Mocktails aren’t simply growing in popularity, they’ve skyrocketed as the #1 trend in drinks right now, according to a recent article out of Cornell University. And in a city like Pittsburgh where the culinary and nightlife scene is broadening post-pandemic, it’s easier than ever to find visually appealing, truly tasty mocktails to enjoy.
But what makes a mocktail good? Since booziness has been subtracted from the equation, we’re left with flavor, balance, appearance, and — occasionally — health benefits, because today’s non-drinker wants more than just a Shirley Temple (most of the time) or a blend of bottled fruit juices.
I’ve asked around, and everyone has been raving about a few local haunts that serve up a delightful mocktail (or two, or more) on their regular menus.
Tina’s is known for its cocktails and a wide-ranging wine list (for enophiles like myself). But in dry January and beyond, Tina’s offers an NA version of several of their house cocktails, without sacrificing flavor or presentation. Simply look for the asterisk on their drink menu to find a cocktail with a nonalcoholic counterpart.
Sarah Shaffer, owner and operator of Tina’s, believes in keeping it simple: “Our approach to our NA beverage options is to honor classic cocktail recipes by researching and sourcing NA spirits that best represent the original ingredients. We do not attempt to recreate the wheel, just use our palates and product knowledge to maintain it.”
Tina’s mocktails taste like the real deal, so you can enjoy a classic Amaretto Sour, an island-inspired cocktail, or even a classic Manhattan without the hangover.
Sly Fox Beer
It’s no surprise that local breweries are game to sling some mocktails. In the past year, we’ve seen more NA selections — such as craft sodas, NA beers, and mocktails — pop up at Voodoo, Grist House, and other local watering holes to make their selections more inclusive. But Sly Fox has gone a step above and has curated a full mocktail menu.
Better yet, each of their new selections contains healthy ingredients. Their answer to a whiskey sour called “A Bitter End” mixes fresh grapefruit juice, rosemary, and aquafaba, and their “Sunday Morning” cocktail is a great substitute for bottomless mimosas, blending orange marmalade, turmeric, and sparkling white grape juice.
City Works in Market Square is always bustling since it’s such an expansive, central location to meet friends before heading to a show Downtown, taking in a Penguins game, or taking photos of barges on our three rivers (one of my favorite pastimes). So it only makes sense for City Works to offer some kick-ass mocktails to complement their selection of beers and spirits.
For dry January, they’re featuring a twist on the classic Moscow Mule with their “Mellow Mule” mocktail. It’s made with cucumber, honey syrup, mango syrup, lime juice, and, of course, ginger beer. If you’re not a fan of the mule, they’re also offering up a refreshing fizz in a classic iced tea glass, the “Peaceful Paloma.” This NA Paloma blends lime juice, grapefruit juice, honey syrup, and a splash of soda water with a salted rim for balanced flavor.
I was most curious about the NA selections at Harold’s Haunt because of their previous line of sparkly zodiac mocktails and their dedication to inclusion. According to their rep, AJ Bee, Harold’s is, “very passionate about providing options and space for sober community members." Mocktails are always highlighted on the menu, and they also host Sober Sunday with Glittersty on the first and third Sunday of each month.
Harold's is currently showcasing some winter warmer mocktails that should win a gold medal for creativity. “Smaug's Fire Sipper” is a concoction of cinnamon syrup, cranberry juice, orange juice, a cinnamon stick, piles of gold, and fire. And their “Yippee-Ki-Yay Minty Frother” blends Abeille Voyante Tea Co.'s Winter Oolong, simple syrup, aquafaba, peppermint candy, plus a dash of delicious cocoa dust.
Harold’s Haunt also offers hot cocoa all winter as well as hot tea from Abeille Boyante Tea Co., cold brew from Lemon Tree PGH, and a wide selection of Italian sodas.
The Open Road
The Open Road, winner of our Best of 2023 Readers’ Poll for mocktails, has the widest selection of NA beer, wine, and spirits in Pittsburgh. They also host a multitude of events including “Mod Mondays” every Monday in January at Two Frays Brewery in Garfield for an entirely non-alcoholic service featuring NA brews, cider, wine, and cocktails. Their retail store in Allentown offers in-person shopping as well as delivery and wholesale to local eateries, bars, and breweries.
If you’re looking for more NA options for your night out, The Open Road keeps a working list of businesses offering NA drinks around Pittsburgh on their website. Plus, if you weren’t already aware of The Open Road’s mocktail selections, it may be a fun place to familiarize yourself with NA liqueurs, wine, and beer to enjoy mocktails at home.
And if you’re stuck on ideas for crafting the perfect mocktail at home, a good ol' recipe book may be able to help you hone your mixing skills. The Mocktail Club can help you whip up some amazing guilt-free drinks with fancy garnishes and all. There is also a Facebook Group for mocktail enthusiasts and beginners: On the Mocks encourages members to sample new recipes, helps find NA liqueur selections in your local area and online, and is a safe space for people to talk openly about their sobriety journeys.