Anne-Marie Nichols is a social media consultant and healthy food and lifestyle blogger. She started her blog This Mama Cooks! On a Diet™ in 2004, where she shares healthy recipes and lifestyle tips for busy moms and their families. She specializes in gluten-free and dairy-free recipes and the challenges of traveling with a family member who has food allergies or sensitivities. Anne-Marie’s mom to a teenager, Nathan, and a tweenager, Lucie, and wife to Paul, a chemist, avid outdoorsman, and motorcycle enthusiast. They live in the greater Atlanta area with their beagle-treeing-walker-coonhound dog, Nellie.
When planning summer parties, many of us invest time in finding the perfect wine or beer to go with the food we're serving. However, for those guests who don't imbibe, we sheepishly hand them a can of soda, embarrassed that we didn't plan better.
A mocktail bar is perfect for any of your adult guests who won't be drinking as well as any youngsters attending your summer celebrations.
First, you'll need to set up your mocktail bar with kid-friendly outdoor plastic utensils and cups. If your party is a little fancier, you can use glassware and metal utensils. Don't forget colorful bendy straws, cocktail stirrers, and skewers for fruit.
Then prepare bowls of pieces of cut up fruit like pineapple, melons, apples, and oranges. If you don't have time to cut and chop, head to the salad section of your supermarket and buy precut fruit. Berries, cherries and grapes are also an easy choice since you just rinse and serve. Also, check out the fruit cup aisle for fruit packaged in fruit juices. (Stay away from those packed in sugary syrups!)
A day or two before the party, make ice cubes from fruit juice using fun-shaped or mini ice cube molds. This way, no matter how hot it is, your drinks won't get watered down!
Fruit juices are another must have, but don't just stick to the original—orange juice! Wow your guests by offering them pineapple, guava, and pomegranate juices, too. For the healthiest mocktail bar, choose only 100 percent juice beverages and avoid juices with added sugar.
Photo: Anne-Marie Nichols
Other mocktail goodies to have on hand are mint leaves and lemon and lime slices. Be sure to stock the bar with plenty of sparkling cider and plain and flavored seltzers, too!
To encourage your guests to make their own mocktails, print out some simple recipe ideas and frame them. Or prepare a tray of premade mocktails ready to go (pour the seltzer in last minute so the drinks stay nice and bubbly!). You could also make a pitcher of mock-sangria—fruit, berries, sparkling cider, seltzer—to serve at your mocktail bar.
If it's a family party, enlist an older child to be a bartender in charge of mixing mocktails for the younger kids. Have him or her dress up, too! For the sippy cup brigade, make sure a parent supervises their order. My dad always made us kids mocktails during family parties and celebrations. Maybe a mocktail bar will become a tradition during your summer parties!
The mixers and fruit on your mocktail bar can be used to supplement any real bar you also have at your party. Just be sure to keep the alcohol bottles away from the mocktail bar.