“We don’t call them mocktails,” says Dave Arnold of the nonalcoholic drinks at Existing Conditions, the New York City bar he owns with star barmen Greg Boehm and Don Lee. “We don’t want to mock anyone.” Instead, the team created booze-free beverages— like the Serendipity, a tropical take on an old-fashioned—with the same attention they would pay to traditional cocktails. “A bar atmosphere is a fun, social thing, and you shouldn’t need alcohol to enjoy it,” says Arnold.
Liquid inclusivity is gaining steam on the menus at other high-profile bars in the United States. It’s a natural spin-off of wellness culture. “More people are calling for nonalcoholic drinks, and bartenders are hearing the call,” says Brian Miller, co-owner of the Polynesian, a new tiki bar in NYC. You’ll find a dedicated zero-proof menu at Donetto in Atlanta. And you can get spirit-free drink pairings with your Michelin-starred meal at Oriole in Chicago. At Quince in San Francisco, guests are welcomed with a flute of “a buckwheat tea that’s chilled, carbonated, and topped with lemon air” (a froth made with Meyer lemon juice), says bartender Michael Kudra.
What’s maybe the coolest innovation in alcohol-free drinking is nonalcoholic spirits like Seedlip (made of botanicals, herbs, spices, and a neutral grain mixture). “The trend has opened a door for bartenders to go for the gold in terms of making a believable cocktail substitute,” says Natalie Freihon, managing partner of the Fat Radish, a Brit-inspired spot in NYC. Yes, even those barhopping Brits are getting into it!