Mocktails. The mere mention of the word conjures up images of boring nights at the bar sipping cranberry-splashed tonic water, while your friends knock back whiskey, gin, and beer. Three years ago, when my wife was pregnant, we were literally laughed out of bars and restaurants for uttering the word. Those were dark times.
But now, there’s a revolution brewing. Many of Austin’s finest drinkeries and eateries are no longer embarrassed of the non-alcoholic cocktail. In fact, they’re treating mocktails with the respect and craft given to their boozy counterparts.
So whether you’re ditching alcohol for health, lifestyle, or recovery reasons, here are 10 local spots to snag outrageous mocktails in Austin.
Note: This list is in alphabetical order. We love these awesome Austin drinkeries equally. Some locations provided tastings for free, while others were sampled on my own dime. All opinions are my own.
A few weeks back, I was wandering downtown with some out-of-town friends when we randomly walked into CU29. Only a few weeks into my newfound sobriety, I sheepishly asked the bartender if they did mocktails. There weren’t any on the menu, but I figured it was worth a shot.
Not only did the drink-slinging wizard accommodate my request, but she knocked out two perfect creations. Of the two, her blueberry/ginger mocktail was extraordinary.
I’ve had upscale bars and eateries snub their nose at a boozeless drink request. CU29 handled the situation with a smile and the attention to detail a craft cocktail deserves.
720 Brazos St. – Website
2/ Holy Roller
An eye-catching blend of punk rock snarl with an upscale sheen, Holy Roller is the sort of place I’d be proud to call my local hangout. To go with the top-notch selection of bites, beers, and craft cocktails, the mocktails are fantastic.
Of the four on the menu, I tried the unbelievably good Gold Lion. Pineapple and lime add a citrusy acidity to strong ginger flavors, creating a lovingly balanced drink that feels like the real thing.
Other options include Falling Off the Lavender Bridge (cold brew, lavender, tonic), Love Juice (pineapple, cranberry, almond syrup, guava, sparking water), and the spicy Aguas Frescas (pineapple, habanero, strawberry).
509 Rio Grande St. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Punk Rock Brunch Dreams Fulfilled at Austin’s Holy Roller
Shrubs! Without delving into a dad joke about front yard greenery, before I dove into the world of mocktails, shrubs were a mystery to me. Essentially infused vinegar, the spirit lends tart sharpness to whatever flavors you choose to pair it with.
Launderette features two shrubs on its menu: watermelon and grapefruit. The former is splashed with fresh lime, lending a citrusy nose while a generous pour of Topo Chico provides a satisfying fizz. On the grapefruit side, the shrub is infused with fresno peppers, providing subtle spiciness to an already satisfying drink.
Both options are complex, refreshing, and a solid replacement for their boozy counterparts.
2115 Holly St. – Website
4/ Oasthouse Kitchen + Bar
As my favorite neighborhood place to dine and imbibe, Oasthouse is an easy mocktail call. While they don’t have anything on menu, their cocktail craftsmen can whip up the drink of your dreams. All they need is a descriptor (fruity, tart, spicy, etc) and they’ll run with it.
I asked my bartender for some tart with a hint of ginger and received a beautiful strawberry and balsamic infused shrub with a splash of ginger beer and lime. The shrub base is rich and decadent allowing the ginger beer’s bite to cut through. The lime adds a hint of citrus sweet along with an aromatic and I’m in love. So glad my local upscale eatery didn’t disappoint.
A perennial favorite among foodies Austin-wide, Olamaie’s mix of southern comfort and pinkies-up culinary techniques keep fans coming back for more. And if you’re doing a dry January, the “virgin cocktails” menu will keep you satisfied, while your friends knock back beer and bourbon.
Basically a boozeless, mint-less Moscow mule with more acidity and brightness, the Baby Buck combines ginger beer, lime, grapefruit, and Steen’s syrup for startlingly lovely results.
Other options include the bright and lively More Life (passion fruit, grapefruit, honey, lime, ginger beer) and beautifully aromatic (lavender, cherry, lime, Topo Chico).
