Nashville Restaurants Craft Creative Mocktails for Sober January and Beyond
So you’ve decided to ring in 2018 by embarking on a Whole30 month of eating clean. Or you’ve implemented a momentary ban on drinking alcohol after a little too much indulgence in 2017.
Regardless of why you’ve decided to stop drinking alcohol, you can still hang at the bar with your friends or conduct that business meeting over cocktails without having to order a Shirley Temple and call a bunch of unwanted attention to yourself.
Restaurants are wising up to the fact that not everyone wants to drink alcoholic beverages, but some folks still want to be a part of the group that just happens to be meeting at the bar. Now, with the rise in popularity of the mocktail, you can order and enjoy an alcohol-free drink without anyone knowing the difference.
Jon Howard, lead bartender at Henley restaurant on Broadway in Nashville, said restaurant kitchens have options for vegetarians and vegans, so why wouldn’t the bar have options beyond soda or water for those who don’t drink alcohol?
“Admittedly, when my wife became pregnant, it hit me like a rock to do this,” Howard said. “We now have four cocktails on the menu that are non-alcoholic. We wanted to have something for everybody.”
The Sober Sage from Chauhan Ale & Masala House includes mango, lime and ginger beer in addition to the namesake herb, sage.
Christen McClure, bartender at Chauhan Ale & Masala House on 12th Ave. N. in Nashville, agreed that having an option for expectant mothers was a driving force behind the origination of his mocktails, but response to them has been overwhelming from a much broader group than the moms-to-be.
“Instead of just removing the alcohol from existing drinks, we have created new drinks with creative and seasonal ingredients,” McClure said. “People enjoy the option of having a craft cocktail without the alcohol, and being able to have something fancier than just soda or juice.”
At The Mockingbird, also on 12th Ave. N., general manager Mikey Corona, says their popular alcoholic drink called The Punchin’ Bag is a no-brainer to remake as a mocktail.
The Mockingbird's Punchin’ Bag was influenced by aguas frescas, a blend of fresh fruit and herbs. (Photo: Courtesy of The Mockingbird)
“The Punchin’ Bag was influenced by aguas frescas, which are a blend of fresh fruit and herbs, so making it non-alcoholic is the way it is typically served,” Corona said.
Howard added that at Henley, there’s thought that goes into the presentation and the naming of the drinks. The fact that they don’t stand out from their alcoholic counterparts is by design.
“We don’t want people who aren’t drinking to feel alienated,” he said. “The drinks have names just like the others, so you can just order the Traveler’s Tonic. It looks like a cocktail and is garnished like a cocktail and it has just as much impactful flavor, just no alcohol.”
One of Howard’s newest mocktail creations is a Sugar Plum Shrub. He says in colonial England, the British were trying to find new ways to preserve fruit, so they added sugar and vinegar to fruit and over time, created a drinking vinegar called a “shrub.”
“We make a house-made plum shrub,” Howard said. “We add a little salt, seltzer water and rim the glass with spiced sugar. It’s slightly sweet and with the vinegar base that’s highly acidic, you end up with a really playful beverage.”
There’s even some health benefits to drinking a mocktail beyond the absence of liquor and the sugar it contains.
“The health benefits to having a mocktail are not having the alcohol for one, but also, we try to use fresh ingredients and spices such as turmeric and fenugreek that are beneficial to your health,” McClure said. “We try to use herbs, fruits and vegetables in their freshest form to ensure that the mocktail has all the health benefits possible.”
Sarah Scarborough, founder of Firepot Nomadic Teas, says that fancying up a beverage goes beyond the bar. She has created several mocktail recipes using her organic teas, and says they are meant to taste more like a cocktail than a cup of tea.
More: Firepot Nomadic Teas warm the belly, stoke the imagination
“For example, we have one tea from our Rituals Collection called Illuminated Mind,” Scarborough said. “To make it a mocktail, steep the tea double strength with half a jalapeño. Then, top with Topo Chico sparkling mineral water, salt and the juice from half of a lime. It ends up being kind of like a margarita without any sugar or alcohol and it has antioxidants. The mocktail is a super cool iridescent green and is very refreshing and awakening.”
And her tea mocktails can even pack a bit of an alcohol-free buzz as well.
“These mocktails are almost like real cocktails,” she said. “These have caffeine and you can get what the ancient Chinese culture calls ‘tea drunk.’ It’s different than being drunk from alcohol, but there is a slight buzz associated to it, just without all the alcohol and sugar.”
Both McClure and Howard said their mocktails have a permanent spot on their drink menu and won’t disappear along with everyone’s New Year’s resolutions.
“I see this as a trend,” Howard said. “People sometimes need a break from alcohol and we can give you something that’s fresh and compelling. We will always have non-alcoholic drink options on our menu that will change seasonally just like our cocktail menu.”