If you didn’t already know, it’s National Mocktail Week. Couple that with your preachy, pretentious frenemy that can’t/won’t stop bragging about how good she feels from not drinking for a whopping two weeks, and you’re considering what zero proof options are out there. Seattle’s Poppy — best known for its seasonal cuisine by James Beard Award-winning chef Jerry Traunfeld, plated as Thali-style platters — is representing a creative and varied “Resolution Drink Menu” throughout the month of January.
One that struck a particularly right note for our table of established drinkers last week was Near East, a coconut water-based sipper. Bar manager Sam Haas says the inspiration for this mocktail actually came from neighboring Sichuan-inspired, sister restaurant, Lionhead.
“I was attempting to combine tamarind and grapefruit into a cocktail, because I thought the flavors would complement the spicy Chinese food,” Haas says. “Turns out it does — remove the alcohol and add coconut water and you have an equally tasty mocktail.”
The addition of grapefruit juice to the already-refreshing coconut water enhances this non-alcoholic sipper, bringing acidity to the sweetness of the tamarind syrup and the tarragon’s herbal character.
If you want to further your exploration down Sobriety Road, Haas has some pointers. “When creating mocktails, just as when you are mixing alcoholic cocktails, it’s all about balancing acidity, sweetness and other flavors like bitter or herbaceous notes,” he says. “Balance is key, but it’s important to remember that in all creative ventures rules are meant to be broken. If you are creating a non-alcoholic cocktail in an up style [like the Near East], the volume is small and it’s not about quenching thirst. It’s about intensity of flavor, so go bold.”
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces coconut water
1 1/2 ounces grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce tamarind syrup*
Garnish: tarragon sprig
Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin, add ice, cap and shake. Strain into a martini glass or coupe and garnish with a tarragon sprig.
*To make the tamarind syrup, bring 4 ounces of water and 5 ounces of white sugar to boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and steep 2-3 tablespoons (about 1-2 ounces) of tarragon for 30 minutes. Strain and combine with 4 ounces of tamarind purée. Tamarinds can be hard to come by outside of Asian markets and specialty stores, so Haas recommends looking for a pre-made purée, like Perfect Purée. Makes about 1 cup.
Right photo courtesy Poppy