Where to Find the Best Mocktails During Dry January in Chicago
Booze-free doesn’t have to mean boring.
Going out for a drink doesn’t always mean alcohol, and temperance definitely has its benefits. And thankfully, prominent Chicago bars and restaurants have stepped up to the challenge of providing non-alcoholic cocktails that don’t taste like a sacrifice, using fruit juices, bitter sodas, and syrups, sometimes in combination with an array of innovative zero-proof distilled spirits that have come into play in recent years.
Lincoln Park tapas classic Cafe Ba Ba Reeba stirs up virgin sangria by the pitcher, farm-to-table fave Daisies offers cocktails fashioned from fermented mushrooms or house-pressed carrot juice, and high-end destinations like Bucktown newcomer Claudia offer 100% non-alcohol cocktail flights to pair with their refined tasting menus.
“Sometimes with wine pairings, by the end of the meal your palate is shot, and you can’t really recall the menu,” says Claudia beverage director Stevan Miller. According to him, non-alcoholic cocktails allow the guest “to be able to better sit down with the ingredients and have a clear picture, a more cuisine-driven experience.”
Miller, a Tucson native who most recently poured cocktails at Bar Sotano, enjoys introducing Southwestern and Latin flavors to his creations, like the nightcap-inspired Baku, a rich mix of sushi rice-based horchata and zero-proof sake lees. The Hibagon, also available at the bar, gets its bold punch from housemade pistachio orgeat and distinct body thanks to a whimsical cap of bonito and shishito foam.
Whether it be for Dry January or beyond, Chicagoans can indulge in an alcoholiday any day of the year at a multitude of top-tier bars and restaurants sporting exciting no-proof cocktail menus. Here are a few to try.
At this cozy Albany Park cocktail den, owner Richard Weber tried “a dozen formulations” of fruit juices and syrups before landing on the Analog, an N/A version of a traditional Scandinavian Winter Punsch infused with mulling spices and a housemade marigold syrup. Says Weber, “Even though I own a bar, I don’t drink myself, so even outside of Dry January it’s always been important for me to provide elevated non-alcoholic options for guests to enjoy the bar experience without having to get snookered. We try to incorporate elements from our alcohol offerings so guests can partake in the seasonal flavor profiles we’re offering in the main menu, as well—we don’t want anyone feeling left out.”
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, order take-out via Upserve, or get delivery via GrubHub.
Beatnik West Town offers a tantalizing list of colorful no-proof cocktails concocted by beverage director Jesse Filkins. Be the envy of all drinkers and order the tart passion fruit Nada Michelada, rimmed with spicy Tajin, or the cold brew coffee-based Fig Ya Dig.
How to book: Reserve via Resy.
Shopping in the Loop or ice skating at Millenium Park? Get revived without slowing down at stalwart Michigan Avenue gastropub, The Gage. The French 86, an homage to the classic French 75, satisfies a craving for sparkles with a combination of bubbles and herbal teas.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable.
Bar Kumiko owner Julia Momose pioneered an entire menu of “spirit-frees,” unique and elaborate cocktails brimming with herbaceous and umami-forward ingredients with a Japanese bent. She makes the eye-catching, mauve-tinged Protea with adzuki (Japanese red beans), verjus rouge, benimosu (Japanese purple sweet potato vinegar), and Seedlip Spice 94, a non-alcoholic distilled spirit.
How to book: Reserve via OpenTable or order take-out online.
The mixology team at the Loyalist, led by head bartender John Hess, also favors Seedlip products, featuring each of the three intriguing varieties in its own spirit-free cocktail. Opt for the Herbal & Citrus to wash down your burger at the bar—it contains Patagonia super berry tea to keep you flying without the crash.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.
Avli on the Park bar manager Blake Leonette relies on fruit reductions and spiced syrups to bring bright flavors to the spirit-free drink menu at this upscale Lakeshore East Greek venue. Try matching the pear- and cinnamon-spiked Oracle with your Spanakopita and Taramosalata for a savory surprise.
How to book: Reserve via Tock.
The crack bar team at Logan Square’s Billy Sunday takes their boozeless tipples very seriously, incorporating housemade ingredients like their spirit-free Fernet to bring bitterness and bite to the imaginative lineup. “We love taking the ingenuity and craft of making great cocktails and using the same focus on ingredients which happen to be made without spirits,” says partner Matthias Merges—and creative cocktails like the citrus-y Same, But Different prove it.
How to book: Reserve and order take-out via Tock.