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18 Classic, Low-Alcohol, and Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Recipes for the Mindful Drinker

By Nadya Khoja
Posted: April 04, 2022

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A few nights ago I was celebrating a friend’s birthday. Champagne bottles were popped, and I found myself indulging in a few more glasses than I typically would. 

That night, I was tossing and turning, and had to get up every couple of hours to either drink water, or…well, release water. 

In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if you, honored reader, have perhaps felt similar outcomes in the past year. After all, alcohol consumption has increased dramatically, and considering how many stressful events have been taking place around the globe, it makes sense.

Our news feeds are full of sad, depressing and painful stories (but also memes). And even if you close Instagram or Facebook for a few minutes, it can feel impossible to escape the daily chaos that is all around us.

On top of that, frequent lockdowns over the past few years have meant fewer opportunities to decompress and socialize with friends and family. 

This has led to 82% of people saying they do most of their drinking at home, and 33% reporting that they’ve been drinking alone more frequently. 

In fact, 54% of US adults claim to drink 3 or more times a week, and 48% reported drinking 3 or more drinks each time, which actually exceeds the CDCs recommended guidelines for healthy drinking.

It’s normal to end a day with a little beverage as a reward. But seeking balance and moderation is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and always feeling your best. This guide will provide you with some tips and recommendations to reduce your alcohol consumption by modifying some of your favorite cocktail recipes with a lower or non-alcoholic option, so that you can wake up feeling more energized!

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What Is Mindful Drinking?

In layman’s terms, mindful drinking is more about thinking and being aware of what you’re consuming, how quickly you’re consuming it, and how you’re feeling after each drink. Specifically, it’s about improving your relationship with alcohol by recognizing any possible triggers for drinking, and effects on your wellbeing and mental state post-drinking.

The goal of being more mindful is ultimately to build healthier habits, improve sleep quality, and to enjoy drinking more. To help you on your journey to being a more mindful drinker, we’ve put together a guide on how you can modify some of your favorite cocktails, into low alcohol variations, or non-alcoholic variations.

After all, you might be surprised to see just how many standard drinks are in a single cocktail! 

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What Are The Standard Drink Measurements For Different Types of Alcohol? 

Standard drink measurements vary by type of alcohol and the percentage of alcohol within a drink. The CDC documents the following as the standard drink measurements for various types of alcohol:

  • Standard beer size: For beer, 12 fluid ounces of a lager or ale at about 5% ABV is considered one standard drink.
  • Strong beer size: For stronger beers like some IPAs, malt liquor or other fortified beers, 8-9 fluid ounces at about 7% ABV, is considered one drink.
  • Wine size: For wine at 12% ABV, 5 fluid ounces is one standard drink.
  • Liqueurs & Aperitifs size:  For liqueurs, aperitifs, and other flavored liquors (think triple sec, campari, amaro, etc.) at around 25% ABV, roughly 2 fluid ounces is considered one standard drink.
  • Distilled spirits size: And for distilled spirits at 40% ABV, 1.5 fluid ounces is considered one standard drink.

If you’re ever curious and want to calculate the number of drinks more accurately, there’s a simple formula you can apply:

# of mL multiplied by the alcohol % , divided by 17 equals the total # of standard drinks.

That might look like:

500 mL X 0.06 / 17 = 1.76 (but we will round up to 2) 

Keeping these numbers in mind, you can probably already tell that one cocktail doesn’t always mean one drink. But don’t worry, we’ve curated some classic cocktail recipes, and their low-alcoholic and non-alcoholic variations that you can try out, so that you can stay aware of just how much alcohol you’re putting into your body.

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18 Cocktail Recipe Variations for the Mindful Drinker

Now you might be wondering, “Nadya, how can you possibly be a credible source for good cocktail recipes?” and although that is a valid question, the fact is that I’ve been a bartender at some of the best restaurants and bars in the great city of Toronto.

