It’s that time of year when a flip of the calendar page sets us on paths of change.
Some people start the year off with Dry January, whether for health benefits, to be hangover-free, to cut back on drinking habits, or merely to focus on mindful consumption.
You might not want the buzz, but you still might want the flavor, and, too often, alcohol-free cocktails are cloyingly sweet and garish. Luckily, some Atlanta barkeeps have a keen focus on this, and are ready to make a complex drink that replicates a cocktail experience. You don’t have to hibernate through “Dryuary.” Instead, check out these eight spots for alcohol-free drinks.
At Decatur’s the Deer and the Dove, bartender Janice Vanderheyden doesn’t list alcohol-free cocktails. Instead, she takes the guest on a choose-your-own-adventure experience. Like the food menu, she stays seasonal, then asks about guest preferences toward fruity or herbaceous tones.
“We make a lot of herb syrups, so I will usually do something with one of those and a citrus and then top it off with Blenheim’s ginger ale or some Montane (sparkling water),” Vanderheyden said.
“I currently have some pear syrup that I’ve made, so I’ll ask if they want something with pear and winter spice, and I’ll make a pear lemonade,” she said. “They can be as fun to create, and just as tasty, as a spirited cocktail.”
The Deer and the Dove. 155 Sycamore St., Decatur. 404-748-4617, deerdove.com.
Thanks to nonalcoholic distilled spirits like Seedlip and Grant’s 23 Herb Distillate, there are terrific alcohol replication modifiers for mixing cocktails these days. There are many choices that match the farm and coastal aesthetic at Ocean & Acre, part of the new Halcyon development in Alpharetta. The Meadow is a spicy and citrusy drink with a backbone of Grove 42, Seedlip’s citrus distillate made from three types of oranges, plus spices. Japanese chile bitters add heat, while demerara citrus tames and rounds it out.
Ocean & Acre. 6290 Halcyon Way, Alpharetta. 678-823-8887, oceanandacre.com.
At Aziza on the Westside, beverage director Demario Wallace melds Mediterranean spices, such as sumac and za’atar, to match chef Brandon Hughes’ nontraditional Israeli menu. Wallace’s Harissa Cooler, with red pepper, agave and cucumber, is amped up by the acidity of citric and malic. It is both refreshing and savory, with pleasing vegetal notes.
Aziza. 1170 Howell Mill Road NW, Atlanta. 404-968-9437, aziza-restaurant.com.
At new Beltline hotspot Cold Beer, Mercedes O’Brien combines uncommon ingredients with poised balance, focusing as much on her no-proof cocktails as the booze-filled drinks. She said she chose the route of using nonalcoholic distillate spirits “because I wanted to construct a drink that has a flavored base that offers a foundation to build the mocktail, much like a base spirit lends to a true cocktail. This helps in creating a well-rounded and truer form of a ‘cocktail’ and leans away from just using sugar and juice in a glass.” An example is her Still Lit Gimlet 9, with Grant’s 23 Herb Distillate, cucumber, mint, lime and curry oil.
Cold Beer. 670 DeKalb Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-254-1032, coldbeeratl.com.
The new, swanky Mr. B. bar at the Burgess Hotel pours both classic cocktails and innovative riffs to match the sophisticated ambiance and sleek design. The cranberry-citrus cordial is an elevated version of a cranberry cocktail that begins with oleo-saccharum. Grapefruit and lemon zests are mixed with sugar and, over time, the sugar takes on the intensity of citrus oils. The final product is mixed with pure cranberry juice for a sipper that is a balance of sweet and zesty.
Mr. B. 3600 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta. 404-869-1100, theburgesshotel.com.
“Eat healthier” is a frequent New Year’s resolution. Bartenders at the Iberian Pig in Decatur craft a tasty and well-balanced cocktail while packing it with healthful potassium and vitamins A and C. The Rosetop Road is bright and refreshing, with a hint of baking spice, as apple and carrot juices swirl with lemon juice and spiced demerara.
The Iberian Pig. 121 Sycamore St., Decatur. 404-371-8800, theiberianpigatl.com.
Sometimes, a cocktail conjures memories, song lyrics or a particular time. You don’t need alcohol to accomplish this. Lead barkeep Zee Zammit makes chef Joey Ward’s visions come to life behind the bar at Southern Belle. As she shakes up an At the Drive-In, a frothy egg white concoction of lime cordial, sour cherry and tonic, she tells how the drink is reminiscent of the drive-in restaurants and theaters of Ward’s youth. You’ll feel like you’re at the drive-in, indeed.
Southern Belle. 1043 Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-698-3961, southernbelleatlanta.com.
Gunshow started a zero-proof cocktail program, not only as a way to offer alcohol-abstinent guests delicious, forward-thinking options, but also to utilize various bar and kitchen scraps. “Our No. 11 cocktail is made with last year’s kumquats that we preserved in local Georgia honey and combined with fresh ginger juice, and acid-adjusted orange juice that we always have as a byproduct of all those toasted Old-Fashioned peels,” bartender Josh Washburn said. He tops the No. 11 with sparkling water for a super refreshing and seasonally appropriate zero-proof option.
Gunshow. 924 Garrett St., Atlanta. 404-380-1886, gunshowatl.com.
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