Whether you’re recovering from a holiday hangover or have sworn off the hard stuff, you can still enjoy alternatives to alcohol that are just as expertly crafted as their boozier counterparts. Mocktails are taking up real estate on drink menus across the East Bay, with fresh ingredients, spices, botanicals, and herbs filling in for spirits.
"I approach mocktails the same way I approach cocktail-making, just minus the booze," says Brice Sanchez, the bar manager at Oakland’s Bardo Lounge and Supper Club. "It wouldn’t be fair to our patrons to have a nonalcoholic section without the same kind of love and effort we put into our cocktails."
That love and effort manifest in drinks like the Good Juju—a riff on a mai tai featuring orgeat and bitters paired with orange juice—and Eden’s Garden, a clean and vegetal creation that mixes three kinds of fresh juice with a Thai basil simple syrup.
Range Life co-owner and bar manager Waine Longwell takes a similar approach at his popular Livermore restaurant. "Removing the spirit provides a fun and interesting challenge to find replacements or complements for the flavor profile of the missing alcohol," he says. "I like to use house-made vinegars, tinctures, infusions, shrubs, teas, oleosaccharum, and syrups. There are a ton of different ways to impart flavor and complexity without reaching for a bottle."
Another key driver for many bar managers is the desire not to leave anyone—whether expecting mothers, those in recovery or attending business dinners, or just regular imbibers taking a break—out in the cold. "We want everyone that comes through the doors to feel included," says Danville Harvest bar manager Peter Hohl. "People from many different walks of life dine with us, and we want them to feel a connection to the rest of the party with the look and taste of the beverage."
So sidle up to the bar and sip something unexpected from the mocktail menu. You may just discoverer a new favorite drink—with no ibuprofen required the next morning.
Drinks Without the Drunk
Head to one of these local watering holes for an alcohol-free tipple.
Bardo Lounge and Supper Club: Four mocktails get prime billing on the second page of Bardo’s drinks menu, and just like their booze-based cousins, they are served in beautiful glassware and incorporate complex tasting notes such as white pepper–thyme–maple and Thai basil simple syrup. Oakland, bardooakland.com.
Danville Harvest: Here, you’ll find at least one quarterly changing cocktail alternative that relies on fresh juices and herbs, plus house-made syrups for nuance. Danville, danvilleharvest.com.
The Kon-Tiki: This bar’s "teetotaler tropicals" section comprises a hefty fifth of the menu, with options that vary from simple (Coca-Cola and coconut cream) to more elaborate (sparkling passion fruit–mango lemonade). Oakland, thekon-tikioakland.com.
Main Street Kitchen and Bar: The nonalcoholic spirit Seedlip takes center stage in Main Street Kitchen concoctions that taste surprisingly like the real deal, especially when paired with ingredients such as jalapeño and cilantro, lemon and grapefruit, or honey and cinnamon. Walnut Creek, mainstkitchen.com.
Range Life: The seasonally changing sippers here highlight fresh ingredients and house-made syrups, shrubs, and juices, with five booze-free drinks that get an extra kick from additions like poblano-infused agave and lapsang souchong tea. Livermore, rangelifelivermore.com.