For 6 years I mixed, poured, and also received certifications in mixology, beer, whiskey  and even have a sommelier’s certificate. Yes there are certifications you can get in all of these things. I also won a cocktail competition

So now that you can clearly trust me, let’s dive into some more ‘winning cocktails’ that you can try for yourself at home or request when you’re out. 

1. Sangria

The first drink on our list of cocktails is a red wine sangria. A popular drink choice during the summertime due to how crisp and refreshing it is. But people often forget just how much of a punch Sangria can pack.

A brief Origin of Sangria:

In case you weren’t aware, Sangria derives from the word “sangre”, meaning “blood” in spanish. The Romans would often drink Spanish wines, and wine-based punches dating back as early as 200 B.C. Eventually by the 1700s, brandy, cognac, and other liquors and liqueurs were added to the cocktail to make it even boozier. 

By the early 1960’s, Sangria made its way into the United States and has only grown in popularity with over 135,000 people researching the cocktail each year in the United States. 

The Classic Sangria Recipe:

For each of the following recipes, I’ll share the measurements to make one serving. If you’re planning on making more than one drink, the measurements are easy to multiply. 

To make your classic Sangria, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of fresh mixed berries, or your favorite fruits of choice
  • 5oz of dry red wine
  • 1oz of brandy
  • 1oz triple sec
  • 1.5oz of orange juice
  • 1.5oz of cranberry juice cocktail
  • A spritz of lime
  • Ice 

Simply mix all of the ingredients and pour over ice in a wine glass.

One serving of this classic sangria contains 2.5 standard drink measurements. So be mindful of how many glasses you consume.

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The Classic Sangria Recipe

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The Low-alcohol Sangria Recipe

To modify this Sangria recipe to a lower alcohol content, we’ve adjusted some of the quantities and made some replacements for alcohol as well! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup of fresh mixed berries, or your favorite fruits of choice
  • 5oz of dry red wine
  • 3 dashes of brandy extract (you can find this at most grocery stores)
  • 1oz of orange syrup (to 1oz of simple syrup, add 3 dashes of orange extract)
  • 1.5oz of orange juice
  • 1.5oz of cranberry juice cocktail
  • A spritz of lime
  • Ice 

These modifications bring the standard drink quantity down from 2.5 drinks to just 1 standard drink, without taking away from the balanced sangria taste!

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The Low Alcohol Sangria Recipe

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The Non-alcoholic Sangria Recipe:

You might wonder how you would even go about making a non-alcoholic sangria, but rest assured that this recipe not only tastes great, but the result is you’ll still enjoy yourself and feel 100% the next day.

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • ¼ cup of fresh mixed berries, or your favorite fruits of choice
  • 5oz of Surely Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 3 dashes of orange extract
  • 1.5oz of orange juice
  • 1.5oz of cranberry juice cocktail
  • A spritz of lime
  • Ice 

Follow the instructions from the Classic Sangria recipe to enjoy this non-alcoholic Sangria. Surely wine is a great dealcoholized wine, so you don’t give up on the tannins and depth that comes from a standard Cabernet. 

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The Non-Alcoholic Sangria Recipe

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2. Mojito

Minty, crisp, and refreshing are all perfect ways to describe the mojito. Another great cocktail for sunny and warm days!

A brief Origin of the Mojito:

Havana, Cuba is the birthplace of this minty and boozy cocktail, and was actually considered a preventative measure during the Cholera Epidemic in the 1500s. Many travellers would use the ingredients that make up the Mojito to concoct “medicine” to help prevent scurvy and dysentery (though the lime juice alone probably would have been enough for that). 

Today we know that Mojitos are more likely to cause a hangover than be a cure for modern day maladies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy this refreshing cocktail in moderation. 

The Classic Mojito Recipe:

The fresh minty taste of the mojito comes from muddling the mint leaves prior to mixing your drink. But if you don’t have a muddler, you can also try smacking the leaves between your hands to bring out the aroma more.

You’ll need:

  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 2oz of white rum (or cuban aguardiente if you want the classic Havana experience)
  • 1oz of fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz of simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
  • Sparkling water 
  • Ice

In a highball glass, add six mint leaves and muddle to release the flavor from the mint. Add the rum, lime juice and simple syrup and stir well. Then, fill the glass with ice, and top off with sparkling water. Use the remaining mint to garnish. 

