The underrated holiday mocktails you should be drinking

The holidays can be a tough time for non-drinkers, or for those who are trying to cut down (or out). On all sides, we are bombarded with the message that we should get in the holiday spirit, but many people interpret those spirits literally as the alcoholic kind. Well, all of this festivity can have its downside. Not only can excess imbibing lead to hangovers, weight gain, and poor decisions during this not-always-so-wonderful time of the year, but holiday travel plans can be disrupted by a DUI, leading to a "Police Navidad" behind bars.

If you don't drink, or you're just thinking of cutting back or maybe getting an early start on your Dry January, you might think that you're doomed to spend a series of dismal parties sipping on Diet Coke while everybody else whoops it up. Well, this doesn't have to be true. If your hosts are down with the whole sober-curious thing, or if you choose to throw your own holiday celebration instead, you can enjoy the festivities in a risk-free way with these underrated holiday mocktails.

Sparkling pumpkin punch

If you're still in the autumnal mood and looking for the perfect mocktail to accompany your Thanksgiving celebration, what could be more perfect than something pumpkin-y? The No Biggie blog suggests a sparkling pumpkin-flavored punch. While their recipe serves a whole party (well, a small-ish gathering), it can easily be scaled back to make just a single serving if you're partying solo.

To make this punch, you'll first be concocting a pumpkin-flavored syrup that, unlike certain budget-priced PSLs, contains real pumpkin. Well, real canned pumpkin, although if you're an overachiever you can always gut, bake, and puree your own pumpkin. Heck, grow it from seed if you wish. However you arrive at your pumpkin puree, you're going to need 1/2 cup of it, and also 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Combine these in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, strain, and let cool. You should have about 2 cups of syrup which you'll store in the fridge.

If you want a single drink, just add two tablespoons of the pumpkin syrup to 8 ounces of lemon-lime soda like Sprite or 7-Up. If you're serving a crowd, mix a cup of syrup with a 2-liter bottle of soda. You can serve this in an ice-filled punch bowl or, if you really want to go full-on domestic diva, a hollowed-out pumpkin. (A gilded one, if you're channeling Martha Stewart.)

Apple-cranberry spritzer

If there's a flavor that can carry you over from Thanksgiving to Christmas, that flavor would have to be cranberry. Cranberries star in what may be the main Thanksgiving side dish, but they are also reminiscent of DIY tree-trimming garlands from "Christmases long, long ago..." (Oops, should have warned you there'd be an Andy Williams earworm.) Also, apples are a nice long-lived fruit that bridges the fall/winter gap. Mix them both together, and Town and Country says you may wind up with a seasonally-appropriate and super-tasty drink: the apple-cranberry spritzer.

Even though this mocktail recipe comes from the ritzy-sounding Jekyll Island Club Resort in Georgia, it's still incredibly simple to make. All you need to do is mix equal parts of apple juice and cranberry juice (a cran-raspberry version would undoubtedly be delicious, too — you could call that drink the Doggface) and top the drink off with a splash of lemon-lime soda. Make it fancy with a few fresh whole cranberries and perhaps a sprig of rosemary.

Booze-free hot buttered "rum"

Hot buttered rum is a drink that either sounds absolutely delicious or maybe kind of weird and off-putting, depending on how you feel about butter in hot beverages. (Bulletproof coffee, anyone?) If you think that this is one drink that couldn't possibly be made booze-free, since "rum," after all, is right there in its name, well, you may be surprised but will probably be delighted by this rumless buttered rum recipe (via Food.com).

To make your mock rum drink, you'll start by dissolving a teaspoon of instant coffee crystals (it's perfectly fine to use decaf if you're drinking this as a nightcap) in 8 ounces of boiling water. Since that pretty much makes a cup of coffee, you could also try this with a cup of the brewed stuff, but don't make it too strong since you don't really want the coffee flavor front and center. Anyway, you take your coffee (instant or otherwise) and you mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons of butterscotch sauce, the kind you use to top an ice cream sundae. Add 1/8 teaspoon of rum extract (look for one without alcohol), mix well, then top off your drink with whipped cream. While this recipe didn't suggest any creative garnishes, we're thinking maybe a tiny little gingerbread person would be cute.