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Balsamic Cocktail

Cocktail: The no-alcohol cocktail with a secret sauce

Welcome to Dry January. An increasingly popular post-festive exercise for many, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not joining in. I’m a strong supporter of Responsible Drinking. However, I don’t want to endure a month of abstinence to try and compensate for over-indulgence. Instead, I prefer to stay dry on weekdays permanently, with the odd lapse. Luckily, this means I can still taste my way through plenty of wines at weekday tastings by spitting, not swallowing. Beers, spirits and the odd cocktail are usually for the weekend.

Regardless, there are occasions when drinking alcohol isn’t remotely a good idea. Perhaps it might be your turn to be the designated driver, or you’re pregnant. Maybe you sometimes prefer to have a night off or drink less.

End of sermon. However, while no/low alcohol wine and beer are now readily available, much of it disappoints. Meanwhile, sparkling mineral water, lime and soda or yet another coke can quickly get tiresome too.

But with a bit of resourcefulness, it’s possible to make non-alcoholic drinks that are enjoyable. My favourite of these doesn’t have a name though it has a passing resemblance to Pimms. The secret of its success is down to a secret ingredient.

Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar is a condiment; a dark, concentrated, and intensely flavoured vinegar originating in Italy and made wholly or partially from grape must. While there are many kinds of balsamic vinegar, only two places make true traditional balsamic vinegar. Those are Modena and its neighbour Reggio Emilia. They have legal protection, and age for a minimum of 12 years, often far longer. Such elixirs have fantastic complex flavours but are always expensive.

However, this cocktail, a mocktail if you will, does not need a balsamic vinegar as high in quality as those. You only need the essential balsamic taste. Hence there are plenty of commercial-grade imitations that will do, which are far cheaper. You might have some lurking in the back of your kitchen cupboard. If not, a quick trip to any supermarket will suffice. Being a cheap date, I use Aldi’s. The alcohol content of balsamic vinegar is only a trace, 0.1-0.2%.

Balsamic Mocktail recipe

  • One large bottle lemonade
  • One tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar
  • Fruit pieces to taste
  • Optional cucumber, mint and a squeeze of lemon

Stir the balsamic vinegar into the lemonade in a jug. Now add some chopped fruit; apples and oranges are favourites but use what you have to hand.

Throw in some sliced cucumber and a sprig of mint if you’re feeling posh.

Pour the mix over ice in a long glass. Please do without the plastic straw though.

The Balsamic Vinegar is the secret sauce. It turns a boring drink into a delicious sweet/sour drink that’s good at any time of year. Further ideas would be to substitute a craft vinegar such as those made by Orkney Craft Vinegar for the Balsamic – that brings a whole range of new potential flavours to explore.

Try it this January!

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