This cocktail contains 1.5 standard drinks. So when you’re keeping track of your consumption, make sure to take that into account. 

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The Classic Mojito Recipe

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The Low-alcohol Mojito Recipe:

In this lower alcohol mojito recipe, we reduce the amount of rum, and replace it with a non-alcoholic substitute.

You’ll need:

  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 1oz of white rum (or cuban aguardiente if you want the classic Havana experience)
  • 1oz of Ritual Zero Proof Rum Alternative
  • 1oz of fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz of simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
  • Sparkling water 
  • Ice

Alternatively if you don’t want to use a rum alternative, you can use 1.5oz of fresh sugar cane juice instead to add some of the nuanced flavors that come from rum. This alternative only contains 0.75 standard drinks!

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The Low Alcohol Mojito Recipe

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The Non-alcoholic Mojito Recipe:

There are some really great non-alcoholic spirit options available currently that makes it a lot easier to create a virgin mojito that tastes like the real deal. Of course, this recipe can also be made by removing the alcohol entirely for a refreshing sparkling minty-lime soda as well!

You’ll need:

Just follow the same directions as the classic cocktail when mixing this drink, and enjoy your 0 standard drinks count. No need to limit yourself on this mojito alternative!

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The Non-Alcoholic Mojito Recipe

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3. Margarita

One of my personal favorites, the margarita is one of those cocktails that tastes amazing in its classic form, but can be leveled up with other flavors to add complexity to this summer cocktail. 

A brief Origin of the Margarita:

There’s a lot of speculation about what the true origin of this sweet and sour drink, but one of the more common tales states that in 1938, Carlos “Danny” Herrera came up with the drink in Tijuana when a young woman wanted a tequila based drink, but something more palatable than drinking it straight. 

Herrera supposedly took the main components of a tequila shot (the lime and salt tradition) and fabricated the margarita for the customer. 

The Classic Margarita Recipe:

Even if you’re a novice bartender, making a fantastic margarita is something anyone can accomplish. 

You’ll need:

  • 2oz of gold tequila
  • 1oz of cointreau or triple sec
  • 1oz of simple syrup (one part sugar, one part water)
  • 2oz of fresh lime juice
  • Ice
  • Salt to rim

Start by shaking the tequila, triple sec, agave and lime with ice. Meanwhile, use a lime wedge and drag it around the rim of your margarita glass. In a small saucer, pour out some fine salt and then swivel the glass in the salt to cover the rim. Add ice, and then strain the margarita into the salt-rimmed glass. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy.

This cocktail contains roughly 2 standard drinks. Although it’s a stronger drink, one is often enough to satisfy your craving.

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The Classic Margarita Recipe

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The Low-alcohol Margarita Recipe:

Margaritas are one of those cocktails that you can easily modify without losing the taste quality. This low-alcohol variation of the cocktail tastes great and still provides you with that same bite as the classic, even though it contains less tequila.

You’ll need:

  • 1.25oz of gold tequila
  • 0.5oz of cointreau or triple sec
  • 0.5oz-1oz of agave (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 2oz of fresh lime juice
  • Ice
  • Salt to rim

This modified version uses agave instead of simple syrup so that you can get that rich cactus-like taste that is present in tequila. The difference with this variation is that it only contains 1 standard drink than the classic 2. 

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The Low-Alcohol Margarita Recipe

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The Non-alcoholic Margarita Recipe:

Finally, a margarita you can just keep drinking without the guilt. Personally, I think that a virgin margarita sometimes tastes even better than the classic, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

For this alternative you can opt to use a tequila replacement, or just cut the tequila altogether. Here’s what you’ll need:

Follow the mixing instructions from the classic version, and enjoy this 0-proof margarita. You can skip tracking 2 drinks with Sunnyside when you sip on this cocktail. 

