The growing trend of low alcohol and non-alcoholic zeroproof drinks and mocktails reminds me of the Greek expression "pan metron ariston", everything in good measure, or everything in moderation. That's really at the the heart of healthy Greek living and the Mediterranean Diet, so when Pauline told me about her friends' easy zeroproof and low alcohol cocktail recipes using our very own all natural Chian tangerine marmalade, I was thrilled. I'm always frustrated when we go overboard in December, only to detox in January and then go overboard again in February around Valentine's Day...why not just enjoy life more consistently throughout the winter?! Anu & Alex Hittle seem to have found a lifehack to do just that with their zeroproof approach (and a Zelos zeroproof approach at that!). I just loved Anu's photography & Alex's recipes, and saw how these could keep us all more balanced this winter, as we enjoy holiday parties and gatherings with our family & friends. Read on, and I hope you'll get inspired to do the same!
Nearly two years ago, at the height of the pandemic, I introduced you all to my bestie, Anu, and the vegetarian meal she had made and beautifully photographed to share with me from afar on my birthday. Anu has since moved to Washington, DC, where I got to visit her in the fall and where she & her amateur mixologist husband, Alex (he of the sour cherry vyssino Manhattan!), introduced me to the whole idea of zeroproof cocktails and low octane drinks. A real Zelos fan and avid photographer, Anu had the idea for her & Alex to adapt some of the earlier Zelos cocktails we'd shared - who were we to say no?!
I asked them to tell me more about how they got into this zeroproof trend.
Anu: During the pandemic, like so many others, we expanded our cocktail menu from classic martinis to much, much more. So when we recently made the move from Hawaii to a small but stylish apartment in an Art Deco landmark in the nation’s capital, we carried on the tradition of a “pau hana” or happy hour each night.In particular, the specific shape of our apartment lent itself to having a bar counter, complete with bar stools and mini fridge. Besides, it kept Alex from getting underfoot in the new apartment’s tiny kitchen, and kept him from missing his outdoor bbq grill in Hawaii!
After a couple of months of the bar smoothly getting stocked up, and starting to look quite beautiful with its marble top and iron legs (much like a pastry table, actually) and Belle Epoch bottles, I decided I didn’t want to be taking in so many calories from alcohol. Besides, alcohol made me tired, and sometimes, interfered with a good night’s sleep. What about zero proof drinks, suggested a bestie? Okay, but do they taste any good? I mean, I had tried mocktails in the past, and honestly, the amount of fruit juices and sugar didn’t agree with me either. No, no, we’re talking zeroproof drinks. Unlike mocktails, zero proof drinks are distilled, just like alcohol, but have the alcohol taken out. Think decaf coffee, not a coffee substitute.
Presented with a zero proof gin, and zero proof tequila, Alex took on the challenge and went to work. He now has a decent repertoire of zero and “low-octane” drinks, the latter of which are low alcohol when a liquor substitute may not be available. Surprisingly, and luckily, the market now seems to be exploding with options for us zero and low octane folks.
In a holiday season where ups and downs can be extreme, and a long winter’s day (or week) of drinking can lead to family feuds and more, zero and low octane cocktails are a must.
Starting with Thanksgiving, we plunged into this new concept, and are planning to continue it through New Year’s.
Pauline: Alex, as the mixologist in the family, what did you think of the idea of using a marmalade in your drinks?!
Alex:Mid-2021 we had made the Chios Renaissance cocktail, which features the Citrus Chian Tangerine Marmalade, and it quickly became a go-to in our pandemic relief program.I really liked the drink when it was barely strained – just using a bar spoon to keep the ice back, but, above all, still allowing plenty of little tangerine morsels to find their way to the final glass. The effect was so delicious that I commandeered the marmalade from the kitchen and it now resides in the bar fridge. Its sweet + sharp flavor works well in a variety of drinks and is particularly suited to the low-alcohol/no alcohol approach where forceful flavors are key to creating a drink where the alcohol will be little missed.
The foundation of these drinks will be zero-proof base liquors. We are just beginning our explorations here and the field seems to be expanding rapidly, but we have had good results with “Monday Zero Alcohol Gin” and “Ritual Zero-Proof Tequila Alternative”
Here are 5 low or no alcohol cocktails that use tangerine to start you on your explorations
1. The Low Renaissance (low alcohol)
Our starting point, the Renaissance cocktail. With just 2/3rds oz of liquor, this version packs about 1/3 the punch of the conventional cocktail, by replacing the drink's traditional backbone with 2 oz of zero-proof gin.. (I could not happily bring this down to zero proof because the Fernet Branca and Maraschino are simply too flavorful but if anyone figures it out, let me know!)
Mix ingredients, shake, strain using a barspoon to block the ice, but allow marmalade chunks into the drink.
2. Tangerita (no alcohol)
A traditional Margarita features an orange liqueur such as Cointreau or Curacao. Here we use the Chian Tangerine Marmalade as an alternative for that touch of a second citrus to play off the lime juice. One other note on this one – we agreed that the traditional salted rim on the margarita overwhelms it. Don’t salt it. Oh, and serve it ‘dirty’, let the tangerine bits flow into the drink.
We went back to the Zelos playbook and simply swapped in zero proof gin and replaced the Cointreau with Chian Tangerine Marmalade in the Cocktail Named Onassis recipe. Since the marmalade is sweet, we dispense with the simple syrup in the original Zelos recipe. Again, we make this one dirty, doing no more straining than necessary to remove lemon seeds.
Mix, shake, pour allowing tangerine pieces through.Garnish with orange peel.
4. Tan Collins (no alcohol)
On a warm day, sparkling water is usually pretty good when you return to your cool house. A Tom Collins might be tempting, but might also result in an unplanned nap. You could also make this with lemon juice, but we like the lime vs. marmalade contrast a bit better. So consider dressing up your sparkling water if you have a few minutes to spare.
Shake together the first 3 ingredients with ice.Loosely strain into a tall glass.Top up with sparkling water.Give a quick stir to mix but not so much that the sparkling water goes flat.
5. Make Sense-Amelia (lower alcohol)
When blackberries are good – in the US, that is when the price drops – an Amelia is a favorite drink. It also goes down remarkably easy with the predictable unpredictable results. Here we replace the base liquor, and let the marmalade offset the tart blackberries. We recommend serving this in a martini glass, and, if you have it, add a small spoon for dishing up the remaining tangerine chunks at the end. St. Germain is an an elderflower liqueur – the drink could be made zero-proof if a non-acoholic elderflower liquor were swapped in. We haven't tried it yet but are curious to see how to get the sweet/tart balance right.
Muddle the blackberries. Combine blackberries, zero-proof gin, lemon juice, and St. Germain. Shake with ice. Strain (really strain this one or you end up with a bunch of blackberry seeds) into a chilled stirring glass. Add the marmalade, stir, pour into chilled martini glass. Garnish with mint leaf. Consider serving with a small spoon as well.
Buy the Chian Tangerine Marmalade for your zero-proof & low alcohol cocktails
Enjoy the delicious taste of PDO Kimi figs from the island of Evia and bring the flavors of a Greek summer to your table. Hand-crafted by Kumilio using traditional techniques with no additives, preservatives, artificial coloring or flavors.