There was a time when going dry at a bar or restaurant meant getting stuck nursing a glass of water or, at best, a too sweet mocktail. However, a decrease in alcohol consumption in countries around the world – including Canada – has hit many a drinks menu: Unimaginative mocktails are out, and balanced, complex non–alcoholic drinks that can hold their own against the real stuff are in.
More and more people are choosing to curb or cut out alcohol – and watering holes are catering to this new wave of non‑imbibers.
Some establishments are taking the spirit–free spirit to the next level by going completely alcohol–free, creating spaces where non–drinkers can socialize and savour delicious beverages without the buzz. Featuring chic interior designs, lively vibes, and curated non–alcoholic beverage menus, these five alcohol–free bars are redefining nightlife for those opting to go booze–free.
Photo: Brunswick Aces
Brunswick Aces, MelbourneAfter becoming Australia’s first non–alcoholic spirit brand when it launched in 2017, Brunswick Aces added another feather to its sobriety cap when they opened the country’s first non–alcoholic bar in May 2021. With colourful throwback furnishings and pro mixologists crafting cocktails behind the bar, the vibe here is every bit as hip as a traditional late–night hangout, right down to the mood lighting. The extensive menu spans over 100 alcohol–free drink options, including non–alcoholic wine, beer and spirits from Australian and international producers (including the brand’s own products, which are distilled on–site), as well as spirit–free takes on classic cocktails.
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Photo: 0% Non‑Alcohol Experience
0% Non–Alcohol Experience, TokyoNotable mixologist Shingo Gokan, who has been recognized by Asia’s 50 Best Bars and Bar World 100, ensures that non–alcoholic cocktails served at 0% Non–Alcohol Experience are both booze–free and boundary–pushing. For example, the Nepalade, a fruit–forward blend of lemon, raspberry and Szechuan pepper, is served with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) iPod playlist. The menu here is vegan, featuring snacks like fried avocado quesadillas and buffalo cauliflower. The design–forward space, located in Tokyo’s Roppongi neighbourhood, includes a gallery that showcases works by contemporary Japanese artists.
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Photo: Sans Bar
Sans Bar, AustinSans Bar began as a series of monthly pop–ups led by addiction counsellor Chris Marshall, before finding a permanent home in East Austin. The bar aims to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for non–drinkers of all stripes looking for a place to socialize without alcohol, whether they’re in recovery, taking a break from the hard stuff or looking for an easy–going night out. Non–alcoholic drink options at Sans Bar range from non–alcoholic wine and beer to spirit–free spins on well–loved cocktails, like the Nada Colada. Sans Bar regularly hosts dry incarnations of quintessential pub events like trivia and karaoke nights, as well as more wellness–focused activities like yoga.
Photo: Zero Dry Cocktail Bar
Zero Dry Cocktail Bar, TorontoAnother pop–up series turned permanent venture, Zero Dry Cocktail Bar is set to open a brick–and–mortar location in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood in late 2022. In the meantime, Zero Dry, which was launched in summer 2020, operates as a mobile bar that serves private events and parties. Founder Gail E. Lynch frequently works with Canadian alcohol–free spirit brands like Sobrii–0 and SexyAF in developing non–alcoholic reinterpretations of popular cocktails like gimlets and martinis. Many of the fresh herbs used in the drinks are grown in Lynch’s own balcony garden. When Zero moves into its new home next fall, it will be the first completely alcohol–free bar in Toronto.
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Photo: The Virgin Mary Bar