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The Non-Alcoholic Margarita Recipe

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4. Negroni

The Negroni has recently become one of the most popular drinks in the world, and with good reason. This strong, herbaceous, and bitter-sweet cocktail certainly packs a punch, but goes down smooth. 

A brief Origin of the Negroni:

It’s no surprise that the Negroni originated in Italy, but stories suggest it was either born at the Caffe Camparino in Milan in 1860, or possibly in 1919 in Florence by Count Camillo Negroni. 

Orson Welles is reportedly one of the first to speak about the drink, describing it by saying, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad. They balance each other.”

The Classic Negroni Recipe:

This boozy and flavorful cocktail is simple and classy to make.

All you’ll need is:

  • 1.5oz of Gin
  • 1oz of Sweet Vermouth
  • 1oz of Campari
  • Orange zest
  • Ice
  • Bitters 

In a rocks glass or tumbler, add some ice (or a big ice cube if you’re feeling extra classy). Mix the gin, sweet vermouth and campari, and stir. Top with Angostura bitters, and a pinch of salt to bring out the complexity of the flavors. Use a lighter to bring out the oils from the orange zest, then drag it around the rim of the glass. Add it as a final garnish and enjoy.

This cocktail is one of the stronger ones on this list, coming in at 2 standard drinks. It’s easy to get carried away with this drink, and you’ll know pretty fast the next morning if you had one too many. Try to sip it slowly and enjoy the taste. This is definitely a drink you want to be nursing.

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The Classic Negroni Recipe

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The Low-alcohol Negroni Recipe:

Since the Negroni is such a booze-forward cocktail, it’s often not enough to just reduce the amount of alcohol, so instead we will modify it with some non-alcoholic aperitif variations!

All you’ll need is:

By replacing the Campari with an aperitif syrup, you still get to enjoy the complexity of the Negroni, without the added alcohol. This syrup is the perfect substitute for Campari and brings the total drink number down from 2 to just 1 standard drink. 

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The Low Alcohol Negroni Recipe

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The Non-alcoholic Negroni Recipe:

You may be wondering how it’s even possible to make a non-alcoholic Negroni. Well today is the day you will be amazed, because we figured it out.

This is what you’ll need:

You’ll truly be amazed by how impossible it is to tell that this is not a classic Negroni. The only main giveaway is that you’ll wake up refreshed and energized the next morning. Follow the instructions for the classic Negroni, and revel in the great taste of this 0 drink cocktail.

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The Non-Alcoholic Negroni Recipe

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5. Moscow Mule

Served in a copper mug, this gingery cocktail is great for any season and any event. 

A brief Origin of the Moscow Mule:

Sophie Berezinski, an immigrant who came to the United States in 1941 from Russia, brought with her close to 2000 solid copper mugs that were left to her by her father, who ran a copper factory back in Russia. 

They struggled to sell their copper mugs in Russia, so came to the United States hoping there would be an opportunity to find a buyer. She found herself at the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub in Los Angeles, where she met two men who would help her experiment with different cocktail ideas. And well, the rest is history. 

The Classic Moscow Mule Recipe:

A simple yet mighty cocktail. You’ll only need a few ingredients for this 1940s classic:

  • 2oz of vodka
  • ½ oz of lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Ice

Though this cocktail is often served in a copper mug, you can get away with using a standard highball glass. Simply add all your ingredients together, stir and enjoy.

This cocktail doesn’t always taste very strongly of alcohol, but it still contains 1.5 standard drinks. 

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The Classic Moscow Mule Recipe

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The Low-alcohol Moscow Mule Recipe:

In this Moscow Mule recipe, we will reduce the amount of vodka and add a little bit of tonic to add the earthy taste of the Vodka.

You’ll need:

  • 1oz of vodka
  • 1oz of tonic water
  • ½ oz of lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Ice

By substituting 1oz of vodka with tonic water, we are able to reduce this cocktail from 1.5 standard drinks to 0.75 standard drinks. Add a couple drops of bitters for an optional twist on this Moscow Mule. 

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The Low Alcohol Moscow Mule Recipe

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The Non-alcoholic Moscow Mule Recipe:

For this non-alcoholic Moscow Mule, there’s only one ingredient you need to substitute (you guessed it, the vodka). Here’s what the recipe calls for:

  • 2oz of Tonic Water (trust me on this)
  • ½ oz of lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Ice

You may be surprised, but the tonic water contains just enough of a bite that you might not even be able to tell the difference between this virgin Moscow Mule and the reduced alcohol version. 

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The Non-Alcoholic Moscow Mule Recipe

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6. Cosmopolitan

Made particularly famous by being labeled as the signature drink of Carrie Bradshaw, this chic take on a classic Martini is sweet, refreshing, and deceptively strong.

A brief Origin of the Cosmopolitan:

You might think that the Cosmo originated in New York City, but the truth is, it came to fruition in Minneapolis in 1975. A bartender named Neal Murray said he added a splash of Cranberry to a Kamikaze cocktail, and the first person who tried it supposedly exclaimed “How Cosmopolitan”, this earning its memorable name. 

The Classic Cosmopolitan Recipe:

An elegant martini cocktail that’s a little more palatable than its classic cousin, you’ll definitely want this one shaken, not stirred. 

You’ll need:

  • 2oz of vodka
  • ½ oz of triple sec
  • ½ oz of lime juice
  • 1 oz of cranberry juice cocktail
  • Lemon peel twist
  • Ice

In a cocktail shaker, add the vodka, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry juice and shake with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon peel twist.

This cocktail may taste sweeter, but it still contains just under 2 standard drinks. So sip slowly and mindfully. 

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The Classic Cosmopolitan Recipe

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The Low-alcohol Cosmopolitan Recipe:

It’s always tricky to produce a low-alcoholic martini, since by nature martinis are very alcohol-forward. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this delicious variation on the Sex and the City staple.

You’ll need:

  • 1.5oz of vodka
  • ½ oz of orange syrup (½ oz of simple syrup with a couple dashes of orange extract) 
  • ½ oz of lime juice
  • ½ oz of orange juice
  • 1 oz of cranberry juice cocktail
  • Lemon peel twist
  • Ice

This reduced alcohol version of the classic Cosmopolitan reduces the total drink number by half, bringing this cocktail down to just 1 standard drink. Let me know if you can tell the difference. 

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The Low Alcohol Cosmopolitan Recipe

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The Non-alcoholic Cosmopolitan Recipe:

A non-alcoholic Cosmopolitan seems like a myth, I know, but it turns out that it’s actually a fact, with an added ‘sparkle’ to take it to the next level. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2oz of tonic water
  • ½ oz of orange syrup (½ oz of simple syrup with a couple dashes of orange extract) 
  • ½ oz of lime juice
  • ½ oz of orange juice
  • 1 oz of cranberry juice cocktail
  • Lemon peel twist
  • Ice

Follow the directions from the classic cocktail, but hold the tonic water. After you strain your drink into your martini glass, top it off with a bit of tonic. You’ll likely find yourself pounding back a 2nd and 3rd, but go for it, after all this cocktail contains 0 standard alcoholic drinks, so pour to your heart’s content.

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The Non-Alcoholic Cosmopolitan Recipe

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The Benefits of Balancing Drinking with a Low Alcoholic or Non-Alcoholic Option

Going out for drinks with some friends or indulging in a few cocktails can be a great social lubricant, and by no means am I suggesting you stop drinking altogether. But it helps to strike a balance with some lower ABV options in between rounds.

Your body will thank you for practicing more mindful drinking habits. 

To help you be more aware of how many standard drinks you’re actually consuming, I’ve put together this handy chart you can reference that visualizes the difference between the classic cocktails, low-alcohol cocktails and non-alcoholic cocktails listed above. 

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Nadya Khoja

Nadya Khoja is the Head of Content at Sunnyside. She has been featured on Forbes, CBC, Wall Street Journal, and many other notable publications. She has spoken around the world, educating various business leaders about building and executing scalable marketing strategies.

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