Zero-Proof Summer Cocktails

Zero-Proof Summer Cocktails

Sophisticated mocktails are the perfect vehicle for cannabis


Peruse the cocktail lists at enlightened bars across the country today and you’ll likely find zero-proof drinks that are every bit as complex and delicious as their spirited cousins. That’s a welcome change for those who prefer to get their buzz from cannabis—or would rather not mix it with alcohol—because mocktails are perfect vehicles for tinctures, powders, syrups and seltzers.

Making a sophisticated booze-free cocktail is about getting the right balance, says Tara Heffernon, co-owner of Duke’s Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg, California, “If you just remove the alcohol (from a recipe), that will make something entirely too concentrated and off balance,” she says. “You want to make sure the drink isn’t some syrupy sweet thing just because there are fewer ingredients.”

Lengthening—adding soda water or another mixer to the drink—is an important part of the process because it cuts sweetness and can make a cocktail more refreshing. “If you think about a drink that doesn’t have any liquor in it, it needs more lengthening than an alcoholic drink would,” Heffernon says.

Along with alcohol-fueled cocktails, the Duke’s menu includes a “Hold the Booze” section with options such as the Green Business, a savory mix of cucumber, lime, cardamom and tonic water.

As with any drink she creates, Heffernon strives for harmony between the aromas and flavors. For savory seasonal mocktails, she reaches for ingredients such as cucumbers, jalapenos and housemade shrubs that add a vinegar kick. If she uses citrus, she often looks for less common varieties, such as pomelo, to give drinks a distinctive note. “You can make something super light and tart using seltzer water, cucumber, citrus juice and only a tiny bit of syrup to curb the bitterness of the acid.”

Mike Di Tota, general manager and bar director at The Bonnie in Astoria, New York, began making mocktails two years ago, when a few close friends stopped drinking alcohol. Now he offers three zero-proof drinks year-round.

Di Tota looked to his horticultural background to make cocktails without liquor. “I wanted to find out how I could infuse this type of herb or fruit into a drink, or how I could make it into a syrup,” he says. “It came very naturally. You’re just making a great artisanal drink.”

Di Tota uses a variety of sodas and seltzers in his mocktails, from ginger beer to citrus soda, for the effervescence. “It also gives you the feeling that you’re having something different than just orange juice with cranberry,” he says.

Tea is one of his star ingredients because it adds a touch of bitterness and makes it easy to infuse different flavors into a cocktail. “One of my go-tos is a mixture of rooibos tea, watermelon, lemon juice and soda water,” Di Tota says. “For summer, there’s really no more quintessential fruit than watermelon—except for maybe strawberry. The drink is so clean, it’s hard not to just slug it down. 

By Tina Caputo

Photography by Paul Lowe


Just Add Cannabis

The beauty of mocktails is that they let you customize the cannabis dosage to your own preference. Here are some options for spicing up alcohol-free drinks.

Water-soluble powders: Unlike oil-based tinctures, which don’t mix well with other liquids, CBD and THC powders dissolve smoothly into drinks. They’re also odorless and tasteless.

THC-infused seltzer: Swap club soda for cannabis-infused sparkling water for a bubbly cocktail kick.

Terpenes: Terpenes derived from cannabis or other plants can deliver mood effects and complex aromas without the THC.

Tinctures: Add a drop or a dropper, depending on your desired dosage.

Infused sweeteners: Sweeten drinks with commercially available infused honeys and simple syrups, or make your own at home.

Canna bitters: Substitute ready-made cannabis-infused bitters for the standard variety.

Tropical Green

Tropical Green 1 ounce good-quality blanco tequila (optional) 1 ounce cucumber juice (see note) ⅔ ounce passion fruit juice ⅓ ounce agave syrup 1 teaspoon orange blossom water 3 dashes CBD bitters, or ½ pipette CBD oil Kombucha Edible flower and cucumber slice...

The Wrath of Kalimotxo

The Wrath of Kalimotxo 1½ ounces Spanish red wine 1½ ounces amaro, such as Lucano or Montenegro ½ ounce Spanish red vermouth ½ ounce CBD-infused simple syrup* 2 dashes Angostura bitters Chilled soda water Lemon peel Combine wine, amaro, vermouth, syrup and bitters in...

Rosy Outlook

Rosy Outlook 2 ounces gin ½ ounce Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto liqueur ½ ounce D.O.M. Benedictine liqueur ½ ounce fresh lemon juice 4 drops hop extract 15 mg full- or broad-spectrum CBD of choice 1-2 fresh or dried rose petals Combine Italicus, Benedictine, lemon...

Lilac Greyhounds

Lilac Greyhounds 1 cup sugar ½ cup filtered water 3 tablespoons fresh, unsprayed lilac petals 1 cup freshly squeezed red grapefruit juice ½ cup vodka Ice cubes 2 grapefruit slices 2 sprigs dried organic lilac For lilac simple syrup, combine sugar, filtered water and...

Hard Apple Cocktail

Photography by Eva Kolenko Hard Apple Cocktail 1 ounce cannabis-infused elderflower liqueur (use your favorite home infusion method) ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice 2-3 dashes of grapefruit bitters or herbal bitters Dry-style hard apple cider Add all ingredients except...

Recipe : Paper Doll Mocktail

Photo by Paul Lowe Paper Doll Mocktail 1½ ounces fresh pomelo or red grapefruit juice, strained 1 ounce fresh lemon juice, strained 1 ounce simple syrup 1 dash Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters 2 ounces seltzer water Citrus wheel and lavender sprig Combine...

Recipe : CBD Infused Grapefruit Cocktail

Photo by Paul Lowe Rocket Launch 2 ounces fennel juice 2 ounces grapefruit juice 1 ounce arugula juice 10 mg water-soluble CBD 1/2 ounce licorice simple syrup, recipe follows 1 pinch bee pollen 1 cucumber strip In a cocktail mixer, add all the ingredients except the...

Infused Green Goddess Margarita

Photo by Paul Lowe Green Goddess Margarita 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar ¼ cup kosher salt ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 lime wedge 1 ounce kale juice ½ ounce canna leaf juice or additional kale juice 2 ounces tequila blanco, optional 1 ounce lime juice 5 mg THC...

Recipe : Stoned Fruit

Photo by Eva Kolenko Stoned Fruit 1 ounce yuzu juice ½ apricot or peach, muddled 2 ounces agave gin ¾ ounce Aperol ½ ounces Giffard apricot brandy ¼ ounce simple syrup 15 mg CBD tincture Combine yuzu and stone fruit in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add all other...

Terpenes Infused Citrus Cocktails

  Get Your Mood On Terpenes add complexity to citrus cocktails Think about the moment when your bartender twists that narrow strip of lemon or orange peel to garnish your cocktail. A tiny spritz of citrus oil bursts into the air, releasing the fruit’s aroma and...