Resolution-friendly Cocktailing

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Jan 5, 2011 5:20PM

2011_1_temperance_poster.jpgIf your liver could talk, what would it say? On the heels of recent, oh, let's call it cavalier disregard for the organ's well-being, more than a few of us would probably get a scolding. (Or would we not even be on speaking terms right now?) Whatever the state of the relationship, there's no doubt that a non-alcoholic cocktail on occasion can't hurt things. And as New Year's resolutions go, laying off the sauce is an easy one to uphold in Chicago thanks to the wealth of dining and drinking spots in the city that offer thoughtful, tasty n/a beverage options. Your social calendar will barely register the change.

Under the menu heading "Lose the Booze," The Gage mixes up several intriguing n/a selections, such as house-made apple cider (flavored with clove, honey, cranberries and ginger) and tonic water infused in-house with botanicals. The Gage also pays homage to an old cocktail concept with its seasonal "Slaps"; these vibrant drinks are made from heavily reduced house-made fruit syrups, vinegar and soda water. Its current offering is a Cranberry Slap, which features apple cider vinegar and sage.

Nightwood's cocktail menu typically includes an ambitious n/a option, and right now it's the Tamarind Rickey. The recipe adheres to the classic Rickey formula of lime, spirit and soda water, except house-made tamarind syrup stands in for the booze. (Adding spirit to this one is optional, for an extra charge.)

Green Zebra has a number of alcohol-free libations to choose from. We like its delightful house-made root beer in place of, well, real beer. If, like us, you've been wooed by Campari and Fernet Branca and the like lately, try Green Zebra's Bitter Lemon Soda as a sharp, tangy alternative.

At Karyn's on Green - one of the unsung stars of the city's cocktail scene - you have your choice of several well-conceived and delicious "mocktails." If you like spice, try El Gallo Bravo; it combines soda water with pineapple, lime, cilantro and jalapeno. And instead of slogging through increased gym visits in 2011, why not simply knock back the ├╝ber-salubrious Clip On? Its healthful mix of coconut water, fresh lime, almond-spice syrup and orange is both hydrating and long on vitamin C. After a few of these, your liver should have only nice things to say about you.