1610 San Antonio St. – Website
6/ The Roosevelt Room
Savvy cocktail drinkers already love The Roosevelt Room for its inventive, audacious cocktail creations. Unlike other bars in town, mocktails get the same scene-stealing treatment.
The Glitter & Marigold’s creation is a joy to watch. Our bartender strained, muddled, and blended an exquisite mix of orange juice, flower water, pistachio extract, vanilla bean, and cream, gave it a dust of cinnamon for depth, and topped the creation with an orange peel marigold. The result is a startlingly beautiful drink.
And kudos to the bar manager for making me a custom mocktail when the N’artini was unavailable, especially considering I was there on my own dime and not a media tasting. My pineapple-based beauty was fresh and stunning.
307 W 5th St. – Website
7/ Salty Sow
When my wonderful wife secured a reservation to Salty Sow on a random Saturday, my taste buds tap danced. Pork, pork, and more pork makes me giddy.
The concern was my sobriety. Luckily, the kind crew at this bad ass butcher can turn any cocktail on the menu into an alcohol-free creation.
Our waiter recommended the coyly named virgin Pigroni. With a beautiful nose, and rich notes of orange and vermouth, the mocktail matches and–according to some of my friends–exceeds the regular gin-based offering.
When restaurants go the extra mile to accommodate non-drinkers off menu, they earn my infinite respect.
1917 Manor Road – Website
8/ Second Bar + Kitchen
When your 8-to-5 office sits seconds away from Jack and Ginger’s at The Domain, you tend to get to know the area. As a result, I’m always looking for new spots in the north Austin complex.
I’m already a fan of Second Bar + Kitchen, so when I swung by the Domain location to try its mocktail selection, I was expecting excellence. Luckily, every creation on the menu met and exceeded my wildest dreams.
From the smooth and surprising lime in the coconut to the one-two ginger and lime punch of the copper-mugged Jolene, I didn’t miss the booze one bit.
But the sparkling star of the three-piece was the lemonade jam. A seemingly simple lemonade base is punched to epic levels with a spoonful of pepper-infused strawberry jam. Stir away, watch the flavors bloom real-time, and fall in love. Awesome all the way around.
Multiple locations – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Second Bar + Kitchen Flourishes Downtown, Adapting to Changing City
Spicy Thai food goes well with a cool beverage to wash it down. Sway has both. In addition to a wide selection of beers and wines, this South Austin hot spot has a number of drinks that are far more intriguing to a non-drinker than the same old sodas and water.
Sway offers three kombucha blends sourced from Kosmic Kombucha. The most intriguing is a custom blend of lemongrass, kaffir lime, and young coconut water made specially for the restaurant. Sway also serves shrubs over ice with sparkling water in flavors like strawberry basil and turmeric. And if you opt for a soda, Sway has you covered with two house made varieties. Tons of variety in hyper hip atmosphere.
1417 S. 1st St. – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Sway Reinvents Traditional Thai Food With Modern Twist
10/ Yard Bar
When most think of Yard Bar, they imagine a wonderland for dogs and owners to romp, play, and socialize. And they’re right! But don’t forget to peruse the bar menu for a healthy offering of beers, cocktails, and carefully-crafted mocktails.
Based around various flavors of Waterloo Sparkling Water, every mocktail option jumps with flavor and refreshment. Highlights includes the surprisingly rich Coconut Cooler (vanilla, Waterloo coconut, splash of orange juice) and classic lemon/ginger spice of The Wave.
But if none of the Yard Bar’s four varieties tickle your fancy, don’t be afraid to ask for something special. The bar staff surprised me with a jaw-dropping grapefruit and lime creation. The mint garnish and chili salt rim were so good, I could have taken a bath in it.
Beautiful N/A drinks in a fun, laid-back atmosphere made Yard Bar the perfect finale to my mocktail roadtrip. And there’s dogs. Who doesn’t love dogs?
6700 Burnet Road – Website
➡️ Keep reading: Yard Bar Creates Dream Playground for Doggies and Their Owners
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Have you ventured into the world of mocktails? If so, where’s your spot in Austin?
This article was originally published June 27, 2017.