While “dry” periods are appropriated to the early months of January and February, we’re noticing that the appetite for low and no alcohol sips is on the incline year-round. TikTok is currently alight with the glow of those subscribing to the viral “One Week Method” — think Dry January, but a week out of each month, culminating in a total of three months of the year. However you want to play it, when it comes to imbibing, we’re living in the glorious age of options for the sober and sober-curious. Gone are the days of the humble Shirley Temple being the only option for the sauceless who want a mixed drink. Sure — for the nostalgia alone, we love a little swirl of the Shirl — but thank God there are now mocktails with a complexity and finesse beyond orange juice, ginger ale, lemon lime soda, and a dash of grenadine. These days one can order an alcohol-free cocktail that actually looks, tastes and feels good to sip. We’ll drink to that!
Good Egg (Electric Bill, Toronto)
Say g’day to Toronto’s brand new Australian themed bar. Get Crocodile Rock out of your dirty mind and think high brow cocktails from Nick Kennedy and Casey Ryan, two of the industry leaders behind 50-Best-Bars-listed Civil Liberties.
Aussie snacks are served alongside mixed-drinks with lively ingredients, and the real “whoop” moment here is that mocktails have as much of a presence on the menu as higher proof offerings, with most cocktails also translated into a zero-proof version. The Good Egg uses Tanqueray 0% and fermented syrup to deliver the punch usually provided by a spirit. Passionfruit, lemon juice, and egg white deliver body, acidity and texture, with a splash of Perrier adding some sparkle to the gin-fizz riff. Cheers, mate!
Amaro Swizzle (Bacaro, Vancouver)
Venice-by-way-of-Vancouver, Michelin-guide-listed Barcaro is a “love letter” to Venice’s canal-side “bacari” bars. Very much replete with a “stay as long as you like” attitude, guzzlers of delicious drinks can enjoy the very, very low ABV Amaro Swizzle for aperitivo hour, straight on through and past dinner. Created with Montreal-crafted 0.5% “nonalcoholic” NOA Amaro (a bottle worth stocking up on for all home-bartenders), tastes of orange, cinnamon, fennel, caramel, chicory, anise and coriander pack a flavourful punch.
Rosso Spritz (Don Alfonso, Toronto)
Created by Elijah Steven’s for Toronto’s Michelin-starred Don Alfonso, the Rosso Spritz is a delightfully herbaceous and spiced aperitivo, perfect to sip on ahead of an evening of rich Italian cuisine. The rosemary garnish adds a fragrant nose ahead of a zingy, refreshing and satisfyingly effervescent, grown-up soft drink.
Dans le Verjus (Änkôr, Canmore)
A clever play on the French slang “dans le jus” ( translation: “I’m really f&*^ing busy!”), this sassy fizzer is perfect for all the sober curious yuppies wanting to indulge in a spirit-free swill. Canmore’s #1 fine dining location has a beautiful exposed brick bar, perfect for propping, should you be so inclined. Made with an alcohol-removed Chardonnay Verjus and infused with rich, bold flavours like turmeric, mango, and black tea, there’s a depth to be found that makes soft sweet Shirley look like real child’s play.
Garden Fizz (Le Cathcart, Montreal)
Sobriety doesn’t mean missing out on the joys of catching up on the office gossip during a well-earned cinq-a-sept. Montreal’s Le Cathcart is a vast, stylish bar set under a glass pavilion roof and provides the perfect spot for the post-work cocktail crowd. Quebecois bartender and World Class Canada runner-up, Daphne Vary Deshaies has been busy making a name for herself in the Montreal drinks scene, and her bright and breezy zero ABV Garden Fizz completely captures that zesty “new year, new me” attitude that has been floating around.
No-Star Martini (Vela, Toronto)
We can’t get enough of the design-wonder that is Vela, located on Toronto’s trendy Portland Street. Brainchild of hospitality veterans Amanda Bradley and Robin Goodfellow, the space and both liquid and dinner menus work in compendium to spark a certain joie de vivre. These days, Goodfellow is as known for his work on curating well-balanced zero ABV sips as he is for his boozier creations, and the No-Star Martini is a flirty option for those who want something with a little zesty and botanical complexity.
No-Groni (Chucks Steak House, Banff)
Aperitif cocktails before a steak-dinner is firmly the way we roll, and who doesn’t love a Negroni to begin proceedings? Mastering a non-alcoholic riff on a booze-forward cocktail is a challenge indeed, but Banff Hospitality Collective bartender, Ali Armstrong, is onto a winner with his complex bend of nonalcoholic bitters with Calgary-based Wild Folk’s zero ABV amaro, Bitter Tongue.
Clever Strawberry (@cheerstohappyhour)
In 2023 Toronto local, Brenton Mowforth, hit the almighty 100,000 Instagram subscriber milestone for his Canadian cocktail and bar focused account. As well as showcasing bars across the country (although primarily in the GTA), Mowforth has garnered attention for his first-rate home bartending skills. For a full mouth-feel, full flavour, zero buzz, we love his Clever Strawberry (and its viral rose strawberry garnish), using Canadian-made Clever Gin.
Red Mystique (For The Love of Cocktails)
Fancy mixing your own cocktails together for guests at home? Consider this recipe from Canadian mixologist Evelyn Chick’s inaugural drinks book, For the Love of Cocktails. Chick’s book contains a plethora of recipes, both boozey and booze-free, making it an excellent addition to the shelves of sober-curious swillers.
I don’t know about you, but we’re so ready to hit the town for a temperance bar crawl (and still feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed at the gym on the following morning!). 2024? We’re crushing it!