Coachella, the two weekend long celebration of music and art outside Palm Springs, California, is the only place you can watch David Byrne and Beyoncé play back-to-back and it’s coming up fast. But it’s also become something else in recent years: its own food and drink festival. Now, at most big festivals there is a real push and pull as people find increasingly complicated ways to sneak plastic bottles of bargain basement vodka inside. That will almost certainly happen some at Coachella, but seriously guys, it would be a waste of your time and effort. In fact, some of the best drinks won’t be alcoholic at all. Bar Not Bar is the latest addition to the Coachella food and drink lineup and it’s going to have an entire menu of alcohol-free cocktails that can hold their own with their stiffer, boozier cousins.
Bar Not Bar is the latest innovation from the mind of Nic Adler, Coachella’s culinary director. “I didn’t want a space specifically because it was alcohol free,” says Adler. “I never liked the words ‘sober bar’ or ‘mocktails.’ But what if we made recipes that were complex, that people would savor and enjoy and not feel like they had to slam?” That led him to enlist the help of beverage director Jason Eisner who helped work up a sophisticated menu of drinks you should, under no circumstances, call mocktails.
That is not to say there will not be alcoholic drinks available. Adler has reimagined the watered down, overpriced Whiskey Cokes and flavorless beers that used to be the only things available at events like Coachella. And over the last couple years he’s teamed up with cocktail powerhouses like 213 Hospitality (which opened Bar Clacson, one of our favorite bars last year) and the Broken Shaker to put real bars on the festival grounds. And with the new alcohol-free bar, Adler is doing the same thing for the rest of the drinks.
“The way we built the bar, you’re going to be completely confused. It’s got a beautiful back bar display and bartenders shaking up cocktails,” he says. And, as anyone who has spent 10 hours in the desert sun will attest, sometimes what you need to cool you off is not another whiskey.
Several of the concoctions are made with Seedlip, the non-alcoholic spirit that has quietly been making a name for itself behind the bars of some of the world’s best restaurants. And with its fresh and spicy profiles, it will make for good summer drinking. Here’s a few of the drinks Coachella goers can grab if the only buzz they want is the one they feel every time Beyoncé takes the stage:
Campfire Cocktail: Seedlip Spice 94, cola reduction syrup, cold pressed lime juice, vegan toasted marshmallow, cocoa and animal cracker crumble
Chillada Collada: Seedlip Garden, full fat coconut milk, cold pressed pineapple granite and Amarena Cherry
The Notgroni: Hibiscus flower tea, juniper tincture, citrus oil and gassata
Enjoy your weekend in the desert, everyone. And remember, alcohol free cocktails on a 97 degree day are the secret to avoid ending up like this guy.