1. Pull out your best glassware.
Unless you’re decking out your party with down-home decor, skip the Solo cups and polish up your good glasses. Something with bubbles looks lovely in a Champagne flute or coupe, while colorful homemade lemonade shines in a rocks or highball glass.
2. Go crazy with cubes.
Leave the five-pound bag of ice at the grocery store and grab a few fun silicone trays instead. They come in all sorts of styles, from flowers to holiday and geometric shapes. You could also freeze juice instead of water for flavored ices, or freeze fruit or edible flowers inside each cube for a pretty presentation.
3. Invite fruit or herbs—or both—to the party.
Adding fresh, muddled ingredients makes a drink feel handcrafted (read: fancy). For example, if you’re serving from-scratch lemonade (find a bunch here), mash berries and mint or citrus and basil in the bottom of a glass or pitcher before pouring in everything else. Don’t have a muddler? We bet you have a wooden spoon-flip it upside down and use the handle. And remember to save some fruit slices or herb sprigs for garnishes.
4. Infuse your own simple syrup.
Plain simple syrup adds sweetness, but with a few easy ingredients, you can layer on other flavors, too. Here’s how to make it: In a small saucepan, boil a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar, plus sliced fruit, fresh herbs and/or whole spices, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool, stirring occasionally, then strain the syrup into a bottle or jar. That’s it! Simple syrup lasts up to a month in the fridge.
5. Splash in something savory.
Chances are you have a bottle of bitters—a potent combo of herbs—already in your cupboard. Just a few dashes of this ingredient willdo ya, so if your guests-adults, of course-are OK with their drink having a minuscule amount of alcohol, bitters are a great way to add a bit of sophistication. A splash of cider vinegar brightens up any concoction. And then there’s Seedlip, a nonalcoholic spirit made from all sorts of distilled herbs and spices. A bottle costs a pretty penny, but anyone who misses savory cocktails, like dry martinis, will really appreciate this offering.
6. Shake, don’t stir.
Make like James Bond. For each mocktail, pour the noncarbonated ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, then secure the top and give it a good jostle. When the ingredients are mixed well, strain them into a glass over more ice for a fun and frothy beverage.
7. Top with club soda.
Instead of using extra juice or lemon-lime soda to replace the alcohol in a cocktail recipe, reach for club soda. It lends effervescence and a subtle mineral flavor without all that sugar.
8. Have fun with straws and swizzles.
Finish off each mocktail (and cocktail!) with a squiggly or paper straw. Or, if the beverage is intended for slower drinking, use a swizzle stick. That way, everybody knows which drink is whose. Look for them in multiple colors at your local party store.
9. Make extra.
With these tips, your mocktails are going to be irresistible to all your party guests. Cheers!