When chef Nick Elmi quit drinking alcohol four years ago, he remembers being surprised how often he would ask for a soft drink in a restaurant and only be offered a Coke or a sprite. As a sober hospitality professional, he was disappointed. âIf you don’t think of everyone, then you don’t think of anyone,â he said.
Today, the Top Chef winner and owner of Laurel, ITV, Lark and The Landing Kitchen says bar programs in Philadelphia have changed for the better. Whether it’s due to sobriety, pregnancy, health issues, and a number of personal reasons, more and more people are saying âno thanksâ to alcohol. And many restaurants and bars have added mocktails – also known as mocktails, NA (non-alcoholic) drinks, zero-proof drinks, and other cute nicknames like “uncocktails” – to their menus.
âWe went beyond 10 years ago, when you walked into any bar and the only things they had were orange juice, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. on the [soda] pistol â, explains Resa Mueller, bartender at R&D at Fishtown and Cocktail Commissioner at Hotel W bar.
The cocktail expert enjoys the challenge of creating great non-alcoholic drinks. It’s hard to replicate the structure, undertones, and silky texture that alcohol can lend to drinks, but she has found a number of alternatives that work. For example, Mueller likes to use fresh fruit juices, homemade syrups, soda in small amounts, tannic teas, glycerin-based bitters, and coconut or oat milk in his NA drinks.
It has also incorporated non-alcoholic spirits – a new segment of the beverage market that has seen explosive growth in recent years – into its beverages. “I really like Ritual, “she says.” They make a zero-proof alcohol called Tequila Alternative that’s made from agave, which is pretty cool, and [one called] Alternative to whiskey. “
Elmi seeks âcreativity and balanceâ in the zero-proof drinks he serves in his restaurants and those he orders when he goes out to dinner. âIt’s pretty easy to challenge the bar team to come up with something fun, so people who want to have an NA cocktail don’t feel out of place to ask,â he says. “Whether you’re sober or taking a month or a night off, it’s always nice to be able to have something creative and fun when you eat and drink.”
Here’s where to find some of the best non-alcoholic drinks in the area. Each place on this list features its non-spirited drinks right on the menu – so you don’t have to ask for something special, it’s waiting for you right there.
Considered by many to be one of the best cocktail bars in town, R&D is part of the Suraya, Pizzeria Beddia and Condesa family of restaurants. Bartender Resa Mueller creates new zero-proof cocktails every few months. She says tiki drinks lend themselves to being alcohol-free, thanks to their use of fresh fruit juice and coconut. That’s why you will often find a virgin colada with fresh pineapple, coconut cream and grated nutmeg on the R&D menu. Or a negroni-inspired drink that features alcohol-free spirits from the South African brand Abstinence, and a grapefruit syrup with honey, which adds “viscosity and shine” to give it a real cocktail feeling.
With a menu full of unusual dishes like lamb’s tongue, pig’s head and pig’s blood cannoli, Ember & Ash couldn’t go with a standard âmocktailâ or âzero proof cocktailâ menu. No, the new East Passyunk restaurant has named its soft drinks âNon-Booze Jawnsâ. Director of Beverages Kristian Fidrych offers four glasses to be associated with cooking offers focused on wood-fired meat. There’s a watermelon spritz brightened up with turmeric vinegar, a spicy version of a margarita, a sip of berries, but the real draw here is the negroni – it’s made entirely from three homemade alcohol-free spirits. The team creates the bitter flavors we expect from a traditional negroni with herbs, spices, plants, fruit peels and burnt sugar.
People have been drinking shrubs since the 1600s, but you might not know much about these drinkable vinegars. They combine fresh fruit or juice with sugar and vinegar to form a refreshing, pleasantly tart but sweet drink that makes a great alternative to alcohol. On Head House Square, Bloomsday relies on local, seasonal ingredients for its homemade shrubs using fruit from Pennsylvania farms. The friendly place prepares two NA soft drinks using Three springs fruit, one with a blueberry shrub, tea and thyme, and one with a plum shrub and tea.
