Unlocking the key to a great cocktail does not always depend on the alcohol. In fact, a whole movement has sprung up around incredibly creative non-alcoholic cocktails created with the same meticulous and intense care as their alcoholic cousins. Often referred to as “mocktails”, these new generation of drinks are being referred to as “zero-proof” cocktails and other elevated names which more accurately reflect the rich care involved in their creation. I’ve curated a selection of what I’m calling “Unlocked Cocktails” and I’ve paired each one with an unusual ‘puzzle lock’ which only opens when you know the secret.


For the first unlocked cocktail pairing I’ve selected something which would appeal to Shane Hales, a British puzzle lock designer - a tea based cocktail. This would be perfect for high tea or happy hour – perhaps one could blend easily into the next and no need to get up and move on. And I’ve unlocked the secret to no hangovers – no alcohol! Colorado based mixologist Bryan Dayton created this perfect potion for his Boulder bar and restaurant, OAK at Fourteenth. Using green tea as the base, it adds lavender syrup, lemon juice and ginger beer (which is of course really just ginger soda, no fermentation in this beer), along with a few dashes of grapefruit bitters to round it all out. Now if you want to be a purist, or in this case a “tea” totaler, you might point out that bitters are actually alcoholic. It’s true, cocktail bitters are complex mixtures of herbs, spices and bark which utilize alcohol to extract the flavors. In fact they have a high alcohol content, usually over 40% which is compatible with most basic spirits. But they are only intended to be consumed as a few drops, and must be so bitter as to be considered “non-potable”. This is why no liquor license is required to sell them. A few drops in your drink will impart flavor but no significant alcohol, in the same way as adding pure vanilla extract to your baking goods (which also carries a hefty alcohol content, at around 35%). So you can enjoy as many of these light and refreshing tea cocktails as you like, and have some cookies while you’re at it, too. Here’s to unlocked locks and libations - Cheers!

Tea Time by Bryan Dayton

2 oz green tea

1 oz lavender syrup

2 oz ginger beer

½ oz lemon

2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Shake together with ice and strain into a favorite glass, or better yet, a tea cup! Garnish with grapefruit peel or the key to a great puzzle.


To unlock the secrets of Shane Hales’ puzzle lock #4 see:

Boxes and Booze: Unlocked!