No mocking these cocktails

Shops are stocking more delectable options to make your own NA concoctions
Editor's note: This story first appeared in January 2022. We resurfaced it to support people participating in Dry January in 2023. If that's you, consider joining our Facebook community here.
Giving up drinking no longer means abandoning the beauty and ritual of a well stocked bar cart.
Fill it instead with a host of nonalcoholic spirits, cordials, wines and beers — made with herbs, spices, fruits and hops — that have appeared in recent years. Their labels are just as chic, their flavors just as satisfying.
In New York City, a company called Boisson, its owners inspired partly by Dry January, sells only nonalcoholic beverages from three boutiques adorned with plants and pretty window displays. The tagline: "The Glass Half-Full."
"This space deserves the same environment the spirits and wine has," said co-founder Nick Bodkins.
The shops, with their spectrum of flavors, can educate folks who haven't tried a nonalcoholic option in a while, he said. "In that time frame, a ton of amazing brands had been working on solving the problem of making nonalcoholic spirits, beers and wines something that actually tastes good and you can enjoy in the same way."
Locally, too, wine shops, health food stores and even a south Minneapolis salon are stocking more NA options.
A year ago, the few that were then available landed beside the tonic water at France 44 in southwest Minneapolis. Now, a bevy of colorful NA spirits claim their own section in the shop. The beer cooler also boasts a big selection of local and national nonalcoholic brews.
When COVID-19 hit, "there was a big surge in people buying alcohol," said Dylan Hager, a manager there. "Now there's been a bigger surge in people wanting to have nonalcoholic options.
"The quality has gone way up, too."
The NA beers of old (think O'Douls) were "subpar, not super appealing," he acknowledged. But now, they come in any variety you'd expect of a craft beer — including stouts, sours and hazy IPAs.
Keep an eye out for Bauhaus Brew Labs' top-notch (but often sold out) nonalcoholic sour: Nah Pink Guava Sour.
The NA wine of today is, thankfully, less likely to be overly sweet. Miss your bubbly? Try a sparkling tea. NA cordials, aperitifs and spirits also offer greater heft and complexity.
Take Ghia, a nonalcoholic alternative to Aperol, with all its lovely bitterness. Not just as good as the "real" thing, Ghia is its own thing altogether. Add a bit of club soda and you have an elegant herbal, orangey after-dinner drink.
One bummer: NA whiskey. France 44 doesn't stock any nonalcoholic takes, Hager said, because "we haven't found anything that really is a true alternative yet.

The Date Night

• 1 tsp. date syrup
• 2 oz. Ghia or other nonalcoholic aperitif
• ½ oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
• 3 oz. tonic or soda water
Directions: Shake or vigorously stir date syrup, Ghia and orange juice to dissolve date syrup, which can be thick. Pour over ice. Add tonic or soda water. Garnish with a bit of orange peel. Makes 1 drink; double the recipe for an actual date!

Grapefruit Julep

Charming and refreshing, this drink puts a spotlight on the best parts of the julep: the bracing bite of fresh mint, a snap of fresh citrus, and the fun of crushed ice. An undertone of honey guarantees you won't miss the bourbon. From Satan's Whiskers in London as featured in "Zero-Proof Cocktails," by Elva Ramirez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021).
• 5 tbsp. (2½ oz.) fresh grapefruit juice
• 1 tbsp. honey syrup, see below
• 2 teaspoons simple syrup, see below
• 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
• ½ tsp. grenadine
• 4 fresh mint leaves
• Crushed ice
• 1 grapefruit half-moon, for garnish
• 1 fresh mint sprig, for garnish
Directions: In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, honey syrup, simple syrup, lime juice, grenadine and mint leaves. Fill with ice, shake, then strain into a tall, chilled 12-ounce glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with the grapefruit and mint sprig and serve with a straw. Makes 1 drink.
To make honey syrup: In a small saucepan. Bring ½ cup of hot water to a simmer. Remove from heat and add ½ cup honey and stir to combine. Let cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Makes 8 ounces.
To make simple syrup: Bring 1 cup of water to a simmer in a small saucepan, then remove from heat. Add 1 cup sugar and stir until it dissolves. Let cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Makes 12 ounces.

Bird of Paradise

A straightforward and accessible drink, this is a great place to start your non-alcoholic cocktail journey. The bell pepper and arugula lend a herbaceousness while the unfiltered apple juice makes this a not too sweet yet approachable drink. From the Franklin in London, as featured in "Zero-Proof Cocktails," by Elva Ramirez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021).
• 4 thin slices yellow bell pepper, plus more for garnish
• 3 arugula leaves, plus more for garnish
• 2 tsp. agave nectar
• 10 tbsp. (5 oz.) unfiltered apple juice
• 1 tbsp. (½ oz.) fresh lemon juice?
• 1 thin slice yellow bell pepper, for garnish
Directions: In a cocktail shaker, muddle 4 slices of the bell pepper and 3 arugula leaves with the agave nectar. Add the apple juice and lemon juice. Fill with ice and shake hard until the ice breaks up. Double strain (through a fine-mesh strainer, as well as the shaker's own strainer) into a tall 12-ounce glass filled with ice. Garnish with the remaining bell pepper slice and arugula leaf. Makes 1 drink.

Sober Curious

With just a flick of the wrist, the Sober Curious transforms a few everyday ingredients into a sprightly drink with a surprising tart back note, a sumptuous pink hue and an enchanting sweetness. From New York's Hotel Kinsley as featured in "Zero-Proof Cocktails," by Elva Ramirez (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021).
• 3 tbsp. (1½ oz.) fresh lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) simple syrup
• 1½ tbsp. (¾ oz.) grenadine
• ½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
• 1 large egg white
• 3 tbsp. (1½ oz.) chilled seltzer, for topping
• 1 dehydrated lemon wheel, for garnish
Directions: In a cocktail shaker, combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, grenadine, vinegar and egg white. Shake vigorously until frothy. Fill with ice and shake vigorously again. Strain into a chilled 6-ounce coupe glass. Slowly pour the seltzer in the center of the drink to maintain the froth. Garnish with the lemon wheel. Makes 1 drink.