Cocktails vs. Mocktails: What’s the Difference?
Published by Abigail T

Cocktails vs. Mocktails: What’s the Difference?

Those who drink and those who are sober know the very basic distinction between a cocktail and a mocktail. Yes, a mocktail is named such because it “mocks” the appearance of a cocktail without containing any alcohol. However, don’t underestimate a mocktail! It takes real skill and artistry to be able to fashion something that tastes as close to an alcoholic drink as possible, without actually using any alcohol! There are a few technicalities that make cocktails and mocktails their own unique drinks.

What’s in a cocktail and a mocktail?

A cocktail contains alcohol and soft drinks. In a glass of cocktail, liquor is usually mixed with beverages such as soda, seltzer, fruit juices, liqueur, or syrup.

Meanwhile, as many may know, mocktails don’t contain any alcohol. Instead, mocktails attempt to create the same flavours of cocktails by using only non-alcoholic drinks. In addition to some of the soft drinks mentioned above, many mocktails also use tea.

How are cocktails and mocktails made?

Although creating cocktails and mocktails are heavily based on preference, there is more of an exact science to making cocktails. Every ingredient needs to be measured precisely in order to get the right balance of flavours. Too much liquor or other alcoholic ingredients will end up making the drink much too strong!

On the other hand, preparing a mocktail is much simpler. The only thing to consider is the balance between sweet and acidic flavours found in the juices and soft drinks used.

How do cocktails and mocktails taste?

Because cocktails contain alcohol, they may have a bitter aftertaste depending on the type of liquor and mixer used. However, sweeter cocktails like piña coladas, cosmopolitans, and mimosas, do exist. These normally have a little kick of alcohol in the back.

Bitters are also a common ingredient in cocktails such as negroni, Manhattan, or an old fashioned. These cocktails tend to err on the stronger, boozier side of things.

With mocktails, the general flavour is sweet. You may get hints of sour depending on the ingredients used, but otherwise you can always count on a mocktail to refresh you and satisfy your sweet cravings.

How can mocktails taste like cocktails?

Mocktails contain all the goodness of cocktails, without the hangover the next day! But how do mixologists create mocktails that are a close replica to their alcoholic counterparts?

The alcoholic kick

Liquor in cocktails give the drink a bit more of a punch. This can’t be achieved without alcohol, but it can be replicated. It takes an expert to figure out what kinds of fruits and spices can result in a similar kick.

Mixologists will also often highlight other flavours in the drink to distract drinkers from the fact that they’re not having alcohol. For example, a hot toddy contains whiskey, honey, hot water, and lemon. Instead of whiskey, mixologists will probably add in more lemon and honey so that they take over the flavours in the drink.

Carbonation is key

While considered by some as a lazy way of mimicking the alcoholic kick, making your mocktail fizzy can bring a mocktail closer to a cocktail in terms of mouth feel. Soda water, seltzer, and even lime wedges can make a big difference in the way a mocktail tastes.

Red & White

Red & White is Indonesia’s leading full-service wine and spirits retailer since 2014. I'm very happy to provide you information about the liquor world and let's have a drink together at the nearest Red & White store.

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