You’ve decided to join your friends at a bar and you are not drinking. If the bar is crowded, you are not going to have time to have a lengthy conversation with the bartender about how to craft the perfect mocktail. Perhaps you want to discreetly order a non-alcoholic cocktail without anyone taking notice, or you just want a go-to alcohol free beverage that’s easy to make but still worth drinking.
When it comes to ordering non alcoholic drinks to at a bar, you are mostly at the mercy of how well the bar is stocked with fresh ingredients and quality mixers. However, there are some basic rules and ingredient combinations that will help you decide what’s best for the occasion with what they have available.
Here are the best non alcoholic drinks to order at a bar that are easy and most commonly available:
- Tonic + Lime – This is the easiest mocktail to order at a bar
- Non-alcoholic Moscow Mule – Every bartender knows a Moscow Mule, subtract the alcohol
- Virgin Pina Colada – Classic tropical cocktail that’s fun to drink with or without alcohol
- Club Soda w/ Dash of Bitters + Rosemary Sprig – This is a great low-calorie mocktail easily made at any bar; if they do not have rosemary, substitute for any available herb or lemon wheel
These might be the easiest mocktails that can be made at almost any bar, but there are a lot of great alcohol free drinks that you can order as long as you know what kinds of ingredients are available.
In this article, I will show you what to look for, what flavor combinations always work, how to discreetly order a drink, and where to find a great bar mocktail.
WHAT IS A MOCKTAIL?
A mocktail is a festive beverage without alcohol, especially crafted like a cocktail. Some are common cocktails with the alcohol removed, commonly called “virgin” cocktails.
Mocktails are not just for expectant mothers, designated drivers, or that kid that always asks for a Shirley Temple. These days, more people are opting out of drinking alcohol, for a day, for a season, forever. Going out for drinks is a common social activity, and bars are beginning to cater more seriously to a mix of customers who do and don’t drink alcohol.
A common misconception with mocktails is that they are always sweet. This is definitely not true – for just one example, refer to number four of easiest mocktails above. Today, there are even alcohol free spirits that help imitate the flavor of an alcoholic beverage, and attempt to craft mocktails just as seriously as cocktails. We’ll touch on this below, as there are certain bars that carry these spirits.
So…what makes a great mocktail?
GINGER BEER AND STAPLE INGREDIENTS
When deciding what kind of drink I want, there are a couple factors: a) flavor profile i.e. sweet, herbal, citric, fruity, etc. and b) what kind of base do I want? Here are some examples of choices the bartender may have on hand to craft your mocktail:
- Base mixers like ginger beer, tonic water, soda water, sodas like ginger ale
- Fresh fruit juices (orange juice, cranberry juice)
- Sweeteners – syrups, sugar
- Coconut milk and coconut water
TRIED AND TRUE FLAVOR COMBINATIONS
Consider these flavor combinations commonly found in cocktails. Some of these flavors can often be found infused in simple syrups at many bars as well.
- Tonic + herbs
- Tonic + citrus
- Ginger + mint
- Cucumber + mint
- Lavender + sage
- Pineapple + coconut milk
- Watermelon + basil
- Lemon + honey
HOW TO ORDER AN ALCOHOL FREE DRINK AT A BAR WITHOUT DRAWING ATTENTION
It’s no secret that ordering a non-alcoholic drink at a bar is not always socially acceptable. There’s always that one person that has to make a predictable and unclever joke or roll their eyes.
Of course, abstaining from alcohol is nothing to be ashamed of, but some still prefer to be careful about broadcasting it. If this is you, consider the tips listed below for approaching a bartender discreetly about your choice of beverage.
Tip #1: If there’s a printed cocktail menu, get your hands on one and look at all the different ingredients they are using.
Tip #2: Take a stroll around the bar and see if you can spot what types of herbs and garnishes are at your disposal. They are usually neatly displayed in cups or jars on the counter in front of the bartender stations. If you want to be discreet, take a peek on your way to the restroom.
Tip #3: If the bar is crowded, the best approach for being discreet will be ordering a simple club soda and lime or tonic water and lime.
