Buzz-Free Bliss

Photography by Debbie Cunningham

Remember when teetotalers had to resign themselves to sipping a Pepsi while their dining companions indulged in a nice glass of wine or a craft cocktail? Those days are disappearing as bartenders explore a new frontier of nonalcoholic mocktails that are every bit as complex and enticing as their alcohol-laden counterparts.

At Allora, assistant sommelier T. Sean Hamilton says the wine-centric restaurant has embraced mocktails because “so much of what we do here is about the experience, so making sure everyone is included is paramount to us.”

Allora’s bartenders have concocted The Beret, made with raspberry syrup, Burly Beverages ginger beer syrup and freshly squeezed lime and garnished with a violet, in honor of Prince and his song “Raspberry Beret.” There’s also SJ’s Garden Variety, named for chef Deneb Williams’ mother, who tends the kitchen garden for the restaurant. The drink contains orgeat, cucumber, lime, oleo saccharum (a sweet syrup derived from citrus zest), angostura bitters and mint leaves.

At Localis, where the innovative menu revolves around seasonal produce, the drinks are highly influenced by what’s happening in the kitchen. “Our whole bar program is based on a chef creating the flavor profiles of our drinks, so we have more of a food-driven approach,” explains chef Christopher Barnum-Dann.

Take the Princess and the Pea mocktail, made with muddled pea tendrils and mint, apple cider, a pea simple syrup made from pea shells, the juice of Meyer and Eureka lemons, and mineral water. “It’s got a bright, green flavor that people really seem to like,” says Barnum-Dann.

Abstainers, he asserts, like being treated as more than an afterthought. “Diners are really appreciative that we take the time to make really delicious mocktails. We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re not going to get the same experience as everyone else, so it’s really important to us to offer up nonalcoholic options.”

At THAI (The House of Authentic Ingredients), customers’ favorite mocktail is the Tang Thai, a sweet, fruit-forward drink made with pineapple, cranberry, hibiscus and freshly squeezed lemon juices, lemonade and lotus extract, which lends the drink its floral notes. “Some say the lotus extract tastes like your grandmother’s perfume smells,” says server Devon Smith. THAI also makes its own refreshing sodas in flavors like coconut, lotus, tamarind, Japanese melon and lemon grass.