Mixologists Recommend The Best Low-ABV Drinks For Your Holiday Party

Holiday parties are supposed to be festive, but they're often a lot less fun than TV commercials make them out to be. This may be due in large part to the fact that such parties frequently involve excessive alcohol consumption. Those full of Christmas spirits are prone not only to embarrassing themselves and others (something they'll likely never live down in this age of social media), but the night can have tragic consequences should they insist on driving home afterwards. Something you may not be aware of if you're hosting a holiday party is that, as the PKSD law firm tells us, you could be held liable for any accidents caused by your overserved guests.

One way to avoid your party turning into a disaster is to limit the amount of alcohol your guests are consuming by serving mixed drinks with low (or no) alcohol content. Should you do so, you'll be in good company, as even one of our former presidents set a precedent: at one White House party, Rutherford B. Hayes is said to have faked out his guests with a "spiked" punch that was only booze-flavored and didn't actually contain any alcohol. These days there are a lot more low-alcohol options available to us, so we turned to the professionals for some advice. Mixologist Emily Yett and Ogden's Own Distillery president (and 30-year beverage industry veteran) Mark Fine have some tips on how to make your holidays less spirited (but in a good way).

Canned cocktails can be stretched with mixers

"Over the last year," say Yett and Fine, "we've all noticed that the canned cocktail/spiked seltzer trend has taken the world by storm." Rather than simply serving such drinks at your party, though, what they suggest is using them to make mixed drinks. This offers the benefit of helping you stretch out your supplies, as one canned cocktail can make two mixed drinks, and of course each drink only has half the alcohol content of drinking that seltzer (or cocktail) straight up. As Yett and Fine say, "Using some of the canned cocktail or RTD options on the market as vehicles for cocktails, rather than a straight spirit such as vodka or gin, makes for a unique base to utilize in a low-ABV cocktail."

They offer several suggestions for drinks that can be created from some of the canned craft cocktails made by Ogden's Own, although if these are not available in your area, you can make do with similar options. One such drink involves mixing a 12-ounce can of their Five Wives vodka soda with 3 ounces of peach puree and an ounce of pineapple juice, then adding this mixture to muddled mint leaves. Another one, a "fall mule," as they call it, combines their canned Five Wives Moscow mule with 4 ounces of cranberry juice. Yet another fall-themed cocktail can be made from canned gin and tonic mixed with 4 ounces of apple cider and a tablespoon of maple syrup.

Sake makes for a great low-ABV cocktail base

Yett and Fine note that they're "seeing a renaissance in the popularity of low-ABV spirits" in the bar industry, particularly when it comes to crafting mixed drinks. "Liqueurs, sake, and beer/wine-based cocktails make for logical choices," they say, adding "as long as they're below the 10-15% ABV threshold which is typically considered low ABV in the spirits industry." They say that sake-based cocktails are a favorite of theirs, and note that "premium sake varietals ... first became popular amongst bars and restaurants that didn't have 'full' liquor licenses and were only allowed to serve beer and wine."

One sake cocktail popular at Odgen Distillery's Side Bar is made from sake, cherry juice, lemon juice, and a few muddled cherries and mint leaves. Another mixes sake half-and-half with lemonade, then uses fresh basil as a garnish. Yet a third sake cocktail (saketail?) combines sake with lemon juice, honey (or agave syrup), and fresh strawberries muddled with mint, and tops everything off with a few ounces of club soda.

You can even use booze-free booze

The lowest ABV drinks, of course, are the ones that contain no alcohol at all. While there are plenty of alcohol-free beers and wines out there, all of which can be used as the base for creative cocktails along the lines of an O'Doul's beermosa, did you know you can also make mocktails with zero-proof spirits? Yes, alcohol-free booze is now a thing, and no, it's not just a bottle full of plain water. Two types of readily available non-alcoholic spirits include Ritual, which offers zero-proof rum, tequila, whiskey, and gin alternatives, and Seedlip, which comes in varieties like "Grove," "Spice," and "Garden."

Yett and Fine have created drinks using both of these liquor alternatives. One drink mixes Seedlip's citrus-flavored "Grove" variety with cucumber, lime, and pineapple juices sweetened with agave and ginger syrups and sprinkled with the spicy/tangy Tajín seasoning. Another one uses Ritual's rum as the base for a "spiked" horchata made with rice milk, whipping cream, and cinnamon syrup.

You can also take steps to limit your own alcohol intake

If you're hosting a holiday party, you're responsible for setting the tone for your guests, which means that you shouldn't be getting shnockered at your own shindig. If you want to indulge in a little — but not too much — of the festive holiday spirits, Yett and Fine suggest alternating your alcoholic drinks with glasses of water. They also say you should be sure to eat healthy foods before you begin drinking so you can have something in your stomach to absorb the booze.

Another thing Yett and Fine want everyone to know is that mocktails aren't for non-drinkers alone (and definitely not just for kids). "Mocktails and zero-proof cocktails that taste and look good are becoming more popular than ever," they say, and suggest "These can also be alternated with regular cocktails to reduce alcohol intake." They also say that you should "pace yourself" by "nurs[ing] a drink, making the one drink last one hour, versus chug[ging] 2 to 3 cocktails in [that] same hour." Also, keep in mind that, with the rising popularity of the "sober curious" movement and healthy lifestyles in general, it's no longer considered uncool to abstain. As booze industry pros Yett and Fine both say, "In social settings, don't feel pressured that you have to drink alcohol if you choose not to."