50 Shots of America–Utah

Mo-Rita Cocktail

Mo-Rita Cocktail

One man’s desert is another man’s oasis.

Did you know that Utah remained a Mexican territory until the end of the Mexican war? Fur trappers liked it well enough but Spain just wasn’t interested in such a desolate area. The Mormons, on the other hand and under the leadership of Brigham Young, found it a great place to settle down to practice their religion without the resistance or interference they’d encountered elsewhere.

Of course, it didn’t remain so simple and idyllic. When it came time to join the Union their original application was rejected! It was that whole pesky plural marriage thing that proved the sticky wicket. So, when they petitioned again, the state constitution contained a clause banning polygamy, and they were accepted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896.

Anyone who has ever scrapbooked has probably bought something by ProvoCraft–the Mormon practice of journaling and memory-keeping launched what is now one of the largest sectors in the craft industry.

Now, there’s more to Utah than Mormonism, but for most folks it’s probably the first thing we think of. It may not be a dry state (they’re an alcohol beverage control state, actually) but it’s been a while since we’ve done a mock-tail so this seemed like as good a reason as any!


1 barspoon Lime Gelatin
1 barspoon Lime Juice
1 barspoon Lemon Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
1.5 oz Club Soda

Combine the gelatin powder, juices and simple syrup over ice in a mixing glass. Shake with vigor and stir in the club soda until chilled. Rim a cordial glass with salt and add 2 ice cubes for a Mo-Rita on the rocks. Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass.

A virgin margarita is actually a tricky thing to pull off. Once I tried it with the bottled mix and Sprite and it tasted like a caffeine-free Mountain Dew. And not in a good way. In a lot of virgin-able drinks the flavor is coming from something other than the alcohol, which is why soda can be substituted without too much trouble or the alcohol left out entirely (in the case of a frozen daiquiri that turns into a smoothie). Margaritas, though, get the majority of their flavor from the tequila and triple sec–the sour mix (or, preferably, simple sugar and lime juice) is just there to keep it from being a glorified tequila shot.

So, for this mocktail, we concentrated on the sweet vs. salty aspect of the margarita and the drink itself? Very sweet. Almost too sweet. I blame the gelatin, in part, but when I read that Jell-o was the official snack food of Utah I had to toss some in for good measure. Alternately, you could mix the powdered gelatin with the salt for the rim instead of using it in the drink itself!

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails


I remember one visit home as a kid, my cousins and I had a slumber party at our grandparents (okay, one cousin is technically an aunt who’s 5 months younger than me and it was her house, but let’s not sweat the semantics). While some of the grown-ups congregated in the dining room we took over the living room, complete with a treat: Shirley Temples.

Shirley Temple

Ginger ale
Maraschino cherry

Splash some grenadine over ice and top with a healthy pour of ginger ale (other clear sodas can also be used, depending on what you’ve got in the house) and garnish with a cherry (or two).

Now, adult me kind of wonders about the wisdom in giving children faux-cocktails, is it really the best choice? On the other hand, treating it as a special occasion sort of treat might be just the thing for instilling the right attitude about cocktails.

And it’s not just the underage who drink virgin drinks or, as David Biggs refers to them in his book of the same name, “Mocktails.” Alcohol-free drinks are popular from the pregnant to the designated driver and plenty of folks in between. I mean, every now and then a fruity drink might be nice without the worry of a hangover. Or maybe a tart refresher midweek–or even midday–is a welcome change without the booze.

A lot of non-alcoholic cocktails are sweet, either from the additional of soda (clear for clear alcohol, cola for dark) or increasing the fruit juice to make up the difference. A Virgin Mary (just skip the vodka and maybe a dash more clam juice) is a nice change to the sweet or try this one, a definite throw-back to another era:

Jones Beach Cocktail

This savory drink uses lemon juice to balance the saltiness of the beef consomme. To make consomme, dissolve a beef stock cube in a cup of boiling water. [Or use canned]

Crushed ice
1 c Beef consomme, cooled
Half the quantity of clam juice
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (or lime)
1/2 tsp Horseradish sauce
Couple of [dashes] of Worcestershire sauce
Celery salt
Sprig of parsley

Place a scoop of crushed ice in a cocktail shaker and add all the ingredients until well mixed. Now place two ice cubes in a tall glass and strain the blended drink over them. Serve ungarnished or with a sprig of parsley.

–David Biggs, Mocktails