Merlin Griffiths chats mindful drinking and shares his best cocktail recipe

It’s never been easier to rock up to a bar and order a cocktail with a perfect citrus/sweet hit, an on-trend garnish… and zero alcohol. TV favourite Merlin Griffiths is among thousands of modern bartenders who are turning it into an (enjoyable and low calorie) art form.

‘I’ve been an advocate of mindful drinking for a few years,’ he says. ‘Younger generations are leading the way – they want a healthier lifestyle.’

Simple tricks can elevate a non-alcoholic cocktail to new levels, says Merlin.

‘Lengthen your drink with sparkling water and add ginger, berries, fresh citrus flavours,’ he says.

‘Simple, easy wins include strawberry and lemon twist, a beautiful combination. Infuse leftover fruit into your water – you can use the tops from strawberries left over from a dessert. Otherwise, just freeze whole strawberries and use them in your cocktail as ice cubes. They’ll spread delicious flavour slowly as they start to melt.

‘One of my favourite things to prepare is cucumber water. Get a vegetable peeler and strip your cucumber along the length into long spirals. They look gorgeous in a glass. Arrange them so they edge your drink and carefully place a nice clap of mint in the middle.

‘Using sparkling water as your base, peel the zest of citrus fruit and snap it over the top of your drink to get the aromatic oils and the very best of the flavour – a gorgeous oily sherbertness.

‘Using sparkling water as a lengthener, combine a small amount of citrus such as fresh lemon juice with a sweet lavender syrup for a magical sweet-sour combination. Use 20ml of citrus to 15ml of a straight sugar syrup, then add lots of ice in a long glass and stir.

‘Pineapple juice works well with a twist of lime and sparkling water, while adding a small dash of cranberry will give you a gorgeous light pink drink. For a professional touch, freeze your glass beforehand.’

Finally, Merlin says you should seek inspiration from your own garden for your perfect garnish.

‘I use chive flowers, which are beautiful purple blooms that look gorgeous in a cocktail,’ he says.

‘I also grow calamint – although you can use mint – and some fresh lavender. Put enough ice in your drink to make a base for your garnish and give mint tips a light clap before you perch them on top. Thyme and rosemary work well but don’t add too many herbs or you’ll make it soupy.’

Merlin has launched Royal Ascot’s first ever reduced and no-alcohol bar as part of Harrogate Spring Water’s mindful drinking initiative.

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