Head to Esmé, a Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant known for its fanciful tasting menus, for an equally fanciful array of cocktails and food pairings.
Drinks range from something called curry corn, made with corn stock and a variety of spices, to Johnny’s, made with tea and something called “popcorn verge” (grape juice flavored with essentially caramelized popcorn). There are various things called apple tea.
But there is one thing you don’t see in any of these. It’s sake.
Tia Barrett, director of beverages and operations at Esmé, incorporated the same level of detail and sophistication that the bartenders did with the restaurant’s pairing menu of eight non-alcoholic drinks, an additional $135 to the $235 tasting menu. says he is trying. She says craft cocktails. She even refuses to call the drink a mocktail.
“It discredits the effort you put into the drink,” she says.
Recently, watering holes across the country have attempted similar efforts. In particular, the bar and restaurant industry is trying to attract non-alcoholic customers in the first month of the year. According to a survey by research firm Morning Consult, 19% of U.S. adults will participate in a dry January in 2022, up from 13% the year before.
That percentage is expected to increase in 2023, said Emily Mokin, food and beverage analyst at the company. Driving the trend is a wide variety of non-alcoholic offerings, including mocktails. “There are so many options now,” she says.
Instead, there’s Faux|groni, a cool take on the classic Negroni cocktail. This drink is featured on the menu at Brother His Wolf, a bar in Knoxville, Tennessee. Co-owner and co-operator Jessica King said, “It will fool seasoned Negroni drinkers.”
Or try Rural Juror, a bar in New York City for non-alcoholic drinks at Mr. Paradise. Combining carrot juice, spices, cream, and sparkling water, owner Will his Mr. Wyatt says the orange is reminiscent of his Julius. “You have this big squishy body,” he said of the texture of the sip, adding that the drink’s name was lifted from a reference to the sitcom 30 Rock.
Gair, another New York bar, takes an interesting approach to mocktail naming. A non-alcoholic drink made with mixed blackberry, lime juice and ginger syrup called Look Ma, No Booze. “We want to have fun,” says Robert Struthers, his Gair director of beverages.
In Dallas, booze-free options abound at the many bars and restaurants that are part of what is known as the Margarita Mile. Some are inspired by familiar tequila-based cocktails, such as the hibiscus moccarita, made with hibiscus syrup and lime juice, and are served at both Joe Leo and Rustic, two establishments under the same owner.
This is not our first round of mocktails. Long before bartenders started crafting his non-alcoholic drinks with a dizzying array of ingredients, bartenders were creating “virgin” versions of cocktails such as Bloody Her Marie and Pina Her Colada. Or just provide a teetotaler with basic drinks like cranberry juice or soda water.
There is now a move to be more creative and charge non-alcoholic beverages about the same price as alcoholic beverages. Mocktails in upscale bars typically cost $10 or more, and in some cases can exceed $15.
Non-alcoholic drinks start at $17 at Alice, an Italian seafood restaurant in New York City. According to his managing partner Waél Deek, one of his reasons is that some specialty brands, such as the fake spirits (think alcohol-free “gin”) flood the market. raw materials are not necessarily cheap. But that’s also because the drink can be very labor-intensive. Recreating the taste and texture of an alcoholic sip is no easy task, he says.
“We need to be more precise about what we do,” says Deek. “Otherwise, you should just serve the juice.”
““You need to be more precise about what you’re doing, otherwise you might just be juiced.“
There is also quite a bit of research and development for some mocktails to pop up. Dennis Gobis, co-owner and co-operator of the Roosevelt Room bar in Austin, Texas, said after trying nearly 50 of his non-alcoholic Negroni (or, as he calls it, his Na’Groni): perfect formula. Key Ingredients: A small amount of vegetable glycerin.
“It just builds the mouthfeel,” says Gobis.
Some in the bar and liquor industry aren’t convinced this new wave of mocktails is on point. Many say the drink is too watery or too sweet. For others, it’s hard to deny the role liquor plays, both in terms of how it balances cocktails and how it helps you relax.
“You want that alcoholic kick,” says Jared Bailey, manager of Soho Cigar Bars in New York City.
Hilary Scheinbaum, a New Yorker who considers herself a mocktail aficionado and wrote the book The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alternative Months, is good. Some of her non-alcoholic cocktails are served in plain Jane glasses, others without any garnish.
“I die on this hill. Not a drink without garnish, but a drink without alcohol,” Scheinbaum says.
One of the oldest and simplest mocktails, the kid-friendly Shirley Temple is back in fashion as an “OG mocktail,” as website Thrillist described the drink. Traditionally made with ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, grenadine syrup, and maraschino cherries.
Many bars offer an alcoholic version called Dirty Shirley. At his Superfrico, a Las Vegas restaurant and bar, the drink is called Call Me Shirley, and there’s no shortage of liquor. The recipe calls for gin, sherry, and a bit of Aperol, the Italian aperitif.
“We sell a lot,” says Villalobos.