Every year, thousands of people flock to Walt Disney World for its annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. People from across the globe line up at each of the festival booths to find their favorite dish ... and for many, their favorite alcoholic beverage.
From IPAs in Canada to margaritas in Mexico — there's no shortage of booze flowing throughout the park. But what about options for those of us who don't drink alcohol? I made the decision to quit drinking four years ago. Over the past two years, as I've started to feel more comfortable talking about and sharing my sobriety journey, I've learned I'm not alone in saying goodbye to alcohol.
On my Instagram account, @michaeldoesdiz, I've shared mocktails found during my adventures in Disney Parks. As I've posted the best alcohol-free drinks Mickey Mouse has to offer, I've gotten questions about everything from my absolute favorites to how to order a mocktail at a bar. So I started a separate account, @michaeldoesmocktails, to help.
No matter what someone's reason is for choosing not to drink — be it health, pregnancy or sobriety-related or just simply because they don't want to — there should be a choice for everyone at an event like the Food and Wine Festival. But until recently, there weren't many.
In an interview last year, Stephanie Dold, the beverage director at Walt Disney World, told Yahoo Life they were working on it. "We're seeing more of a demand [for non-alcoholic drinks] just because in general, everybody has a healthier lifestyle," she said. "[But] just because I'm deciding not to drink tonight — sometimes I still want that experience."
After visiting the 2022 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, I'm pleased to say Disney Parks has upped their game in the non-alcoholic space. This year, I was able to confidently walk around the World Showcase sipping festival-specific mocktails from six different locations throughout the festival.
Rick DeCicco, the proprietor of festivals for Epcot says this year's alcohol-free offerings were as intentionally-developed as their booze-laden counterparts. "We consider what the story is that we're trying to tell, what ingredients we want to use and what audience we're catering to," he tells Yahoo Life. "We have some fun non-alcoholic beverages this year."
And there's more on the way. "As we're looking forward to the future, we're going to debut a brand-new refreshment station on October 1," he adds. "It will operate during all four festivals (The Epcot International Festival of the Arts, Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and Epcot International Festival of the Holidays). There will be additional non-alcoholic drinks there — including the opportunity to build your own frozen layered mocktail."
Chelsea Florig, a project manager at Walt Disney World who oversees food and beverage options at Epcot, says the future of mocktails in the park is bright. "We can always continue to grow in this space," she says, "and we look forward to seeing even more growth in this segment soon."
On my recent trip, I tried each of the new festival-specific mocktails and ranked them. If you're headed to Epcot between now and November 19, plan on checking out these alcohol-free concoctions whether you're sober or just need a refreshing drink to cool off in the Central Florida heat.
6. Frozen Apple Pie, Appleseed Orchard, Epcot's Canada Pavilion
The Frozen Apple Pie in Canada is a delicious and sweet frozen drink that tastes like ... frozen apple pie. "Five or six years ago we were ideating and we wrote down on the wall 'fall harvest,'" shares DeCicco of the drink's origin. "As we thought about the location and how we could program it, fall harvest turned into Johnny Appleseed, which turned into Appleseed Orchard. We have a beverage there that we call a festival classic and it has a couple of components you can't miss ... [it's] apple pie filling and frozen apple juice topped with streusel."
5. Arctic Sunrise, Joffrey's Coffee and Tea Company, Epcot's Canada Pavilion
The Arctic Sunrise — located at the Joffrey's coffee cart near Canada — is a cool citrus treat featuring passion fruit over ice and coconut syrup. This one was sweet, but was deliciously refreshing on a hot day in the park.
4. Strawberry Freeze, Earth Eats, Epcot's Port of Entry
The Strawberry Freeze features Twinings lemon and ginger herbal tea layered with a frozen strawberry slush. This was a delightful frozen concoction: not too sweet with fantastic hints of lemon and ginger. "At Earth Eats we have a new mocktail which is our Strawberry Freeze, a layered frozen drink," says DeCicco. "The base is a lemon ginger Twinings tea — frozen and topped with strawberry. As we look to pair beverages with food items, it matches up wonderfully with the new Impossible meatball at this location."
3. Passion Fruit Bubble Tea, Epcot's China Pavilion
One of my favorite items at the festival this year, the Passion Fruit Bubble Tea had some great flavors. It was refreshing, it wasn't too sweet and it was very large — for a festival item — so you really got your money's worth. The boba pearls were flavorful and added a nice fun touch as well.
2. Cinnamon Apple Cider, Appleseed Orchard, Epcot's Canada Pavilion
My absolute favorite new drink at last year's festival makes its triumphant return in 2022. This Cinnamon Apple Cider is on tap inside of the Canada Pavilion at Appleseed Orchard. "A cool thing we get to do across the board with the beverages we create is work with different vendors and brewers, usually for beers," says DeCicco. "But one of the things we thought of is we [could] work with a local brewer to brew this non-alcoholic cider for us, and we went with [St. Petersburg-based] 3 Daughters Brewing. It is such a good beverage."
1. Mango Lassi, India food cart, Epcot
The Mango Lassi at the India food cart, was hands-down my favorite mocktail of the day. This was a lightly-frozen beverage made of mango, honey and cardamom topped with actual chunks of fresh mango. It was refreshing, fruity, not-too-sweet and incredibly delicious. But why is something this yummy not served year-round at Epcot? "We love that we have different special offerings at every festival," says DeCicco. "It isn't special if we serve it all the time."
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