Here at Top Note, we’re big fans of non-alcoholic cocktails, so we were extra excited to learn that we were mentioned in Julia Bainbridge’s 2020 book of non-alcoholic cocktails, Good Drinks! Julia is a James Beard-nominated author and journalist whose works have been published in Food & Wine, the Wall Street Journal, and more. According to Bon Appétit senior editor Andy Baraghani, Julia has “created a book that will not only change the way you think about booze-free drinks, but get you psyched about making them.” Most recently, we’ve been enjoying her Good Drinks blog, a twice-monthly online newsletter featuring industry Q&A’s, essays and more.
We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Julia on our live Instagram series Highballs at High Noon, where she talked with us about a few simple non-alcoholic sparkling cocktails, including an Espresso & Tonic and Aperitivo Soda. Catch the recipes in the video to make your own!
Q: What was it that first got you into spirit-free cocktails?
Julia Bainbridge: I removed alcohol from my life a handful of years ago, right around the time when more bartenders were taking them seriously: They were leveling up from lemonade, giving alcohol-free mixed drinks names, and listing them on their menus. For so many years, it seemed like the imagination stopped after a Shirley Temple, but somewhere around 2015, 2016, it became impossible not to notice that the drinks world was moving beyond that. So, I got into it!
Q: What new spirit-free cocktail discoveries are you exploring right now?
JB: When I filed the manuscript for my book, Seedlip was the only relatively accessible alcohol-free spirit on the US market, but so many new products have launched within the last year. I'm loving tasting through these bottles and connecting with makers all over the world. It's such an exciting time for this category.
Q: Why do you think people at home might be intimidated by making spirit-free cocktails?
JB: I think everyone's intimated! This is so new, even to professional bartenders; classic cocktail formulas don't really transfer into this realm. My advice is to burn it all down, have fun experimenting, and trust your own tastes.
Q: What are some of your favorite spirit-free cocktails to make at home?
JB: It depends on my mood and how much time I have, but I do find myself returning again and again to a simple equal-parts mixture of white verjus, tonic water, and soda water.
Q: What do you take to a party?
JB: A gift for the hosts that's meant to be enjoyed on their own time. Maybe some bath salts or a pint of really good ice cream or some such. I imagine you were looking for a beverage-related answer, but I wouldn't dare bring food or drinks with the intention of them being consumed during a dinner party unless I was specifically asked to help!
Q: Where do you think the cocktail and bar industry is headed?
JB: I'm not one for making predictions, but I'll say that I appreciate the relatively newfound enthusiasm for alcohol-free cocktails, and I look forward to seeing how bartenders have been playing with these new products once we can move about more freely again.
Q: What has the pandemic taught you?
JB: The time I've been given as a result of the pandemic—I'm privileged to have been healthy, working from the safety of my home, and without dependents—allowed me to move some things from the back burner to the front. I'm hoping that the focus I've given those things will ultimately impact my life in profoundly positive ways.
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