Fewer headaches, a clearer head and less text regret—just a few of the pluses of giving up the strong stuff. But traditionally, you risk major side-eye by asking a bartender for a virgin cocktail. No more, now that some of the most sophisticated and sexy bars in town are putting alcohol-free options right on the menu and rotating their zero-proof options seasonally with the rest of their drinks. Why? Maybe we’re getting healthier. Maybe weed usage makes alcohol consumption less appealing. And maybe it’s a welcome challenge to the new generation of creative mixologists and newly available mixers (including the world’s first zero-ABV distilled spirits). See the best drinks for this January and all year long.
The Top 7 Places to Enjoy an Alcohol-Free Cocktail for Dry January
1. Gimlet At Death & Co.
This sexy subterranean bar new to the DTLA Arts District is hitting all the notes that has made its New York and Denver locations a hit for more than a decade. It’s dark, it’s hidden behind an unmarked door and they don’t take reservations...but once you get in, you’re going to have options for today’s most flavor-forward cocktails. Three of the inaugural menu’s drinks are available in nonalcoholic versions, while seven drinks are available in reduced-alcohol iterations. We ordered the Buko Gimlet in both alcoholic and virgin iterations, and in our nonscientific taste test, the alcohol-free version won over the taste of the one with Four Pillars Navy Gin, cachaça, coconut water, pandan (a vanilla-like herb) and finger lime. The secret? Herbal distilled nonalcohol Seedlip was added in place of the gin.
810 E. Third St.; deathandcompany.com
2. Bothanical Tonic At Apotheke
Sometimes the description of a no-spirits cocktail reads more like a smoothie, which is the case with this refreshing wellness tonic at Apotheke in Chinatown (we’re talking acai, blueberry, blackberry, maqui berry, tart cherry, baobab, lime and cilantro). Mixologist Nicholas O’Connor also mixes cocktails that include innovative ingredients like High Rhode by Kin, a herbaceous tonic featuring nootropics, adaptogens and botanics, and thanks to what the L.A.-based makers call “the entourage effect,” creates biochemically induced feelings of being both alert and relaxed. (We tried High Rhode and felt like we’d just emerged from a half hour of meditation).
1746 N. Spring St.; 323-844-0717 or apothekela.com
3. Szechuan Fizz At Employees Only
Why opt for a sugary soda when you can have a layered cocktail? Here, the Szechuan Fizz shakes up Seedlip Spice 94 (the zero-alcohol distilled beverage with top notes of cardamom and allspice) with Som Pineapple Szechuan Vinegar, honey pineapple syrup, a dash of turmeric, a splash of soda and a sprinkle of poppy seeds, all served over ice. Not something you’d come up with at home (although you’ll be tempted to try to re-create it).
7953 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; 323-536-9045 or employeesonlyla.com
4. Cherry Pomb At Love & Salt
Fermented and slightly effervescent, kombucha is a popular healthy alternative to carbonated sodas, but it can taste a little acidic. The Cherry Pomb cocktail remedies this by adding cherry syrup, lime juice, rosemary and agave to Health-Ade brand pomegranate kombucha—refreshing, herbal and just sweet enough.
317 Manhattan Blvd., Manhattan Beach; 310-545-5252 or loveandsaltla.com
5. Te Amo Manana At Gracias Madre, Newport
This plant-based Mexican restaurant has a next-level beverage program that’s always experimenting with new flavors (we’ll not soon forget the great cannabis cocktail rollout of 2017). Now, the new location of Gracias Madre in Newport is continuing its strong beverage program with this delightful, spicy-sour drink that includes passionfruit, lime, muddled jalepeño, mint, grapefruit bitters, Angostura bitters and grapefruit soda.
8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 323-978-2170 or graciasmadre.co
6. The "i Am Boring" At The Wallace
In a funny play on restaurant menu items named after positive affirmations (“Server, I’ll have the ‘I Am Grateful’ entree”), this cocktail is named for how you might feel if you’re staying sober while everyone else is getting a buzz on. But you’ll smile when you taste this cocktail’s delicious mix of goji berry puree, mint, lemon and soda over crushed ice.
3833 Main St., Culver City; 310-202-6400 or thewallacela.com
7. The Clueless At Mama Shelter
When you’re in Hollywood, so many of the cocktails (including the ones without booze) are named after movies. There are some great ones to choose from: The Clueless has fresh lavender and lemon, ginger beer and basil; the Fantasia has fresh apple cider and cinnamon. There’s also a cucumber-and-blackberry concoction with fresh lemon juice and lavender simple syrup.
6500 Selma Ave.; 323-785-6665 or mamashelter.com