Atmosphere

Sober Swills

Who says nonalcoholic drinks can't generate a buzz?

November 2009

It had to happen: As classic cocktails returned to drink menus en masse, bartenders have expanded mixology—the art and science of the cocktail—beyond booze. These liquorless concoctions have quickly become mainstays and customer favorites at places like Frasca Food and Wine, St. Julien Hotel & Spa, Olivéa, and Lala Wine Bar + Pizzeria. "A lot of people do not consume alcohol, but they hang out with people who do," says Lala manager Brian Culligan, who serves sparkling ciders to nondrinkers. "They want options."

"If you take the alcohol out, it is still a drink," says Evan Faber, the sommelier at the St. Julien in Boulder. "We're crafting new drinks that don't need booze." St. Julien's new cocktail menu includes several nonalcoholic options, like the tasty Smoked Date Milk Shake (see below). Faber uses fresh ingredients to ensure that the mocktails' flavors stand on their own—sans booze.

Elsewhere, bartenders are ditching commercial sodas for homemade versions, while others have replaced infused liquors with syrups that can be used in drinks mixed with or without liquor. In Uptown, Olivéa's staff crafts house-made organic soda and pairs it with seasonal purées like rhubarb lavender and rosemary cucumber—flavor combinations that deserve a spot on a cocktail menu, alcohol or not. We'll drink to that.