Ann Arbor has embraced the mixology trend. According to about.com, “mixology” is generally accepted as a “slang term for a refined and in depth study of the art and craft of mixing.” In 1948, Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defined “mixology” as “the art or skill of preparing mixed drinks.” Some use the term “craft cocktails.” There’s a mixology app with a recipe and bartending guide.
In an Ann Arbor Observer article about the local mixology scene, the bartender at Knight’s claimed that “young people are ordering their grandfathers’ drinks.” The Raven’s Club menu claims we are in the “midst of an incredible American cocktail renaissance” and boasts a “from-scratch kitchen and a from-scratch bar” with “heirloom cuisine and rogue mixology.” The owners call it a “Farm to Glass project,” growing their own ingredients and aging their own spirits. The Alley Bar’s general manager calls his bartenders “liquid chefs” and “beverage geeks.” The Bar at 327 Braun Court—or just “The Bar”—also serves classic and innovative cocktails in a casual and friendly place that has added pop-up dinners. The Last Word, named for a famous cocktail that was developed at the Detroit Athletic Club, is Ann Arbor’s newest craft cocktail bar aimed at those who prefer a place where you can relax and have a conversation.
Alcohol-free mixology has become its own trend. Popular restaurant chains list alcohol-free cocktails on their bar menu that aren’t just “virgin” versions of common cocktails, but creative, alcohol-free drinks that allow everybody to feel like they’re drinking something special. Entire books are dedicated to the subject, with cute titles, like “Zero-proof cocktails, Alcohol-free Beverages for Every Occasion” and “Preggatinis—Mixology for the Mom-to-Be.”
I became interested in alcohol-free cocktails when I developed an alcohol allergy a few years ago. I recently taught an alcohol-free mixology class with my friend Mary, a local blogger and food writer, to prove that alcohol isn’t the important part of the drink—the taste is!
I developed the following recipe to ease my craving for one of my beloved summer cocktails that included peach schnapps, lime juice, rum and simple syrup. As I was developing and testing recipes for the class, I made some vanilla simple syrup because I had some vanilla beans around and I love vanilla. I realized that the vanilla simple syrup simulated the rum flavor, and my husband suggested the muddled basil. I had apricot nectar at home, so I used that instead of peach and it worked fine. I think mango nectar would be good, too. It’s important to use fresh lime juice. If you can have the rum, go for it!
3 2-3″ basil leaves
1 cup coconut water
4 tablespoons vanilla simple syrup (see below)
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons apricot, mango or peach nectar
1 cup club soda
Muddle basil leaves in bottom of large glass, measuring cup or jar. Add coconut water, vanilla syrup, lime juice and nectar of choice; stir gently, but well.
Pour into highball glasses filled with ice, then add the club soda. Garnish with a little basil, if you want.
Vanilla Simple Syrup
2 cups sugar (you can use raw brown sugar or coconut sugar instead of white—the drink will have a different, browner color)
1 cup water
Pour sugar and water into a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to come to a boil, then remove from heat.
Add 2 split vanilla beans.
Cool and refrigerate in glass jar. The longer the syrup rests, the stronger the flavor will be.