The rise of mocktails probably isn’t another case of millennials murdering something—but with more and more restaurants designating menus to boozeless mixed drinks, they sure are more ubiquitous than ever.
Why mocktails? These sippers let you keep the party going without the hangover, they’re typically a little cheaper than their liquor-laden counterparts, and the whole “wellness culture” thing doesn’t hurt, either. After all, when someone abstains from alcohol, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re going full temperance movement. The booze-free drinks of this new generation are mixed, shaken, and/or stirred with the same level of attention and care as a classic cocktail—and they’re just as colorful, and served in a fun glass.
Join us on a tour of the Twin Cities’ finest mocktails and raise a glass of the not-so-hard stuff to trying new things!
Crazy Legs at Grand Catch
When you enter Grand Catch, the scent of garlic butter envelops you, inviting you to a feast you crack open with your fingers. Whether you’re enjoying a shrimp boil or crab legs, you’ll want something to wet your whistle—and if you like fruit-forward and sweet, the Crazy Legs will be your go-to. Served with a big sprig of basil, this watermelon pink-red mocktail is all about the strawberry and hibiscus, evoking summer pitchers of Kool-Aid in the best way. For a fresh, herbal kick that cuts the sweetness, muddle that basil right into the glass. 1672 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-348-8541; grandcatchmn.com
#4: Pennywort, cucumber, ginger, lime at Hai Hai
There are many kinds of pennywort in the world, but it’s centella asiatica or Asian pennywort that’s frequently used in southeast Asian cuisines—appearing in salads, rolls, curries, stir-fries, and more. At Hai Hai, you’ll find pennywort blended with cucumber, ginger, and lime for an easy summer sipper. Did we mention it’s also a looker? In keeping with Hai Hai’s saturated color scheme, this drink is very, very green. Wouldn’t look too shabby on Instagram in front of the restaurant’s yellow walls, just sayin’. 2121 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-223-8640; haihaimpls.com
It’s About Thyme at W.A. Frost
Regular readers of City Pages and diners at W.A. Frost already know that this iconic St. Paul restaurant is offering a variety of no-proof cocktails, many involving SeedLip, a non-alcoholic spirit that closely mimics the real thing. Enter It’s About Thyme, a light, refreshing, not-too-sweet drink. It’s summery: Citrus from grapefruit and lime make the perfect sweet-sour combination, as bubbly tonic keeps things fun, and thyme grounds the drink with its savoriness. For those who think thyme—with its oregano-like scent and flavor—is an odd choice, trust that this is the key to the mocktail’s perfect balance. 374 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-5715; wafrost.com
Galadriel at Marvel Bar
You too can feel like Cate Blanchett by quaffing a mocktail named after her the Lord of the Rings character. Served in a Collins glass with hunks of crystalline ice, Galadriel is colorless and effervescent, flavored with citric acid, basswood, and elder. It’s straightforward and lovely. Yes, there’s the citrus, but it’s the drink’s sweet, resinous quality from the basswood and elder that are most striking. It tastes the way we imagine sap might: thick, sweet, and unidentifiably woodsy—not unlike its namesake—a mysterious combo that keeps us coming back for more. 50 Second Ave. N., Minneapolis, 612-206-3929; marvelbar.com
Burnt Pineapple Spritzer at Meritage
Meritage is as renowned for its deep wine cellar as its towers of fresh oysters, but St. Paul’s premier French restaurant also has three mocktails on offer. The Burnt Pineapple Spritzer is the most complex: toasty and sweet, with a little lime coming in to lend everything some tartness. Add in some aromatic bitters, and you’ve got a tasty drink where you won’t notice the absence of alcohol. Meritage’s other two mocktails—a ginger rickey and spiced cider, served hot or cold—are equally deserving of attention. 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670; meritage-stp.com
Trinity at Norseman Distillery
Whether you’re relaxing on Norseman’s patio or ducking into the airy converted warehouse space, settle in with the Trinity. On paper, it’s reminiscent of a margarita: sour from vinegar, sweet and tart from lime, with a bit of brininess from the salt. Made from a combination of drinking vinegar, black salt, lime, and seltzer, the first sip hits you with fizz and light bubbles from the seltzer and the deployment of champagne vinegar. Unlike its distilled white cousin, this vinegar gives the drink a satisfying tang and a tasty bitterness that’s ultimately evened out by its luxe origins. The lime finish doesn’t hurt, either. 451 Taft St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-568-6299; norsemandistillery.com
Placebo Effect at Tongue in Cheek
We don’t have just one single mocktail to recommend at Tongue in Cheek, the East Side’s meat-forward restaurant. Here, they’ll pull alcohol-free drinks from thin air. What do you like? Something herbal and sour? Bracing and dark? Fruity and bright? They’ve got you covered. Whatever flavor profile you choose, Tongue in Cheek’s bartenders will satisfy. They’re working with some tasty ingredients: flavored salts, fresh herbs and fruits, ginger, jalapeño, syrups, and more. So belly up to the bar, order some steamed pork buns, and challenge your bartender. 989 Payne Ave., St. Paul, 651-888-6148; tongueincheek.biz