How to make fab alcohol-free cocktails at home

Mix up your summer socialising with delicious, fresh takes on non-alcoholic beverages.

The statistics on home drinking habits are in – and they make for some startling reading.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s annual poll for 2020 – conducted pre-pandemic – found 73 per cent of Australians who drink alcohol most often do so at home.

For 67 per cent, home was where their biggest session was too.

Cut back the booze or cut it out

Cola instead of beer after work? Juice rather than wine over dinner? Maybe not.

Recently, new extremely low and non-alcoholic options have put such sugary, unsophisticated alternatives in the shade.

There are now almost-alcohol-free craft beers that taste as good as their boozy cousins and, perhaps even more surprisingly, quality non-alcoholic spirits.

An exponentially expanding alt-drink range is available at bottle shops, and especially at online stores dedicated to these products.

Some bars are taking non-alcoholic beverages well beyond the faux gin and tonic.

Raising the zero per cent bar

Luke Whearty has made mixing drinks an international career.

Soon after hitting the 2018 International Bartender of the Year top 10, he returned to Melbourne to open Byrdi – which debuted at No.80 in the World’s Best Bars list for 2020.

At this cocktail bar-meets-lab, Luke’s pursuit of classy, creative drinks focused on flavour often means dialling back or even skipping alcohol entirely.

Byrdi patrons who choose booze-free refreshments, whether during dry months such as FebFast, or for health or religious reasons, “can have just as much of an experience” as those who don’t, says Luke.

“They’re really surprised, and really love it,” he says.

Shake things up at home

Switch zero per cent spirits into that daiquiri or spritz recipe, or up your game by following the same basic principles Luke does when making non-alcoholic drinks.

Replacing alcohol’s complex flavours is challenging without overdoing sweetness or acidity, he says.

“Limit the use of straight sugars, and try to get it from natural sources,” he says.

Fruit or honey are good sweeteners, but don’t use too much.

“For acidity, try vinegar,” Luke says, adding that “a little goes a long way”.

He recommends homemade rather than intense store-bought vinegars as this opens up more diverse, complex flavours.

Luke’s current vinegar selection includes cherry, mango and passionfruit.

Alternatively, he suggests using verjuice, made from sour fruit such as unripe grapes and the acidic cornerstone of his recipe below.

non-alcoholic recipes

Luke Whearty’s Watermelone recipe

Try this easy non-alcoholic Byrdi summer sipper at home.

It’s garnished with karkalla (aka pig face or beach bananas), a common native Australian seaside succulent also available in speciality stores.

Leftover syrup and Watermelone batch can be refrigerated for later.

Salted raspberry syrup


  • 125g fresh raspberries
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 10g sea salt
  • 500ml water


  • Combine ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil.
  • Remove from heat, stir to combine.
  • When cool strain through fine strainer.

Watermelone batch


  • 700ml fresh watermelon juice
  • 150ml verjuice
  • 50ml salted raspberry syrup


  • Strain juice, then combine with other ingredients and strain through coffee-filter paper.

Individual serve

  • 100ml Watermelone batch
  • 60ml tonic water
  • Sprig fresh karkalla

Pour Watermelone over ice, top with tonic and garnish with karkalla.

Written by Patricia Maunder.