Drinking alcohol in moderation (two-three units per day for women and three-four units per day for men) can be part of a healthy lifestyle. However, many people are now joining the ranks of the non-drinkers, or are participating in periods of abstinence such as Stopober or Dry January. If you are planning a break from the booze, or even if you just want to have more non-alcoholic drink options that are fun, tasty and low-calorie – healthy, alcohol-free aperitifs are the way to go and are a great way to get your taste buds singing before a meal!
A pleasant combination of fruit or vegetables, blended into a long refreshing drink. Consequently, such healthy aperitifs are the perfect non-alcoholic drink at any time of the year. That said, even without the alcohol, they can have a high calorie count. Therefore, to ensure they are scoring high on the healthy options chart, it is important to use ingredients that aren’t too heavy on the sugar content.
There are a few basics to making these healthy alternatives to the many typical aperitifs, which, once mastered, will enable you to experiment and start creating your own. Like cocktails and their non-alcoholic substitutes, “mocktails”, they are given exotic names. So if you create your own, make sure you give it a great name too. This is how you should approach them:
A base, which provides most of the liquid. This can be anything from sparkling water, juices and nectars, to brewed cooled teas. You can even use milk (low fat varieties to reduce calorie content). Whatever you use as the base will set the tone on the aperitif. You can use a single flavour, like apple or cucumber, or use a combination of two or more (e.g. pineapple and grapefruit). You can even combine teas with juices.
The add-ins provide flavour and visual aesthetics, such as fruit or vegetables, spices, herbs and sweeteners. Steeping the add-ins in the base for a few hours or overnight will allow their flavours to infuse the base with their taste. This adds flavour more subtly than blending them in. Most of the sweetness for the aperitif will come from the fruit juice (or nectar if used).
However, avoid adding large amounts of granulated sugar to sweeten your healthy pre-meal creation. In addition to adding loads of calories, sugar doesn’t dissolve that well and can end up at the bottom of the drink. Instead use a simple syrup mix (this can be made easily by boiling 50:50 sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved), agave syrup (the naturally sweet juice extracted from the agave plant), or stevia liquid extract.
The container, part of the magic of cocktails, is the vessels they are served in. Champagne flutes, wine glasses, goblets and martini glasses add an air of exotic sophistication; as do umbrellas and straws.
Below are seven healthy aperitifs to try out should you need some inspiration to get you started.
1. Watermelon Kick
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded
5 cardamon seeds cracked
5 cups deseeded and chopped watermelon
Ice, for serving
Put water and sugar in a pan and heat gently until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat and add the jalapeño and crushed cardamon seeds and let it infuse whilst the mixture cools.
Once cooled, remove the jalapeño and cardamon seeds.
Put the cooled syrup and chopped watermelon into a food processor. Blend for about 2 minutes until the mixture is very smooth.
Chill in the fridge until cold.
To serve, fill your chosen glass with ice and pour your healthy, non-alcoholic aperitif over it.
2. Pomegranate Mojito Mocktail
3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
Large bunch of fresh mint
4 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups lemonade
The day before the drink is required, use the pomegranate seeds to make a tray of pomegranate ice cubes by dividing the seeds between the moulds of an ice tray, adding water then freezing.
Save half the mint and half a lime (thinly sliced) for serving.
Tear the remainder of the mint into a large jug along with the rest of the limes, which you’ve cut into quarters.
Use a rolling pin to crush the mint and limes to release the flavours.
Add the pomegranate juice and lemonade.
To serve, put a couple of pomegranate ice cubes in a glass and pour over the pomegranate mix, straining it through a small sieve.
Use the lime slices and mint to garnish.
Calories: 76 per serving.
3. Sorrel & Coconut Drink
3 cups dried sorrel (also known as red hibiscus flowers)
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
¼ tsp. crushed allspice
Medium size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
2 cups of coconut water
Stevia liquid extract
Add the sorrel, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger to 4 cups of water and bring to the boil in a saucepan.
Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Turn off heat and allow to cool
Once cooled, strain and chill in fridge until cold.
Add coconut water and sweeten to taste with the stevia extract.
Pour over ice to serve.
Calories: 33 per serving.
4. Tomato-Peach Spritzer
4-5 yellow or red tomatoes, deseeded and cut into wedges
2 peaches, peeled, stones removed and cut into wedges
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cups ginger ale (can substitute with low calorie version)
Blend tomatoes, peaches, and ginger in a food processor until smooth.
Strain mixture through a medium sieve into a suitable jug and discard solids.
Pour liquid into 6 large, ice filled glasses and top up each with 1/3 cup ginger ale.
74 calories per serving.
5. Cucumber and Lime Spritzer
2 cans club soda (340 ml cans)
Juice of 3-4 fresh limes
1 Kirby cucumber (small pickling variety aka gherkin) thinly sliced.
(Optional pinch of cayenne pepper for added kick!)
Add all the ingredients together in a large jug.
Serve over ice.
15 calories per serving
6. Green Tea Soda
4 green tea bags
2 cups boiling water
2 cups sparkling water
Vanilla stevia drops
Brew the tea in the boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Discard tea bags and leave the brew to cool, placing in the fridge once the steam has gone.
Mix cooled tea with sparkling water and ice cubes.
Add stevia to taste and serve.
7. Rosewater & Mint Sparkle
1/2 cup of edible rose petals
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp cardamon powder
2 cup still water
2 cups sparkling water
Put leaves into a jug with 2 cups of still water and use a rolling pin to crush the mint and rose to release the flavours.
Sprinkle cardamon power and mix in.
Add sparkling water and a few ice cubes.
Add stevia to taste and serve.