Low Alcohol Cocktails from France’s Most Famous Mixologist

Translated from the French by Katherine Gregor and written by cocktail savant Matthias Giroud (known for his work with the George V Entertainment Group, including Buddha Bar), Lo & No Alcohol Cocktails offers a tres français approach to the hot trend of low- and no-alcohol cocktails.

Low Alcohol Cocktails, the French Way

Known for “cocktail experiences,” Paris-based Matthias Giroud bills himself as creative director of Alchimiste Group, a “Chef Mixologue. It’s no wonder, then, that the introduction to his cocktail book is from renowned chef Pierre Gagnaire. Yes, THAT Pierre Gagnaire, he of the three Michelin, eponymously named Paris restaurant. If you have no idea what I am talking about, consider this low-alcohol cocktail book an entree into a new world, one where tinctures and syrups are fussed over as tenderly as newborn babes and pages are dedicated to the delights of muira puama – a cocktail ingredient I had never heard of before opening this book – and “verjuice,” an Americanized spelling (I think?) of verjus. (It’s unfermented grape juice that is somewhat acidic.) Unlike muira puama, I have a bottle of verjus in my vinegar and oil cabinet, awaiting the proper moment to come out and play.

Chapters are divided by time of day. Morning Routine leans into ingredients like orange juice, coffee and tea as foundations for an Iced salt Caramel Macchiato and a kombucha-spiked Stroll Through the Palm Grove. Rooibos tea and apricot liqueur harmonize in Cloud of Flavor. Night Shift cocktails, designed for drinking from midnight into the wee hours, come closest to classic cocktails. In this section you’ll find updated versions of punch, a Low Fashioned with Suze and Pineau des Charentes and a Mule with muira puama bark soda.

Other times of day – Afternoon Snack Time, Pre-Dinner, and A Liquid Chord for an Exquisite Dinner – offer playful, experimental concoctions. Sun Infinity’s base of chamomile soda is layered with mint hydrolate, saffron honey and passion fruit puree. Asian Market’s apple juice, sparkling water and lemon juice are taken to a new place with homemade Batak berry cordial and Thai basil.

As I am not a professional mixologist, I had to choose a lane or risk further crowding my spice cabinet with singular ingredients. Giroud is honest about the French tilt of this book. Most readers outside of France do not share the same cultural love of cordials and syrups as the French.

I found muira puama bark at Mountain Rose Herbs. Verjus is widely available in the US (ask at your local winery). This is the one I have in my cabinet at the moment. I could not find local timur berries but you can find the cordial at Monin-Paragon in France. For syrups, try Monin.

Drink Recipes I Made

I did not have peach liqueur on hand so I made Morning Routine’s French Bellini with peach puree and splash of brandy. When mixed with the dry cider from Bay Ara-based Blindwood Cider, it worked like a charm. Toasted coconut almond milk from Califia Farms stood in for the homemade almond and coconut foam in Afternoon Snack Time’s Choco Coco. I even added some Tcho Hawt Chocolate crumbles atop the foam. From A Liquid Chord for an Exquisite Dinner, I was drawn to Tramonto. A simple mix of red vermouth, limoncello, and Lambrusco, preparing the drink involved nothing more than a trip to the fridge or the local liquor store to make.

Cassis Liqueur for the Win

I keep one liqueur in the house – cassis, not crème de cassis – but it worked fine in Pre-Dinner’s Parfum de France with rosé and Lillet blanc. (I skipped the lavender spray.) Maybe that’s the point of this book. No need to create a zillion concoctions with each of the many infusion recipes that Giroud provides here. Leave that to the pros. With Giroud’s help, my cocktail game did find a new level (mostly) with what I already had on hand. Yours can, too.

Who Would Like This Cookbook

Just to confirm this is not a cocktail book for newbies. There’s no recipe for a Manhattan or an explanation of the different types of vermouth. Though there is wine, cider, beer, and other alcoholic beverages, there’s not much booze in this book. This is for an explorer, someone who wants to figure out how to drink deliciously. Someone who enjoys a well-made drink minus (mostly) the alcohol.