Local influencer Jessica D’Amour is on a mission to build a more inclusive culture in which people can attend social gatherings without feeling the need – or the pressure – to drink alcohol. Jessica decided to take a month off of drinking about two and a half years ago to see how she would feel. She was surprised at how much energy she had, but she also noticed how uncomfortable it was to attend parties, particularly those at breweries and bars.
Knowing there is a wide range of reasons why someone may not want to drink alcohol – whether for a year, a lifetime, or even just a night – she was disappointed with the lack of selections she found. In 2019, these instances started popping up more and more, inspiring her to create her own social media account called Spirit Free WNY to share non-alcoholic products and post recipes of her own. A pharmacist by day, experimenting with flavors and creating her own mocktails gave her a much-needed creative outlet, especially when home during the pandemic.
While many have heard of Dry January, the movement around more people choosing not to drink has gained national attention. Terms like “sober curious” are becoming more common as people re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol. Jessica shares that there are many misperceptions around why someone may choose not to drink, and it is up to all of us to create a culture of inclusion that normalizes whatever decision someone chooses to make.
Jessica is amazed by the response she has received since starting Spirit Free WNY, which has continued to gain traction since she launched. She continues to expand with the launch of her website and will be attending local pop-up and vendor fairs, with the goal of eventually opening her own brick and mortar location.
Follow along with Jessica for more tips & recipes on Facebook @ spiritfreejess and Instagram @SpiritFreeWNY
Tips & Advice from Jessica
Spirit Free WNY’s mission is to expand options for people who are sober, sober curious, just want to avoid alcohol once in a while, and for everyone hoping to create a culture of inclusion for those who decide not to drink for whatever reason.
For the Holidays
Holidays can be a high-pressure time to drink, but on the flip side, it is also a warm and welcoming time that brings people together, despite their differences and choices. When hosting, make someone feel welcome by not only making NA options available, but by also explaining what you have and serving it alongside the alcoholic options.
Recipes & Ingredients
I find a lot of great mocktail recipes on Pinterest and social media. You can even modify regular cocktail recipes by substituting the alcohol with a spirit alternative. One of my favorite ways to switch it up is by adding my own infused simple syrup which I make by dissolving sugar into water on the stove and adding herbs such as rosemary. It creates a nice herbal flavor so your mocktail isn’t just juice and seltzer water.
Many of the non-alcoholic spirit brands have great information and recipes on their websites. Two of my favorites are Ritual Zero Proof (www.ritualzeroproof.com) that provides great recipes as well as rum, gin, tequila and whiskey alternatives and We Are Raising the Bar, which provides a monthly subscription box of alcohol-free craft cocktail ingredients to make drinks at home (www.weareraisingthebar.com).
Sparkling Rosemary Orange Mocktail
Making infused simple syrups is my favorite way to add sophisticated flavor to mocktails. It may sound intimidating, but it is actually really simple! Rosemary adds an earthy herbal flavor that pairs well with citrus. Here, I used blood oranges
which are in season from December to
April and add a striking red color.
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup water
• 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
• 2 tablespoons blood orange juice (or regular orange juice)
• 1-2 tablespoons rosemary syrup
• Non-alcoholic sparkling wine or seltzer (I used Gruvi Dry Secco)
1. Prepare rosemary syrup. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine water, sugar, and rosemary. Heat and stir until sugar is fully dissolved and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from burner and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Strain out the rosemary and transfer to a jar. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
3. Put 1-2 tablespoons of rosemary syrup into glass, then add orange juice and stir to combine.
4. Top off the glass with non-alcoholic sparkling wine.
5. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary, frozen cranberries, and an orange slice.
Spiced Cranberry Paloma
This mocktail is refreshing, subtly spiced, and perfect for sipping during the holidays. The secret to this recipe is the spiced simple syrup which adds a festive punch of flavor. If you have syrup left over, keep it in the fridge and mix with ginger beer or sparkling water for an easy spritzer!
Spiced Simple Syrup
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup water
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 2-6 whole cloves
• 2 star anise
• 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
• 2 ounces cranberry juice
• 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
• 1 ounce fresh lime juice
• 1 ½ ounce spiced simple syrup
• 2 ounces tequila alternative (such as Ritual Zero Proof)
• Sparkling water
1. Prepare the spiced simple syrup. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise, and ginger. Heat and stir until sugar is fully dissolved, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from burner and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. Strain out the spices while pouring the syrup in a jar and store in the fridge until ready to use.
3. Combine the cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and tequila in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled.
4. Strain into a glass filled with ice and top off with sparkling water.
5. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary, frozen or fresh cranberries, and a cinnamon stick.
Warm Mulled Cider Sangria
This drink is not only a warm and cozy treat, it will also make your home smell heavenly! This mulled sangria is perfect for cozying up next to the fire or welcoming your friends and family in from the cold. Change up the spices based on what you like and what you have on hand!
• 1 cup apple cider
• ¾ cup cranberry cocktail
• 2 cinnamon sticks
• 2 orange slices
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves
• 3 star anise pods
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer until warm and spices become fragrant and flavor the juice, about 15 minutes.
2. Strain the mulled “wine” into 2 mugs.
3. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and an orange slice on the rim.