We Ordered Mocktails At 6 Of Chicago's Best Cocktail Bars
By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on May 5, 2016 3:00PM
One of our favorite spots is Three Dots, because their Mocktails look just as fabulous as their boozy drinks. Photo courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You.
By Leigh Kunkel
If we’re judging solely by our Facebook feeds, every single girl we went to middle school with is pregnant right now. But just because someone is pregnant (or chooses not to drink for any other reason) doesn’t mean they should be stuck at home while all their friends are out on the town. And it doesn’t mean that they’re stuck drinking mineral water all night either. We visited six of Chicago’s favorite cocktail bars to see what they’d shake up for us sans alcohol.
At each bar, we sat at the bar and asked the bartender to make us a non-alcoholic drink. We also pointed out a drink on the menu that we thought looked good, so that they had an idea of what kinds of flavors we liked. We also paid attention to how the staff handled the response to our request. The results, not surprisingly, were pretty tasty.
The exterior of Queen Mary. Photo by Christina Noel.
Queen Mary Tavern
The Drink: Sugar snap pea syrup, ginger, lime, soda, served over crushed ice.
Taste: The snap pea syrup was fantastic, and most noticeable on the finish. The cocktail was light and fresh, and the crushed ice created a beautiful ombre effect, with the bottom being bright green and the top white.
Staff: While our initial interaction was a bit awkward (the bartender asked our reason for not drinking), it quickly became clear that this was because I’d pointed out a drink that had a jalapeño tincture, which has traces of alcohol in it, and he wanted to figure out if I was avoiding it entirely or in moderation so that he could make a drink to my liking.
Creativity: Sugar snap pea syrup. Come on. Big points for the presentation as well.
Attention To Suggestion: We suggested something spicy, which this was not. However, once we declined the jalapeño tincture, we said to run with whatever they wanted to make, so we can’t complain. (Especially since it was delicious.)
The Drink: Grapefruit, lime, ginger beer, simple syrup, served over ice.
Taste: The drink was light and refreshing, with a nice hit of spice from the ginger beer and balanced out by the simple syrup.
Staff: They seemed slightly thrown off by the request, but were very polite and accommodating.
Creativity: At the start of this endeavor, we were worried we were going to get a lot of ginger beers with lime. This one is partly on us, since those were two of the ingredients in the drink we’d pointed out, which they made basically as it is on the menu, just non-alcoholic.
Attention To Suggestion: Like we said, exactly what we’d pointed out on the menu. Can’t fault them for that.
The Drink: Honey, lemon, coconut La Croix, served over ice.
Taste: This drink tasted exactly like lemon candy. Very tart and clean, but balanced out by the sweetness of the honey and coconut. Perfect for if it ever gets warm in Chicago again.
Staff: Yes, the bar was super busy, but the bartender seemed a bit annoyed by the request, and also by us wanting to know what was in the drink. Also, please don’t call your female customers “darling.” Just don’t.
Creativity: This was another one where they just removed the alcohol without adding anything else to keep the drink interesting. But good job jumping on the La Croix cocktail trend.
Attention To Suggestion: We gave the bar’s listed cocktail of the day as inspiration, which was the same as our drink, plus gin and St. Germain. They definitely took us at our word.
The interior of the Berkshire Room. Photo by Anthony Todd.
The Berkshire Room
The Drink: Blackberry, lime, ginger, tamarind soda, served over ice.
Taste: Fruity and spicy and fizzy all at once, this went down very easy.
Staff: Our bartender came over and introduced himself, checked on our choice of glassware, and then explained everything that had gone into each of our drinks, both alcoholic and virgin.
Creativity: The tamarind soda was a nice touch; it was fun to have an ingredient that was so different from anything else we’d had in our drinks thus far.
Attention To Suggestion: We went with a non-alcoholic “Dealer’s Choice,” which means we gave suggestions for the flavor profile and presentation that we wanted. Since that’s their specialty at the Berkshire Room, it’s no surprise that they delivered.
(Photo Courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You)
The Drink: Pineapple, grapefruit, simple syrup, probably some other things, served over crushed ice and garnished with pineapple leaves.
Taste: Nice and fruity. Way too easy to drink, judging by the fact that we finished it in about half the time that our regular-cocktail-drinking companions did.
Staff: Our bartender was nothing but kind and helpful, even as she had to deal with the extremely drunk (at 5 o’clock! On a weekday!) guests next to us, who were eventually asked to leave. (Seriously, guys, never grab the garnishes from a bar.)
Creativity: The drink was lovely, and attention was even given to the ice and garnish.
Attention To Suggestion: We suggested a drink that had jalapeño and coconut milk in it, which this definitely wasn’t. But it was delicious anyway!
The Drink: Grapefruit, pineapple, lime, turmeric, green Tabasco, bitters, served over crushed ice and garnished with a cucumber wheel.
Taste: This drink was awesome. No two ways about it. There was so much complexity from the different spices, and so many different layers of flavor, that it’s hard to imagine it would be better with alcohol in it. (Though yeah, it probably would.)
Staff: Our bartender didn’t even blink when we asked for a non-alcoholic drink, and said it would be his pleasure to make one. He was equally gracious when the girl next to us sent her drink back because she “just didn’t like it.”
Creativity: The drink on the menu already sounded great, but what we really appreciated was the fact that, rather than just omitting the alcohol, the bartender added two ingredients (grapefruit and pineapple) to ensure that the non-alcoholic version was still complex and balanced. Bonus points for treating it like a real cocktail and using bitters.
Attention To Suggestion: Our drink took the flavor profile we were excited about from the cocktail version and made it into an incredible virgin variation. We can’t wait to go back and try the mezcal version.