Avoid holiday overdrinking: Try these Florida-grown ‘mocktails’

Published on December 20, 2023 at 11:56 am

Holiday festivities are often associated with warm or bubbly beverages in hand. Depending on the level of consumption, sometimes too much can cause some unintended circumstances, especially if you’re drinking alcoholic cocktails.

“They don’t realize when it comes to a cocktail how much alcohol could be in one and they’re tasty. Then, you suffer the consequences of acute alcohol intoxication afterwards,” said Dr. Tim Dougherty, a toxicology expert and Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at Cape Coral Hospital.

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“So people run the risk of drinking a few too many, not realizing that they’re intoxicated ’cause the first thing that happens when you become intoxicated, your judgment goes out the window so you don’t realize that you are as drunk as you are. Obviously, then, that runs the risks of getting behind the wheel of a car, doing risk taking behavior like standing on the top of a table and jumping off, those types of things. So unfortunately, during the holiday season, we see a significant uptick in our emergency department and throughout our system.”

To avoid trips to the emergency room, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is recommending to choose “mocktails” featuring Florida-grown produce instead. Florida’s plethora of agricultural products lends itself to many sippable options.

“This time of year it’s great because we can take a lot of the things that are seasonal — around us that are growing in our gardens and utilize them not only for dishes on our holiday tables, but also, you know, to make jams and to make mocktails, some of the ingredients that we’ve stipulated are grown and fruiting this time of year,” David Outerbridge, director of UF/IFAS Extension Lee County, said.

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Florida produces over 300 agricultural products, and many are grown yearround. So, your holiday mocktails can include a variety of citrus, melons, honey, vanilla and so much more.

“This is great time now for herbs. So, mint is a great one to have in your mocktails. Some people like sage, some like some more savory flavors, rosemary other things like that. They all grew through the winter months,” Outerbridge said.

One of the more unique ingredients Outerbridge recommends comes from the well-known flowering hibiscus, not only for its sour cranberry-like flavor, but for its potential health benefits.

“Roselle, or sorrel, is from the hibiscus and okra family, and it’s grown in the garden. It can be grown in South Florida all throughout Florida. Actually, there’s research going on at the University of Florida to evaluate it as a cash crop because there are all kinds of health benefits to it. It’s high in vitamin C. High in antioxidants. Some studies out there (show) how it reacts to blood pressure, how it helps with digestion and other things like that.”

Outerbridge enjoys roselle in mocktails with ginger and cinnamon. “But everybody has their own concoction in the way that they like it,” he said.

Along with roselle, other produce can provide a dose of health to the mix.

“Fresh citrus contains vitamin C, and fresh strawberries and blueberries are bursting with antioxidants,” said Jessica Frisch, nutrition educator at UF/IFAS Orange County Extension Office. She said the free-radical-fighting power of antioxidants may help prevent cancer and other health conditions.

Citrus like oranges, grapefruits, limes and lemons will “definitely check your Vitamin C boxes,” she said. “And opting for a mocktail instead of a cocktail means your gut health will benefit since alcohol can hurt the healthy flora in one’s stomach and you’ll feel more refreshed in the morning.”

“The good thing about these drinks is that they have you know lots of different flavors and you know, provide us health benefits, even ever so small,” Outerbridge said. “Maybe some of them especially when mixing them with soda water or water, it keeps us hydrated and gives us something to taste around the holidays and feels festive without consuming alcohol.”

Friends clinking glasses with fresh cocktails in bar, closeup

Below are a few Florida-friendly mocktail options that you can use to make your parties and your cozy moments a little more festive.


Roselle Berry Fizz

  • Ingredients: Roselle syrup (made from hibiscus), mixed berries, lime juice, sparkling water, ice and mint.
  • Instructions: Make roselle syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan. Add cleaned and dried roselle calyces (the red part of the hibiscus plant). Simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Strain and let it cool.
  • Muddle the berries, combine with the fresh lime juice, add the roselle syrup, pour into glasses, top with sparkling water and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Key Lime Pie in a Mug

  • Ingredients: ¼ cup of Key lime juice, one cup of coconut milk, graham cracker crumbs and a splash of vanilla
  • Instructions: Mix key lime juice with coconut milk, add vanilla and top with graham cracker crumbs. Warm to your liking.

Spiced Orange Cider

  • Ingredients: Orange juice, apple cider, cloves and a cinnamon stick.
  • Instructions: Combine orange juice and apple cider and then add cloves and the cinnamon stick. Warm on the stove without boiling.

Tropical Tea Delight

  • Ingredients: Hibiscus tea, pineapple juice, orange zest and a teaspoon of honey.
  • Instructions: Brew hibiscus tea, mix in pineapple juice to taste, add orange zest and sweeten with honey. Serve warm.

Citrus Sparkler

  • Ingredients: Orange juice, grapefruit juice, sparkling water and ice.
  • Instructions: Mix equal parts orange and grapefruit juice, add ice, and top with sparkling water. Garnish with a slice of orange or grapefruit.

Christmas mulled wine. Traditional holiday drink or beverage, cocktail

Berry Blizzard Fizz

  • Ingredients: Blueberries, strawberries, sparkling water, mint leaves and ice.
  • Instructions: Muddle blueberries and strawberries in a glass, add ice, and top with sparkling water. Garnish with mint leaves.

Watermelon Frost

  • Ingredients: Watermelon juice, lime juice, mint leaves, sparkling water and ice.
  • Instructions: Combine watermelon juice and lime juice, add mint leaves and top with sparkling water. Serve over ice.

Sunshine Cooler

  • Ingredients: Orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut water and ice.
  • Instructions: Mix equal parts orange juice and pineapple juice, add coconut water and pour over ice.

Blueberry Bliss Punch

  • Ingredients: Blueberry juice, lemonade, ginger ale, frozen blueberries and ice.
  • Instructions: Mix blueberry juice and lemonade, add ginger ale and stir. Garnish with frozen blueberries and serve over ice.

Virgin Mojito

  • Ingredients: One cup mint leaves, spoonful of sugar, lime juice, club soda, ice and lime slices.
  • Instructions: Muddle mint and sugar, add the lime juice, pour the mixture over ice, top with club soda and garnish with fresh mint and a slice of lime.

Two cocktails Mint Julep on a bar counter. Horizontal shot

Recipes come from the University of Florida/IFAS.

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