Not so long ago, bartenders gave no respect to nondrinkers. As in, a disdainful look and maybe a desultory question, such as, “You want fruit in that club soda, mister?” So-called mocktails—icky-sweet Shirley Temples and Virgin Marys—were wannabes at best. Then, in 2017, a revered Chicago barkeep, Julia Momose, issued her manifesto: “The very term ‘mocktail’ evokes negative feelings. Is it a mockery of a cocktail, a disappointment since it isn’t a ‘real’ cocktail?” Today’s rebranding: the “spirit-free drink.” With mixologists embracing creative techniques and ingredients, being on the wagon was never so much fun.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, Chicago
Cindy’s, this hotel’s hip rooftop restaurant and event space, boasts an open-air terrace with panoramic views of Millennium Park and spirit-free cocktail selections that include the Balenciaga, a rich, zangy and aromatic blend of spiced clementine, pineapple, Seedlip Spice 94 (a brand called “the world’s first distilled nonalcoholic spirits” by its U.K.-based producer), lemon and ginger beer.
The Palazzo at The Venetian Resort, Las Vegas
At his ultra-chic Cut Las Vegas, Wolfgang Puck proves you don’t have to wash down a 35-ounce American Wagyu Porterhouse ($235) with a three-olive martini by offering spirit-free alternatives, such as Peach & Passion Fruit Smash, with purees of these fruits and spicy lemongrass-ginger syrup for a slow burn to play off a muddle of fresh mint.
Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
This Parisian monument to the high life has an ever-changing selection of the world’s most exclusive Dom Perignon champagnes at its Le Bar, yet offers more than a passing nod to the spirit-free drinker. The enigmatically named Skull is one such creation—a mixture of fresh mint, Granny Smith green apple, aloe vera, ginger ale, lime and elderflower syrup.
The Nomad Hotel, New York City
Nomad Bar, a casually elegant cousin to chef Daniel Humm’s Michelin three-star Eleven Madison Park, offers “soft cocktails” that include quintessentially refreshing Spring & Tonic, which is comprised of Seedlip Garden 108 (a floral distillate of peas, hay and garden herbs from the producer’s own farm), grapefruit, fennel syrup, yuzu and a spritz of tonic water.