Designing a Team Event: The HFLI Mocktail Challenge

HFLI Team at Mocktail ChallengeIdentifying inclusive and cost-conscious activities can be a real struggle for diverse work teams. Perspectives on “fun” can differ from person to person. Take a creative cue from a recent HFLI event for your next team outing, an evening with friends, or #dryjanuary party.

In December, we were seeking a way to celebrate the end of a successful year. Our team of ten is hard-working and takes care of each other. As a result, we wanted to do our best to be inclusive of different faiths, generations, dietary preferences, and comfort-levels with out-of-the box experiences. And it certainly had to be more interactive and memorable than a typical team lunch!

The Pre-Game

HFLI Design Thinking Diagram 2018Design is part of our organization’s DNA. Embracing our core, we started with building empathy for the social “needs” of our team. Their insights and input helped us develop a set of mindsets to guide our creative planning.

We began looking for an out-of-office event that included good food, an active vibe, and was somewhere other than a dark bar. After a series of calls, we became inspired by the idea of a food challenge and Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network. The idea for a celebratory Mocktail Challenge was born.

When we presented the idea for feedback, there were some mixed reactions, initially. A few gave a small cheer. Others weren’t familiar with the TV show that inspired the challenge. As people took out their cellphones to find a wide range of mocktail recipes online and check out the Food Network to better envision the experience, those brief mixed reactions turned to an eager competitiveness.

Celebration day arrived. We gathered at a teammate’s house. Fortunately, she is not only gracious, but has a large kitchen with a blender, ample counter space, and a big stove top for simple syrup making. After lunch, we did a stoking activity to get energy levels going (the Saran Ball game was a big hit, but the bowl game looks fun too) and then moved right into the Mocktail Challenge.

HFLI Mocktail Challenge Laying the Ground Rules

Full of anticipation, we began picking random teams. Everyone pulled a “drink stirrer” —  or rather, a popsicle stick with a colored end — from a cup and found the person with the same color to partner up. Each team received an envelope with $20 cash, addresses of local grocery stores, and the following instructions for the next 90 minutes:

Plan It:


Design or identify a recipe that will delight your teammates and stay within your $20 budget.

Get It:

A map to local stores is provided. Purchase your ingredients. Bring your ingredients and receipt back to “Drinks Central”.

Make It:

Start creating. Prepare at least ten 4oz servings. Be sure to consider 

not only taste, but the presentation.

Name It:

Grab your story card. It is the same color as the stirrer you selected earlier. Jot down the name of your mocktail, the inspiration, and the ingredients. Be creative!


Lisa Kreinbring and Ossama Elroos developed a plan in a flash. “Ossama is always prepared. He came with a couple of recipes to inspire us. We quickly agreed on a vision for our mocktail: ‘Karkadeh’ would blend our childhood taste memories – hibiscus from Eqypt and cherries from Michigan – along with sugar, ice, sparkling water and lime slices,” said Lisa.

Team Work

And we were off! The scene at Whole Foods was worth the trip: guessing others’ recipes, stealing items from competitors’ carts, and mad dashes for frozen tart cherries or the “right kind” of cider.

When we arrived back at “Drinks Central,” there was some jockeying for the blender, sugar, stove top, and measuring cups. Once teams were done chopping, blending, mixing, pouring and garnishing they grabbed their tent card to create their mocktail story. With time running out, we moved to a big table, displayed the tent cards and drinks, and started marveling at the five very different concoctions.


As each team presented their drink’s name and inspiration (with considerable flair and salesmanship), we toasted them and sampled their creation.

The Wrap Up

How did our mixology creations stack up? We gathered around a poster to weigh in. With a colored sticky dot for each team, tasters then placed them by the statement that best represented how they felt about that team’s drink. Honestly, no physical prizes were needed — we were all feeling the vibes of an afternoon well spent together.  

“It was so much fun to learn about other HFLI team members through their mocktail recipes. Whether it was trying a favorite flavor combo, hearing of tastes that remind people of home, or seeing someone frantically juice limes, I loved getting to know everyone better (and see the competition bring out our personalities),” Jordan Butler shared.

Would we do this type of team activity again? In a heartbeat! Nan Gill reflected, “I always felt connected to my colleagues and thought I knew them fairly well but participating in the Mocktail Challenge brought me to a whole new level. You just can’t simulate the experience of putting all our creative juices to work in such a fun and light-hearted competitive environment. What started as an idea to fully engage all our team members turned into a hilarious and delicious experience!”

Next time, we might have a better supply of basic ingredients for everyone to use, which should bring down the cost. If time or driving were a factor, we could also skip the market, and instead have an array of ingredients on hand.

Hmmm…appetizers, anyone?

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