L.A. Cocktail: Dry January Doesn’t Have To Be Boring

Just because you’re taking a break from alcohol doesn’t mean having to drink club soda or diet Coke—there are plenty of glamorous options

Dry January is a “thing” now, with lots of us taking a break from booze; restaurants and bars are responding to voluntary liquor abstinence with festive, non-alcoholic cocktails and wines. Local sommeliers and bar managers say that there are a slew of new brands producing some interesting substitutions for the hard stuff. They’re experimenting and putting their new creations on menus.

Stephanie Reading, the bar manager at Birdie G’s in Santa Monica, has seen requests for booze free options sky rocket in the last few years. This January, Birdie G’s is offering faux mescal, gin and whiskey made by Monday, a local company that produces teetotaler-safe elixirs in small batches. Monday has developed flavor profiles that replicate the intoxicants without the intoxication.

Reaching For The Cosmos ($12) is made with zero alcohol “gin,” while “whiskey” is showcased with lime, peach and kumquat and finished with Szechuan pepper and honey.

Reaching for the Cosmos at Birdie G’s (Photo by Meghan Reardon)

Birdie G’s sister restaurant, Esters, a wine bar with a creative cocktail menu, is pouring and retailing non-alcoholic wines from Proxies. “Our customers have been receptive to the idea of trying something new,” says Sommelier Randall Middleton. On Sunday, January 8, the weekly wine tasting ($25) will feature Proxies’ Zephyr Rose and Vinta Orange, among others from 3 to 6 p.m. Their virgin cocktails will be on offer as well.

Proxies uses wine grapes as a base, adding fruits and acids from less ripe fruits. Tea or spice substitutes the missing tannins of regular wine. It’s a food-friendly drink, which Middleton has been helping match to meals as he would with wines from the regular list. “If someone isn’t drinking, it doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy something special that enhances food,” according to Middleton, who now offers Proxies wine by the glass.

Food-friendly, non-alcoholic wine is served at Esters. (Photo by Jakob Layman)

In downtown Culver City, Piccalilli has jumped on the mocktail bandwagon as well. Throughout the month of January they’re offering specially designed drinks, some of which will remain on the menu during the year. Try the Farmer’s Market Smash ($7) concocted with local fruits and herbs and a splash of soda. The Persimmon Highball ($6) is salt-preserved persimmon, fresh tonic and kaffir lime. A refreshing end to any day.

Piccalilli’s Preserved Persimmon + Tonic

Whatever the purpose of non-alcoholic drinking, there’s no reason you can’t have a grownup beverage, without the hangover. New research show the benefit of foregoing spirits lasts beyond January; apparently, it’s easier to eschew alcoholic temptations in the months beyond this one. Whether trying one month dry, sober-curious, or just needing to get healthier, there’s a cocktail or wine for non-drinkers.

Birdie G’s
Santa Monica
2421 Michigan Avenue
5 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily
5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekends

Esters Wine Shop and Bar
Santa Monica
1314 7th Street
Sunday 12 p.m.to 9 p.m.
Monday – Saturday 12 to 10 p.m.

Culver City
3850 Main Street
Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. to 10 p..m.
Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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