There are literally thousands of liquids on earth that are both tasty and non-poisonous, and yet it has long seemed impossible for anyone to create a fancy mixed drink containing no alcohol. Sober people who have an interest in being social are often corralled into a life of sad little 8-oz. glasses of club soda that somehow cost $5. It’s a bitter drink to swallow, especially while watching your friends get wasted on fancy, well-crafted drinks that taste like someone gives a damn about them.
Finally, after 7,000 years of human history, bartenders are finally getting hip to the fact that some of their patrons might not be drinking. To write Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason, author Julia Bainbridge drove solo across the country in search of the best, most inventive non-alcoholic drinks (or “mocktails,” if you must) and convinced their creators to spill their secrets so that we, the people, could make them at home. The beverage below distills the sweet autumn flavors of fresh butternut squash into a vinegary shrub, accented with the smooth taste of sorghum molasses. It’s the sort of thing that makes an expensive glass of club soda exponentially more palatable.
Reprinted with permission from Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason by Julia Bainbridge (Ten Speed Press)
Recipe courtesy of Brad Langdon, beverage director of The Dabney in Washington D.C.
The main cooking method at the Dabney? Live fire. (The hearth was constructed by chef-owner Jeremiah Langhorne’s father and brother.) Inevitably, roasted fruits and vegetables find their ways into beverage director Brad Langdon’s cocktails, but in the case of this butternut squash shrub, it’s the squash juice that gets cooked. This step takes a raw, almost potato-y liquid and turns it into something rich and toasty with a beautifully rusty color. Paired with a watercress salad or roasted pork, this makes for a great fall meal.
- 1 1⁄2 ounces Squash and Sorghum Shrub (recipe follows)
- 4 ounces soda water
Place one large ice cube in a rocks glass. Pour in the shrub, then top with the soda water.
MAKES 1 ½ CUPS, ENOUGH FOR 8 DRINKS
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into large cubes
- 8 whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 2 ounces apple cider vinegar
- 2 1⁄2 ounces sorghum molasses
Juice the butternut squash, then fine-strain into an airtight container and discard the solids. Let the juice sit in the fridge overnight, so that the starch settles to the bottom of the container. The next day, pour the juice into a fresh container, leaving behind the starch. You should have just over 1 1⁄2 cups of squash juice. In a small saucepan combine the juice and the black peppercorns. Simmer over low heat, then cook until the juice has reduced by half, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, vinegar, molasses, and 1 1⁄2 ounces water. Let cool, then strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and discard the solids. Store the shrub in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Note: Removing or at least reducing the starch is VERY important; if you don’t, the juice becomes yogurt-like in consistency as soon as you add even the slightest amount of heat. If you can’t find sorghum molasses, maple syrup is a fine alternative.