cognition as well as post- exercise muscle recovery .” For example, a study published in January 2020 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming pomegranate juice daily helped improve test subjects’ memory (specifically visual information), compared with a placebo group. And a small study published in October 2016 in PLoS One found that when elite weightlifters drank pomegranate juice after working out , their muscles were able to recover from the lifting session faster than those who didn’t drink the juice.
Pine says that you’ll get a dash of probiotics from the ginger kombucha, which is useful for gut health. Even the garnish is edible and nutrient dense: Use pomegranate arils, blueberries , or both.
Get the recipe at TastyBalanceNutrition.com .
Ruby Sparkler Mocktail
What makes this mocktail extra special is the homemade rhubarb-plum syrup, which combines diced rhubarb, a plum, and agave nectar or honey . An added perk? You can save the extra syrup for up to two weeks in the fridge, then use it to elevate other dishes, like drizzling it on top of yogurt.
To make this drink a mocktail versus a cocktail, swap out the St. Germain liqueur and prosecco for 4 oz of chilled sparkling water, advises Frances Largeman-Roth , a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in New York City. It’s still just as worthy of toasting a special occasion.
Get the recipe at FrancesLargemanRoth.com .
Grapefruit Mint Kombucha Mocktail
Sarah Gold Anzlovar
Thirst quenching: Check. Vitamin C packed: Check. Gut friendly: Check. “Made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and probiotic-rich kombucha, this mocktail is low in calories and sugar, good for your gut, and filled with immune-boosting ingredients,” says Sarah Gold Anzlovar , a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Boston. “It's light and refreshing and feels like a special drink — you won't even miss the booze!”
This drink makes an excellent summer treat, but you can also enjoy it during cold and flu season to keep your immune system going strong and make your winter days seem not so dark and dreary.
Get the recipe at SarahGoldRD.com .
Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail
Jessica Beacom and Stacie Hassing
Looking for something tart and tangy? This fizzy fruit concoction is just the thing. It’s made with 100 percent cranberry juice (for a hit of vitamin C). Otherwise, that might seriously make your mouth pucker, but the ginger and rosemary balance the tartness. Like some of the other drinks, it’s also made with kombucha in place of high-sugar mixers, so you get a dose of gut-friendly probiotics, according to Jessica Beacom, RDN, and Stacie Hassing, RDN, co-founders of Boulder, Colorado–based The Real Food Dietitians .
Get the recipe at TheRealFoodRDs.com .
Sparkling Apple Cider Mocktail
Everyone loves to toast a celebratory occasion with Champagne, but if you’re doing Dry January or are cutting back, you don’t need to stick with sparkling cider anymore. Mix this simple and much more festive sparkler made with citrus slices and rosemary. “This sparkling cider mocktail is great because it's really easy and quick,” says Rebecca Clyde, RDN , the Salt Lake City–based owner and blogger at Nourish Nutrition Blog.
And if you’re hosting your friends, here’s an idea: “You can also cut up a bunch of fruit and make a cider mocktail bar, and guests can pick and choose any fruit or herb to add to their own drink,” says Clyde. “You can add as many citrus slices or other fruits as you'd like and get a burst of Vitamin C and antioxidants from the fruit.”
Get the recipe at NourishNutritionBlog.com .