These Non-Alcoholic Drinks Will Get You Drunk off Refreshment Alone

Seriously, when’s the last time you had a fantastic Arnold Palmer?

Alcohol is great. Like, really, really great. That someone figured out how to turn rotten food and grain into delicious beverages that improve the quality of your life is nothing short of a miracle, and we should always be mindful of that. But sometimes it’s also really, really great to give your liver a break and explore some equally tasty, more refreshing, less drunkening options. Here are some alcohol-free picks around town:


Strawberry Shrub
Strawberry Shrub—Photo by Natalie B. Compton

Photo by Natalie B. Compton

Like Hansel in Zoolander, shrubs are so hot right now. For those who aren’t already on the shrub train, it’s what you could call a drinking vinegar—sweetened with fruit and or sugar—that you usually mix with soda water or spirits. Little Tokyo darling Simbal has an interesting (and delicious) lineup of shrub soda combinations like strawberry black peppercorn. 319 E 2nd St Suite 202, Los Angeles, (213) 626-0244

Square One Dining

Fresh, high-quality ingredients are what make Square One’s Arnold Palmer a standout in the under appreciated world of Arnold Palmers. House made lemonade gets paired with August Uncommon Silenco spicy black tea yielding a smooth yet tart nonalcoholic thirst quencher. 2630 Hyperion Ave, Los Angeles, (213) 220-0938

Pok Pok

Diners at Pok Pok are automatically treated to complimentary pandan-infused water, but there’s something more refreshing on the menu deserving of an order. The restaurant’s drinking vinegar, Som, is a sweet and tart delight. Perennial favorite flavors include turmeric, tamarind, ginger, and Thai basil. Check the chalkboard for seasonal specials like satsuma and blackberry. Pok Pok’s Som is so popular that the chef and owner Andy Ricker went ahead and started bottling the drinking vinegar for sale. Pocket a bottle of the sour stuff for home, or order it online for $15. 978 Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 613-1831


Guisados offers a take on the Arnold Palmer with an amazing name, the Armando Palmero. It’s two-thirds Limon (lemon and lime water), and one-third Jamaica (hibiscus iced tea). Pro tip: Take an Armando Palmero to go, but in paleta form. 1261 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, (213) 250-7600

Love & Salt

Off the Funking Chain
Off the Funking Chain

Photograph by Caroline Juen for Love & Salt

Pairing a hot day with a hot pepper is a solid call. Love & Salt has a nonalcoholic pick with a spicy bite. Please disregard the terrible name, but order an Off the Funking Chain with jalapeño, lime, honey syrup, passion fruit, grapefruit juice, and ginger beer. 317 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, (310) 545-5252

Obica Santa Monica

Is avoiding alcohol sacrilege in Italy? Maybe, but that didn’t stop Obica Santa Monica from creating some alcohol-free choices for their menu. In case you don’t want to honor aperitivo hour with an Aperol spritz, go for the Affinity Orange, a vitamin-C-filled glass of grapefruit, orange, and lime juices with lemon seltzer. 606 Broadway, Santa Monica (310) 393-6633

Gracias Madre

The Dude Abides
The Dude Abides—Photo by Natalie B. Compton

Photo by Natalie B. Compton

If a snow cone doesn’t cool you down, nothing will. Gracias Madre’s The Dude Abides is a crushed ice treat with almond horchata, and vanilla cinnamon agave that can be made booze-free or with mezcal. If horchata doesn’t do it for you—first of all, you may need help—but there’s something else on the menu for you. Try ordering A Shrubby For My Bubby with a straight face, and enjoy the carbonated house-made seasonal shrub with a touch of sea salt and mint garnish. 8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, (323) 978-2170

Plant Food + Wine

Plant Food + Wine's Mean Green with lime, cucumber, and mint
Mean Green with lime, cucumber, and mint—photo courtesy Plant Food + Wine

Photo courtesy Plant Food + Wine

It’s no surprise that a vegan place has some healthy mocktails on deck. Plant Food + Wine’s Mean Green with lime, cucumber, shishito, and mint is best enjoyed on the breezy patio, barring any extreme weather events. Then stay in the dining room and sip accordingly. 1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, (310) 450-1009

Bäco Mercat

Hibiscus Sweet & Sour Baco Pop!
Hibiscus Sweet & Sour Baco Pop!—Photo by Natalie B. Compton

Photo by Natalie B. Compton

When Josef Centeno opened Bäco Mercat, he wanted to create a drink that played well with others. He developed a line of food-friendly sodas dubbed Bäco Pop! that come in their own cute, retro packaging. Flavors can change seasonally, but a perennial favorite of Centeno’s is the Hibiscus Sweet & Sour that tastes true to its name. The house made chicha morada (a Peruvian purple corn tea) shrub is worth double fisting. 408 S Main St, Los Angeles, (213) 687-8808


Strawberry Cream Soda
Strawberry Cream Soda—Photo by Natalie B. Compton

Photo by Natalie B. Compton

The word “cream” may not sound particularly good on a hot day, but Sotto’s strawberry cream soda is here to challenge that judgment. The sweet mocktail is more Yoplait Whips! than Fage, offering a light and bright creaminess that works in the below ground restaurant. 9575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, (310) 277-0210

Bergamot Cafe

Bergamot Cafe’s menu may just read “fresh lemonade” but the juice goes beyond squeezed lemons with some potent mint in the mix. The minty lemonade goes down smooth without going overboard on sweetness. 2525 Michigan Ave A3, Santa Monica, (310) 828-4001

The Varnish

The Varnish obviously does craft cocktails well, but there’s a refreshing nonalcoholic sip tucked away in this old timey speakeasy. The Pineapple Ginger Beer is made with fresh squeezed lime juice, fresh pineapple juice, and house made ginger syrup. 118 E 6th St, Los Angeles, (213) 265-7089


Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice fresh coconut
Sticky Rice fresh coconut—Photo by Natalie B. Compton

Photo by Natalie B. Compton

At the end of the day, cooling down with a cold drink doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a cue from Thailand, whose temperatures and humidity trounce any heat wave LA will ever see, and grab a fresh coconut. If you don’t have a machete on hand to crack one open yourself, Sticky Rice at Grand Central Market has your back, even putting the coconut into a little bowl to keep your hands from getting, well, sticky. 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 621-2865