Hold the Spirits
The perfect cocktail can be a great complement to a meal or mood, but if you want something with a little less edge, or just don’t drink the hard stuff, alcohol-free mocktails are the way to go. Lucky for us, in Charleston, plenty of bartenders are experimenting with a culinary approach to craft cocktails — with and without alcohol.
Some restaurants have made specific mocktail menus to create a more inclusive environment, while others believe mocktails allow the drink’s components to shine through. We know, it might seem odd ordering a mocktail at first — these Charleston-area establishments will change your mind in no time.
Gin Joint just switched to its fall seasonal menu, offering three mocktails for the changing season — Flor del Norte, Passion Potion and A Wise Man.
The Flor del Norte, a play on a margarita, uses Gnista’s floral wormwood,
a non-alcoholic spirit that mimics the taste of gin’s botanical flavor profile, complemented by lime and agave for a tart drink.
The Passion Potion is made with homemade hibiscus syrup, burnt sugar, lime acid and topped with ginger beer. The lime acid is a concoction with a similar flavor of lime juice, but is easier to keep behind the bar than fresh juice, according to Gin Joint owner James Bolt.
A riff on a Fitzgerald, Gin Joint’s A Wise Man replicates the herbal notes of gin using seasonal herbs like sage and thyme, replaces the lemon juice with lime juice and lemon oil and is topped with tonic water.
And visitors can always use Gin Joint’s tried-and-true “Bartender’s Choice” option to describe a mocktail to suit their moods.
“Anyone that wants to come in and do our ‘Bartender’s Choice’ section is always welcome to choose two words [from a list of 14] and we can craft something without using any spirits as well.”
“It’s also great, too, because [the list] does change with each season,” Bolt added. “It just depends on all of our syrups that we make in-house, based on the cocktails that are on the list.”
Handcrafted draft sodas like turmeric ginger beer and cucumber tonic courtesy of local maker Sweatman’s All Natural rule the spirit-free selection at Neon Tiger, while Chasing Sage offers avocado limeade and peach soda to pair with its veg-forward menu. And over at Frannie and the Fox, located in the Emeline hotel, the bar staff is putting a booze-less spin on a classically booze-heavy beverage.
Made to taste like a gin-filled negroni, Frannie and the Fox’s “No’groni” is made by combining Gnista’s wormwood, gin-flavored simple syrup and orange bitters.
“From incorporating seasonal ingredients to showcasing local offerings, our mocktail selection is curated with the same thoughtful approach that goes into every cocktail found on our menu,” said Frannie and the Fox beverage operations specialist Amanda Phelps, who also offers a grapefruit, citrus, rosemary and Topo Chico “Rosemary’s Bambina.”
“We pride ourselves on crafting the absolute best, stand-out drinks for our guests to enjoy, with or without alcohol.”
Over at recently revamped Rutledge Avenue restaurant Park & Grove, general manager Samson Kohanski serves three mocktails: the cherry bomb, pineapple crush and gin-gin mule.
“The mocktail culture should always be, foremost, fun. You should want to drink it with the same excitement as you would when running down a cocktail list,” Kohanski said. “Ingredients should be fresh, seasonal and approachable.”
To make the gin-gin mule, a drink based on a cocktail that utilizes fresh mint and London dry gin, Kohanski combines fresh coriander, “which takes the aromatics of gin,” with mint, ginger, lime and soda water.
“The drinks should meld with the menu and not contradict it,” he said. “Each cocktail has a balance to it: sweet and sour, savory and spicy, tropical and citrus. Pair [the gin-gin mule] with the insalata di mare on the menu, and it is an instant explosion of flavor.”
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.