As the world began to wrestle with the COVID-19, JoAnne Pearce was not a teetotaller. But, being inside her home made her think a lot more about her drinking habits. She didn’t want alcohol to become the numbing agent for the pandemic.
“I had always been a social drinker, but, during the pandemic, I think people’s relationship with alcohol has become really interesting,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to drink more at home, people tend to free-pour more when they are drinking at home.”
Pearce started doing “alcohol-free” challenges at home, but, she didn’t want to settle for simple drinks, either. She wanted to enjoy “adult” beverages, she wanted to have fun crafting concoctions in the kitchen.
“I wanted to make drinks that were elaborate,” she says. “This drink might take me 45 minutes to prepare, and I would spend more time photographing and boosting it on social media. That became a hobby for me.”
Out of that hobby, Mock-Up Mocktails was born. She created a number of alcohol-free drinks, posted videos of herself making them, and created Facebook and Instagram accounts. Viewers could learn about how to make dried citrus garnishes, how to create elaborate drinks sans booze or how to make beet water as a base for drinks.
Now, there’s a full-colour recipe book, Mock-Ups: Mocktails for Grown-Ups, that’s available in print or PDF — and, when the pandemic is over, Pearce is hopeful that she can make mocktails at festivals, to introduce more Edmontonians to the idea of non-alcoholic-but-fancy drinks.
“I think they can be as simple or complicated as you want to make them,” Pearce says. “I find that, in sharing these with the world, I’ve had to pull back a bit, because I can get pretty granular about the details. One of the drinks I’ve been working on has 12 different layers of colours of ice in it. Not everybody is going to do that, in fact, 99.9 per cent of the people are not going to do that. So it’s important to share recipes that are more accessible.”
She says the experience of making a carefully constructed mocktail forces us to focus on the task at hand, and it has de-stressing value. She uses the words “self care,” a lot.
“I would say it’s like pouring a bath; you can pure yourself a bath, it’s tepid, the lights are fully on. Or, you can pour a bath and it has the bubbles and the salts and the music and the candles and it’s just a much nicer experience. Mocktails are just a much nicer way of having something that’s hydrating. It’s a replacement for that drink at the end of the day.”
The “Phony Negroni” is in the book, and the classic cocktail is reconstructed from the ground up. After all, the Negroni is a combination of Campari, gin and red vermouth — all of which are alcoholic components. Pearce, a fan of Negronis, took a look at how to combine that special combination of bitter and sweet. Dandelion root, naturally bitter, was used. Licorice root and orange peel were added. “It’s a similar experience to the Negroni, it’s a complicated sip,” she says.
Complication. Sophistication. It’s what makes Pearce’s work a heck of a lot more involved than the Shirley Temples or combination of pops you’d see called “mocktails” on many family-restaurant menus. “There seems to be a wave, an interest in alcohol-free alternatives,” she says “I think we’re going to see more alcohol-free beer and better mocktail options on menus. You don’t have to feel awkward or set apart at a social event if you’re not drinking alcohol. You can still have a drink that looks good and tastes good and feels grown-up. When people decide to drink less they can tend to feel self-conscious. We want to make it more acceptable and make it feel like you haven’t been relegated to the kids’ table.”