When San Francisco-based cocktail expert Rohini Moradi created the menu for the Solstice bar in Newtown, she focused on a signature ingredient from the alcohol-free collection: aloe juice. Its texture and earthy notes work well as an alcohol substitute in Solstice’s “non-cocktails”, which borrow everything but alcohol from a few of its cocktails – and come with photogenic toppings like mint leaves. golden and candied rosemary.
In West Philly, Renata’s alcohol-free menu is almost as long as her cocktail list. Hand-squeezed lemonade is the basis of a few of these refreshing drinks – bartenders then add colorful mixes, like wild blueberries, rose water, and wild mint. If lemonade isn’t your drink of choice, the Mediterranean all-day cafe also offers pomegranate molasses infused soda and a grenadine and cream option.
In Ardmore, Lola’s Garden takes a page from its hearty cocktail menu to offer five mocktails. Bartenders at this new mainline hotspot use grilled pineapple juice for an alcohol-free version of a popular tequila-based cocktail, with a hint of heat from fresno pepper extract. They also make a drink that changes color using butterfly pea flower and lime juice to add a wow factor to a zero-proof drink. Lola’s offers plenty of outdoor seating and even an outdoor bar, making it a cozy space if you’re not ready to dine inside yet.
The most family-friendly bar in town – you know, the one with the playground – don’t forget the four-legged friends. That’s right: Craft Hall has a menu of dog mocktails. These âdogua frescasâ involve fresh fruits and vegetables mixed with coconut water and served in your dog’s water dish. Don’t worry, the Delaware Avenue destination also offers four user-friendly mocktails that focus on fresh fruit purees – and for just $ 6.
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Zahav has long been a destination for non-drinkers – thanks to its owner, Michael Solomonov, who has been sober for years. With their new restaurant, their group of restaurants has taken an even closer look at alcohol-free libations. Fans of zero-proof drinks praise Laser Wolf’s fruit offerings, with passion fruit, salt beets, tamarind, and sour cherries dotting the menu. Kensington Restaurant has become one of the hardest tables to get, so book early or try to sit at the bar.
Since Chef Jen Carroll doesn’t drink alcohol, she made sure to incorporate NA drinks into her Spice Finch bar menu. âWe wanted cocktails to be special and accessible to everyone, whether or not you choose to indulge in alcoholâ¦ whatever your reason,â she explains. His Rittenhouse restaurant serves what might be the only non-alcoholic shot in town. Feel the Fire Tonic is a zero-proof shot made with freshly squeezed ginger, lemon, turmeric and honey. Throw one in and follow it up with an alcohol-free negroni or a carrot-based concoction called Pretty Gritty.
At Cherry Hill, bar pro Danny Childs is known for sourcing ingredients, fermenting in-house, and making much of the bar menu himself, including zero-proof drinks. Childs is particularly proud of their homemade fermented sodas, which combine “citrus, sweet, bubbly”. In addition to these sodas as well as homemade kombucha, the mocktails feature herbs from the restaurant’s garden and a combination of vinegar-based shrubs.
For over three decades, White Dog Cafe has won fans for its local, farm-to-table cuisine. This philosophy is also reflected in the bar menu. The restaurant, which started in University City and now has outposts in Glen Mills, Haverford and Wayne, is looking into the season for its mocktails. That could mean apple cider and caramelized sugar in the fall and peachy mojitos in the summer.
Always at the forefront of drink culture and distill, Old City’s Art in the Age bases its non-alcoholic drinks around a zero-proof spirit: Hemp and the Pathfinder root. Art in the Age founder Steven Grasse co-founded this hemp-based, avant-garde botanical alcohol-free spirit, which contains notes of fir, sage, juniper, saffron, wormwood and of angelica root. Try it in the Art in the Age Tasting Room in an alcohol-free cocktail created by resident mixologist Lee Noble.
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