Celebration Drinks with a Low ABV Twist

Flex your Creative Muscles AND Keep People Safe

The holiday season includes lots of nights out. There are staff parties, festive family events and New Year celebrations to look forward to. But nothing can ruin a good night out faster than a person who has drunk too much alcohol. So how can you manage the crowds without cutting off the fun?

Here are five ingredients for making cocktails that allow you to control the alcohol consumption in a drink without taking away from the magic of the season.

1. Cocktail Bitters

Great to replace spirit and mixers.#

Cocktail bitters are a brilliant way to make an almost entirely alcohol-free cocktail taste as rich as an alcoholic one. Add just a few dashes to a lengthener like tonic or ginger ale, and you can still taste the wealth of ingredients.

The sheer amount of flavours available means you can flex your creative muscles without compromising your guests. Bitters are a great way to steer people towards safer drinking habits without taking away the flair and service involved in making a beautifully jewelled cocktail for them.

A tonic with bitters has less than one unit of alcohol, whereas a gin and tonic can have anything from 2 to 3.5 units. Just make sure that you keep your proportions of bitters to lengthener under the legal limit. 

2.  Aromatised Wines

Great as aperitifs

The spritzer has moved on from the tepid white wine and lemonade pub serve of the eighties. The wide availability of aromatised wines means there’s a vast array of herbal, sweet, bitter and zesty flavours available for you to tap into.

Mix them with alcohol-free wines, low ABV wines or liqueurs, or fresh fruit, herbs and spices to make delicious sparkling or stirred aperitifs.

One Adonis cocktail has 1.8 units of alcohol, compared with three units in a sweet Manhattan or 3.2 in a Martinez. 


3. Juice

Great for sharing serves and party drinks

As bartenders, friends and family often ask what cocktails to serve at get-togethers. The brilliant thing about a fruity punch is that the taste lies in the balance, not the drink’s strength or exact temperature. So my suggestion is always a punch.

As long as you stress the importance of the quality and quantities of ingredients, they can’t go too wrong with the method. Plus, you can control how much volume comes from the non-alcoholic portions of the drink. Most fruit juice-based mocktails are some variant of punch. 

For a lower ABV punch, use 21 millilitres of spirit per person. Use the rhyme one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, and four of weak. So seven millilitres of lime or another citrus, 14 ml of syrup, honey or cordial, and 28 ml of juice or sparkling mixer, and you’ve got enough of a single serve to fill a crushed ice-filled rocks glass. 


4. Cream or Egg based Cocktails.

Brilliant for fostering a festive feeling

Not only are dairy-based drinks more welcome in the colder months, but they are also rich in protein, filling your drinkers up more quickly than straight liquor or spirit drinks.

Plus, protein-rich foods that are high in healthy fats, like eggs, yoghurt or milk, can help slow the emptying of your stomach and delay alcohol absorption.

So although your drinks are deliciously palatable, people won’t rush to guzzle them down nor order ahead, before the alcohol buzz has properly kicked in. 

And many dairy-based cocktails or ingredients are relatively low in alcohol. Not that we need an excuse to drink Snowballs, but they have only 1.1 units of alcohol. Eggnog contains two units, and an Irish Latte (made with 50 ml of whiskey cream liqueur) has 0.8 units.



5. Functional Drinks

Great for T-total drinkers or drivers

The functional drinks category is not only the fastest-growing drinks category in the world, but it accounts for more than half of the sales growth in functional consumables, including the entire health food market.

Alcohol strips your body of vital nutrients and water. Functional drinks enrich your body’s stores. Some add micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, some add macronutrients like protein or carbohydrates, and others add adaptogens or nootropics that increase mental acuity or the body’s processing abilities.

Many non-alcoholic spirits include some ‘functional’ ingredients, and many functional drinks are as tasty as alcoholic cocktails. So they can entirely replace alcohol for t-total drinkers or designated drivers, or be (carefully) matched with alcoholic products to create low ABV drinks. 

It’s important to note that all ingredients that are sold as safe on their own may change when mixed with other herbal ingredients, prescribed drugs or alcohol itself. So always check ingredient packaging and ensure your cocktails are safe to serve the general population.

Finally, please remember the poison is in the dosage. There is very little taste difference between a Mimosa (half champagne, half orange juice over ice) and a Bucks Fizz (two parts champagne to one part orange juice straight up) but drink 8-10 of them at a celebration, and you’ll find your Bucks Fizz drinkers will cause considerably more drunken antics than the Mimosa drinkers.


If you have any concerns about your cocktails, please check the DrinkAware website to check the unit count. When in doubt, if you’re serving, it’s your responsibility to cut people off when they’ve had enough.

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