ELLSWORTH — You will reach an age when drinking a glass of wine with dinner will make you feel the morning after as though all the moisture has been leached from your body.
This may lead you to explore with greater interest a restaurant’s nonalcoholic offerings. Especially with New Year’s upon us.
Luckily, Ellsworth chef Daron Goldstein and his wife, bartender and nursing student Joy Kempf, always feature seasonal, creative mocktails on the menu at their fine dining restaurant, Provender Kitchen + Bar on Main Street. Daron was named Maine Chef of the Year by HospitalityMaine in November.
“Their drink menu is always fun,” said Gretchen Wilson, executive director of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce. “They have great names and an interesting use of liqueurs, amaro bitters. The menu changes seasonally and it’s always fun to try something new and different.”
Daron and Joy shared tips for making mocktails at home plus a few recipes for winter mocktails perfect for a dry New Year’s Eve party, a dry January or any winter day, special occasion or not.
“A great drink is really balanced,” said Daron.
Plan ahead if you’re going to make these drinks. Two recipes employ syrups and one a shrub. A shrub is an old-fashioned drink made with vinegar and seasonal fruits and simple to make.
Daron explained that shrubs and syrups add depth to drinks, as do herbs and bitters.
The first tip: use seasonal ingredients. Seasonal means fresher ingredients and thus tastier drinks.
To that end, winter is the season for citrus — blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, satsuma mandarins, grapefruit, lemons — including Meyer lemons — and limes, to name a few.
In Provender’s This Twilight, a fresh blend of lime juice, pink grapefruit juice and blood orange shrub, served over ice and topped with club soda, is popular at the eatery.
For the blood orange shrub, bring a cup of demerara (raw) sugar, a cup of apple cider vinegar and the juice of three blood oranges to a boil in a sauce pot. Simmer for 15 minutes until the liquid is reduced by a third, Daron said. Store the shrub in the refrigerator.
“Get creative,” said Joy. “Just throw things together you wouldn’t think go together. You’ll be surprised.”
“Veggies can give character to a drink too,” she said. Try beet juice or carrot juice.
Resist the urge to top everything with seltzer or club soda. “We always try to have a mix because not everyone likes carbonation,” Joy said.
“Things that grow together go together,” Daron added.
How do the couple name their drinks?
“The names come from a collaboration of ideas and random thoughts,” Daron said.
Mocktail searches have been trending upward on search engine Google. For the past decade, the nonalcohol movement has been growing and intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to industry experts.
“The zero-percent drink is still very popular,” Daron said. “You see it everywhere.”
CNBC says nonalcoholic wine, beer and now spirits are found in bars and stores all over the world. Younger consumers are more conscious of choices and what they’re putting into their bodies, the news source said.
“It’s become trendy and cool amongst peers. Fueling that further is the plethora of new choices on the market.”
People still want “luxurious, complex flavors” that have traditionally been found in mixed drinks, according to Modern Restaurant Management, in an article about the mocktail trend.
In This Twilight
1 oz. blood orange shrub (see recipe below)
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. pink grapefruit juice
Blood Orange Shrub
1 cup demerara sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice of three blood oranges
Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes until reduced by one-third.
Store in the refrigerator. Serve over ice topped with club soda.
Thai and the Family Stone
(Twist on an Arnold Palmer)
1 oz. yuzu juice (substitute fresh juice from Meyer Lemons)
½ oz. Pacific Island syrup (recipe below)
Shake in a cocktail shaker, pour over ice and top with freshly brewed black tea.
Pacific Island Syrup
1 quart of water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup roasted cashews
1 tsp. coriander
2 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 knob fresh turmeric
1 knob of fresh ginger
1 stalk lemon grass
Combine water through lemon grass in a stock pot and simmer for 20 minutes then strain. Store in the refrigerator.
Laced Up From the Waist Up
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. pinecone bud syrup (order online or substitute maple syrup)
Warm mulled apple cider
Shake ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and serve.
Note: Joy Kempf says the name of this recipe is a nod to endless Zoom meetings.