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Coloradans certainly love their craft IPAs and locally distilled spirits, but there are plenty of good reasons—pregnancy, addiction, driving, calorie-counting—to go alcohol-free. Until recently, that mostly meant missing out, but not anymore. Bartenders and artisans in Denver and beyond are concocting complex sips with the same thoughtfulness and care they put into their cocktails—minus the giggle juice.
Departure Restaurant & Lounge
Halcyon Hotel, 249 Columbine St., 720-722-5020
We thought it was impossible to make a proper old fashioned without whiskey, but Departure’s Darjeeling version says otherwise. The stirred blend of black tea, turbinado syrup, angostura bitters, and lemon is served over a crystal-clear ice cube with a Luxardo cherry and lemon twist garnish. It looks—and, more important, satisfies—just like the original.
Dram co-owner Shae Whitney designed her sugar-free, bitters-infused sparkling waters to work as bottled mocktails. Poured over ice or mixed with a splash of juice or tea (which can have a spirit-esque quality when over-steeped), these sophisticated sippers are several steps above La Croix. You can find varieties like floral citrus and spicy cardamom black tea at both Boulder Cured locations, in Denver at the Proper Pour in the Source, and online.
Oak at Fourteenth
1400 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-3622
Oak, Acorn, and Brider co-owner/beverage director Bryan Dayton has always featured a selection of “no booze” drinks on his menus to make sure, he says, “everybody at the restaurant has a good time.” The Rehydrator—a blend of aloe, cranberry juice, lime, honey, and Luxardo cherry syrup—strikes a perfect balance of acidity and tannins.
American Cultures Kombucha Taproom
3233 Tejon St., Suite 107, 720-402-8394
For a taproom experience minus the beer, head to American Cultures. The airy LoHi hangout offers 16 kinds of locally brewed fermented drinks, from kefir and kombucha to “jun” (like kombucha, but made with Colorado honey, not cane sugar). Sample four kinds via a flight, and don’t miss the kombucha floats with Scrumptious or Sweet Action ice cream.
The Kitchen and the Kitchen Upstairs
1039 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-544-5973
At the Kitchen and the Kitchen Upstairs, all the botanical goodness of a gin and tonic is present in the Flowerbed virgin cocktail, which combines muddled cucumber with elderflower tonic, lime, and soda water to refreshing effect.
Comida’s margaritas have been applauded over the years, but we’d argue that the aguas frescas also deserve fanfare. While flavors such as pineapple and watermelon are tempting, the sweet-tart, house-made pomegranate lemonade is downright addictive. You’ve been warned.