Once an afterthought on drink menus, mocktails are now taking their rightful place at hotspots across the valley. Here’s a taste of what the buzz is (or isn’t) all about
Kame Soda at Sushi Kame, $5
Soda for designated drivers has been the staple for ... basically ever at this point, but they shouldn’t be limited to Coke or Pepsi. Sushi Kame makes handmade sodas in a variety of flavors, such as berry, matcha, black sesame, Japanese cola, and shiso leaf. They’re subtle and refreshing, and a welcome alternative to fountain drinks. “I always crave flavorful soda that’s not overly sweet,” lead bartender Joon Koo says. Plus,he did “Dry July” and got tired of plain water.
Rouge Desir at Partage, $9
Mocktails don’t always look like cocktails, but this one does. Served “up” in elegant stemware and garnished with berries and mint, this bar favorite blends raspberry, strawberry, vanilla syrup, and cranberry juice. The result is frothy, complex, and not overly sweet. For best results, pair it with a berry dessert. “People think it’s just fruit juice, but it’s not,” bartender Ian Ayson says. “It’s more creative than that.”
The Baby Driver at Jammyland, $7
“I love making nonalcoholic stuff,” Jammyland co-owner Danielle Crouch says. “It’s so boring to drink soda all the time.” So she invented the Baby Driver, a sweet, tart, gingery mocktail with a distinctive tiki vibe. It’s made with fresh-juiced lime, pineapple, ginger, muddled mint, a splash of soda, and a few drops of bitters. It’s refreshing, bright, and — most importantly — the opposite of boring.
Mango Spritzer at District One, $6
Mocktails aren’t always just cocktails minus the booze, but sometimes they are. This is true of the Mango Spritzer, a boozeless version of the popular Vietnamese restaurant’s Red Lantern. The mocktail transforms mango puree, lime, simple syrup, and Sprite into a peachy smoothie with a little skunk. “A lot of our customers don’t drink,” bar lead Janelle Grady says. Instead, they come in for kombucha-like vinegar shrubs or the divine Toasted Coconut, a dream made of pineapple juice, condensed milk and, yes, toasted coconut.
Lavanada at Locale, $6
Think fresh lemonade, rich honey, ginger beer, and a touch of earthy lavender, and you’re thinking of the Lavanada. Chef Nicole Brisson’s neighborhood Italian joint offers three mocktails, each with different flavor profiles. The drinks are popular among pregnant women and kids who want to play grown-up, but they’re not just for sober folks. “We sometimes get people who ask for a mocktail with alcohol because they want those flavors but with vodka,” a bartender told us.