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It’s time to start thinking about low-alcohol cocktails—and even alcohol-free sips—in a whole new light. Enjoying a lightened-up drink can be just as relaxing, socially invigorating, and, yes, even delicious as the real thing, according to Natasha David, craft-cocktail veteran of New York’s Nitecap bar.
In her new book, Drink Lightly ($27), David fills page after page with gorgeous, low- and no-alcohol drinks, introducing a new way to think about mixing cocktails. “Aperitif-style or low-alcohol-by-volume-style cocktails are what I enjoy the most,” she says. “It’s a category of cocktails that lives in a pretty narrow framework, when in fact there are so many incredible low-ABV spirits. What drew me to this concept was to show how vast and versatile this world can be. Low-ABV cocktails aren’t just for those that love a delicious Aperol spritz, but also for those who enjoy sipping on a martini or whiskey sour.”
If you’re making low-alcohol or alcohol-free sips for the first time at home, David suggests tinkering with the ingredients. “Pick a classic cocktail that you really like—say, a margarita—and instead of using two ounces of tequila, split the base with a vermouth or dry sherry,” she says.
David is also a fan of a key addition: liqueurs. “I love liqueurs,” she says. “I think of them as I would think of seasoning in cooking. A little teaspoon of some sort of herbal liqueur or well-made fruit brandy can completely transform a drink.”
David’s recipes are particularly great to mix when you’re hosting a party or other gathering. “There is something so magical about drinking with a group of friends. There’s a certain spontaneity to cocktails in a social setting,” David says. Here, David shares a refreshing cocktail from Drink Lightly that’s perfect for summer hangouts.
Dreaming in Pink
- 5 or 6 basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 5 ounces fresh watermelon juice
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- salt and lime for garnish
Gently muddle the basil leaves at the bottom of a glass. In a shaker, combine the watermelon juice, rice vinegar, and the muddled basil leaves. Add ice and shake. Strain into a smoked salt-rimmed highball glass over cubed ice. Garnish with a lime wheel and a fresh basil bouquet. Serve with a straw.
Reprinted with permission from Drink Lightly. Copyright © 2022 by Natasha David. Photographs copyright © 2022 Kristin Teig. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.