Part of the fun of a cocktail is that BOOM factor: that hot or smoky or astringent taste that just gets you right there. Nursing a glass of club soda all evening will keep your head clear, but it might make your taste buds fall fast asleep. Invite them to the party too with some mocktails that deliver a jolt of smoky, salty, tart or sweet. Opt for the wow factor of ginger and lemon and fresh herbs. Skip the sugar and simple syrup and corn-syrup-laden sodas. Here are some favorites that are healthy and natural and hassle-free. One is from my own kitchen and the others are happy finds from the interwebs.

One:

bloody mary

These days I’m all about the Virgin Mary.

In my boozy days I practically worshiped at the feet of any bartender who could make a showy, delicious Bloody Mary. Done correctly, I’d say, it was like a really good, spicy salad with vodka dressing.

Well, vodka schmodka. This virginal version is missing nothing. I order these when I’m out, and they’re always good, but nothing compares to the ones I create at home. The way I make them requires no fuss or measuring. All I need is a few minutes to worship at my refrigerator’s condiment shelf. Don’t skimp on the pickled goodies, because they really make this special.

Ingredients:

Low-sodium tomato juice or vegetable juice cocktail (think V8)

Tabasco sauce

Vegan Worcestershire sauce

Spanish smoked paprika

Lime

Lemon

Celery stalk (leafy part intact)

Cocktail onions

Pickled asparagus

Pickled green beans

Green olives with pimento

Salt and pepper for garnish

Coarse salt (optional)

Cucumber spears (optional)

Start Creating:

(Optional: dampen rim of glass with lime juice and dip in coarse salt to create a salt rim.)

Fill a large, clear glass 1/3 full with ice cubes. Add 2-3 shakes of Tabasco and 4-5 shakes of Worcestershire. Sprinkle in about 1/4 tsp smoked paprika and fill glass with tomato juice. Squeeze one wedge each of lemon and lime into the juice, add the celery stalk, and use it to stir the drink. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Garnish with a toothpick or skewer well loaded with olives, onions, pickled asparagus, and green beans. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the veggies.

Add cucumber spear alongside celery if that floats your olive boat. Garnish with lemon and/or lime wedges if you like.

You’re only limited by the size of the glass. Use longer skewers if you want. Load that baby up.

Two:

summer twang
The Summer Twang at bon appetit

 

Fresh cantaloupe and fizzy club soda with some sweetness (use agave nectar in place of honey to make it vegan.) The unexpected twang comes from a hint of apple cider vinegar.

 

 

 

Three:

Herb-Garden-Spritzer
Herb Garden Spritzer at GoodToKnow

Simple, fizzy, and full of summer flavors. This spritzer is easy to make and the sugar is optional.

 

 

 

 

 

Four:

tornado twist
Tornado Twist at AllRecipes

It doesn’t get much simpler than this: a bottle of juice and a bottle of sparkling water. Use a sugar-free and zero-calorie sparkler like La Croix to keep it light.

 

 

 

 

Five:

pink grapefruit
Pink Grapefruit “Margaritas” from Martha Stewart

Colorful, festive, and cool. These are as simple as a sugared rim, pink grapefruit juice with Grenadine, and a bit of lime. But they look like you went to much more trouble.