Tip #4: If it’s a reputable bar, feel confident asking for their best mocktail that is [insert preferred flavor profile]. The bartender will likely be extremely helpful and delighted to get creative – it’s their job! It’s fun to give them the freedom to create, and it’s fun to be surprised by an excellent mocktail. The bar at Gibson in San Francisco has a drink called NA-groni, made from special ingredients like schizandra berries.
Tip #5: If the bar is more of a dive bar with basic offerings, best to stick to the basics. The same rules apply as tip #3 for crowded bars.
Tip #6: If you want to be really sneaky, offer to grab drinks for your friend or group at the bar so you can order your alcohol free cocktail without judgement.
Tip #7: Most importantly, do not use a night out at a bar with friends or colleagues to educate them about the benefits of not drinking.
RECIPES FOR NON ALCOHOLIC DRINKS TO ORDER AT A BAR
The below list are recipes I have tested at home with alcohol free spirits, but could easily be made without them and still taste great. Equally, any bartender should know how to make these, so you won’t be stuck just ordering a ginger ale.
Non Alcoholic Moscow Mule
What’s in it: A Moscow Mule mocktail will have ginger beer with lime juice and mint garnish. The ginger beer carries the drink anyway. You won’t even notice the lack of vodka. Just about any bartender will know how to make it. If this doesn’t sound creative enough then try the next option.
Cucumber Mint Mule Without Alcohol
What’s in it: A cucumber mint mule has ginger beer w/ lime juice and muddled cucumber, plus a mint garnish. It’s a simple upgrade from the original moscow mule recipe. Cucumber gives the ginger beer an added lift. Some ginger beers can be pretty sweet and heavy. You can always ask for them to cut it with club soda to make it less sweet.
Tonic Water with Lime Juice and Rosemary Garnish
What’s in it: This is a very fresh beverage and also easy to make. I love rosemary with tonic water but you can use whatever the bar has on hand, lime wedge or herb sprig of your choosing.
Frozen Non Alcoholic Piña Colada
What’s in it: A lot of bars can make a piña colada, so just ask for the virgin one. It will taste sweeter without the rum, but still a very festive drink. It is made with coconut milk and pineapple, and it’s usually frozen.
Club Soda w/ Dash of Bitters + Rosemary Sprig
What’s in it: This drink is one of my favorite non-alcoholic cocktails. Every bar has club soda, some kind of bitters, and most will have at least one herb. Rosemary is my favorite pick, but any will do, or add a lemon wheel if citrus sounds better. This is a great drink if you are interested in sugar free mocktails and low calorie mocktails to order at a bar.
BARS THAT OFFER MOCKTAILS WITH ALCOHOL FREE SPIRITS
Some bars are beginning to offer mocktails made with non-alcoholic spirits. These spirits are usually one of two things: a) a mixer crafted to taste like its alcoholic counterpart or b) a creative new flavored base for alternative beverages that does not attempt to replace a certain alcoholic spirit.
The brand Seedlip is a distilled non-alcoholic spirit, and the first to pop up in bars and restaurants. Seedlip specifically posts a map of bars, shops, and restaurants that carry their spirits. If these restaurants and bars are close to where you live, you will likely find some of the best mocktails in town at these locations, since most of them are upscale. Some examples include Rich Table in San Francisco or Nite Cap in New York.
GO TO AN ALCOHOL FREE BAR
Believe it or not, there are bars solely dedicated to offering alcohol free beverages. There aren’t many, and they are mostly located in major cities, but they are constantly popping up. One example of an alcohol free bar is Getaway in Brooklyn, where you can get coffee, tea, mocktails, or even pick up a bottle.
MOCKTAILS AT HOME
While the mocktails you can easily order at any bar might be simple, I think you can find talented bartenders that welcome the challenge. If you’re interested in crafting your own delicious mocktails at home with quality alcohol free spirits, you should definitely check out the recipes library.
If you don’t have any alcohol free spirits at home, I recommend starting with Monday Zero Alcohol Gin or Ritual Zero Proof Tequila Alternative. They are both great in mocktails, and it’s always nice to have a bottle handy for a festive beverage, any time of day. Here is a great cocktail tool set to get you started making drinks at home: