Mocktails with a punch for pregnant ladies who need a drink, but can't have one.
Every week in Buy You a Drink, our resident mixologist profiles public figures in need of a beverage. This week: Snooki, Jessica Simpson, and all our pregnant friends who can’t enjoy a cocktail, no matter how badly they might want one.
I watch enough Teen Mom and Mad Men to wonder what our world would be like if our culture stopped casting aspersions on the parenting abilities of strangers, real or fictional. What if we all agreed that it’s unacceptable to hurl “bad mother” at our TV screens, or even to mumble it under our breath while reading the news? What if, for Lent, or as some very belated New Years’ resolution, or just for the sake of all of our pregnant friends, relatives, and role models, we all stopped pretending we knew enough about the real lives and circumstances of folks like Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi or Jessica Simpson to make predictions about the eventual fate of their offspring?
Personally, I have no difficulty imagining that Polizzi and Simpson will be excellent mothers. Both women have an array of advantages that many new mothers (including the Teen Moms) lack. Polizzi has allies to help her raise a bambino—her own doting father, Andy “Papa Snooks” Polizzi, and MTV-approved mentor Jenni “JWoww” Farley seem like good influences for Baby Snooks, even if baby daddy Jionni “So Embarrassed by Your Behavior I’ll Berate You About It on National TV” LaValle does not. She also has enough Jersey Shore money to cave in the roof at Karma, and an apparent ocean of free time at her disposal. Ms. Simpson has a billion-dollar fashion empire and her father, Joe, to serve as a creepy, leering example of how not to parent.
Or maybe none of that is right. Maybe Papa Snooks is your garden-variety mollycoddling enabler, JWoww is a self-important fame-seeker who only dispenses wisdom when Sallyann Salsano orders her to, and Jionni is a loving boyfriend and a good Catholic boy who will give his offspring’s life the structure and discipline Snooki’s never had. Maybe Joe Simpson is a shrewd businessman who has always acted in his daughters’ best interests, and never directed an inappropriate thought toward their cleavage.
None of us really know, one way or the other. It’s right there in the MTV Bible, Book of Diary, Chapter 1, Verse 1: “You think you know, but you have no idea.” For the viewers at home who may think otherwise, this week I propose that we raise a glass of something non-alcoholic to giving celebrity moms the benefit of the doubt.
The Call: Two Drinks to Have When You’re Drinking for Two
The main problem with drinking when you can’t really drink is that alcoholic ingredients lend flavor components to cocktails that are not easily replaced. The bitterness added by aromatic bitters, or the depth and richness lent by a high-quality base spirit, are immediately missed when one pours a virgin mojito or a punchless punch. That means the vast majority of mocktails I’ve encountered are fruit-heavy and much too sweet. I’m sure this isn’t much of a problem for Snooki, whose preferred libations include the legendary “Ron-Ron Juice,” but for moms-to-be with more demanding palates, it’s important to replace the hooch in mom’s mocktail with something similarly complex.
My own scant experience mixing drinks for baby showers suggests that a genuinely spicy ginger syrup or peppercorn syrup works well for this purpose— whip up a batch of that, add fresh-squeezed berry and citrus juices, plus club soda or sparkling water for a gestational Geschmackserlebnis (I.e., “taste experience.” I understand it’s easiest to learn a second language when one starts early.)
Alternatively, you can fill the booze deficiency in your virgin tipples with vinegar, the poor man’s alcohol and best friend to those with intense cravings for all things sour. Shrubs are all the rage these days—be prepared to hear “drinking vinegar” as often as you used to hear “artisanal” or “barrel-aged”—and for good reason. A well-prepared shrub is a thing of multifarious beauty. Consider this pungent masterpiece from Jennifer Colliau, proprietor of San Francisco’s Small Hand Foods and mocktail maven at last year’s Science of Cocktails gala:
1 oz. spiced apple syrup
1/2 oz. raspberry vinegar
4 oz. seltzer
Stir ingredients together in an ice-filled shaker until well chilled. Pour into a Collins glass. Garnish with a fresh raspberry and slice of orange.
Here’s how to cook up that spiced apple syrup yourself:
Simmer 1 quart of good unfiltered apple juice with 1/4 cup lemon juice, four broken cinnamon sticks, 1/2 tsp. cloves, three pieces of star anise and the zest of an orange until reduced by half. Add 1-1/2 cups sugar and simmer, stirring until dissolved. Strain out solids. Keep unused portion in refrigerator.
For the more vinegar-averse expectant mother, Ms. Colliau’s own products work wonders. Her Rococo cocktail combines Small Hands orgeat (an almond syrup made famous by tiki drinks such as the Mai Tai) with raspberry gum syrup (a viscous sweetener thickened with gum arabic, and the key to a mean, mean Clover Club):
2 oz. coconut water
1 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. Small Hand Foods raspberry gum syrup
1/2 oz. Small Hand Foods orgeat
Shake all ingredients with cracked ice. Strain over new ice in a rocks glass. Top with freshly grated cocoa nibs.
The Rococo is sweet enough to please a Jersey Shore palette, but robust and complex enough to tide over even the most mixology-inclined mother-to-be. Like the Orchard Shrub, I’ve seen it pass the ultimate test of a mocktail, stealing the attention of drinkers otherwise inclined to order something much more potent.
Both of Ms. Colliau’s creations make fine toasts to Jessica, Snooki, and all of the mothers-to-be on our television screens and in our real lives. (Hell, toast with both of them at the same time. Safe double-fisting: another benefit of mocktails!) May you all have the wonderful, happy, healthy children you deserve, and may you raise them in peace, far from the disapproving epithets of those who think they know you, but really have no idea. Just don’t roll your stroller into the local watering hole so that baby can enjoy happy hour with you. Everyone knows that’s bad parenting.
Send your favorite shrubs, or other recipes for surviving nine months without mommy’s Martinis, to firstname.lastname@example.org.