Food chat: Not all cocktails require alcohol. Here are tips for booze-free sips.

A hibiscus fizz nonalcoholic cocktail, otherwise known as a "mocktail." For those who don't drink, who aren't drinking right now or who maybe drank too much the night before, a nonalcoholic beverage made with well-balanced, interesting flavors and thirst-quenching properties can be hard to come by. (Rikki Snyder/The New York Times)
A hibiscus fizz nonalcoholic cocktail, otherwise known as a "mocktail." For those who don't drink, who aren't drinking right now or who maybe drank too much the night before, a nonalcoholic beverage made with well-balanced, interesting flavors and thirst-quenching properties can be hard to come by. (Rikki Snyder/The New York Times)

Credit: RIKKI SNYDER

Credit: RIKKI SNYDER

The Washington Post Food staff recently answered questions about all things edible (and potable) with Julia Bainbridge, author of “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You’re Not Drinking for Whatever Reason,” and M. Carrie Allan, a cocktails and spirits writer. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.

Q: I’ve seen so many ads for beautiful (but expensive) tonics and cookbooks meant for alcohol-free drinks. Are these necessary to make a good cocktail that doesn’t just taste like punch at a kid’s party?

A: I love experimenting with ingredients, tossing things together to see what works, but I have a lot of experience with drinks at this point and a pretty good sense of how flavors will come together or won’t. For folks starting out (or wanting new ideas!), it seems to me having some commercial tonics and syrups, or the recipes you can glean from a good cookbook, would be a real boon and might reduce the fear of risking a bunch of ingredients to experiment and produce something you’re not happy with.

- M. Carrie Allan

Q: I am a big fan of a gin and tonic, but how would I make one without alcohol in it? Does alcohol-less gin exist or would I have to do some experimentation with add-ins (syrup?) to the tonic?

A: Alcohol-free gin absolutely exists! M. Carrie Allan has recommended a couple (New London Light, Monday Gin). You also might want to try Damrak Virgin. It’s not robust or juniper-y like classic London Dry, but it’s bright and citrusy and works well in a highball.

- Julia Bainbridge

Nonalcoholic liquor alternative Seedlip comes in three flavors, all alcohol, sugar, and additive free.
Nonalcoholic liquor alternative Seedlip comes in three flavors, all alcohol, sugar, and additive free.

Q: I’ve enjoyed pairing Acid League Wine Proxies and Jorg Geiger grape/apple/pear blends (from Delmosa) with food. Do the NA liquor alternatives pair well, or are they mostly good for sipping/blending in mixed drinks?

A: If you’re someone who likes, liked or could imaging yourself liking pairing cocktails with food, then go for it. (In fact, I have some pairing suggestions in my book, “Good Drinks.”) Personally, though, I prefer to drink wine-like beverages and juices with food and save cocktails for being enjoyed on their own or with snacks (as opposed to full meals). One thing, though: Very few of these nonalcoholic liquor alternatives are meant to be sipped or drunk on their own; a good place to start for understanding how best to use them in mixed drinks is actually their own brand websites (such as the ones for Ghia, Gnista and Seedlip), which often include recipe sections.

- J.B.

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