Where To Find The Best Non-Alcoholic Cocktails In LA
THIS STORY IS PART OF HOW TO L.A., OUR ONGOING SERIES OF PRACTICAL GUIDES FOR DAY-TO-DAY LIVING IN LOS ANGELES.
You don't need alcohol to make a good cocktail. You don't even need soda. Those claims would be heresy in some circles, but as Americans increasingly slow down on the sauce and shun sugar water, bartenders have noticed.
In Los Angeles, we're seeing inventive non-alcoholic drinks become expected menu standards. These mocktails are tasty, fun, pair as well with food as any wine flight and don't require a dose of Tylenol the next morning. It's also a good racket for proprietors. They know that non-drinkers who want to socialize in public with their friends cannot live on ginger beer alone, so bar owners often charge almost as much for a virgin drink as they would for the boozy version.
We've researched and cataloged some of the non-alcoholic cocktails. Bottoms up, teetolaers.
Don't like cocktails with or without alcohol? Check our sparkling water showdown.
This westside bar made headlines a couple years ago when famed mixologist Gabriella Mlynarczyk was there to get creative with ingredients. Creative director Jordan Fattal and his team continue the legacy with mocktails like the True Tropical, which lives up to its name thanks to passion fruit, mango, strawberry shrub and pineapple juice, and Spiced It, made with verjus (the juice of unripened grapes), verdita (a blend of cilantro, jalapeno and mint), pineapple syrup and soda.
3811 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista. 310-574-7610, accomplicebar.com.
Republique alum Eric Bost's über-popular Hancock Park fine dining spot is big on celebrating local flavors and growers. Its non-alcoholic drinks include earthy selections like Shrub (beet shrub, strawberry, orange flower and ginger beer) and Gardenia (non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip's herb-themed Garden tonic plus miso, honey, pineapple and lime).
6703 Melrose Ave., Hancock Park. 323-486-6703, www.auburnla.com.
Audrey at the Hammer
When you're feeling extra fancy and want to hang with the artsy crowd, chef Lisa Giffen's new museum restaurant offers the Jasmine East Side, a jasmine tea mixed with cucumber, mint, lime and soda. There's also Duche de Longueville's sparkling apple cider if you want to look like you're sipping something harder but don't want to suffer the consequences.
10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. 310-443-7037, hammer.ucla.edu/restaurant.
It can be dangerous, mainly for your wallet, to drink before you shop, so it makes sense that Adam Sobel and Michael Mina's Italian restaurant, located on the ground floor of the Beverly Center, offers alcohol-free options. The No Trouble section of the menu features a seasonal rotation of elixirs like the Cajun Queen. With pineapple, brown sugar and cayenne, it sounds like the Master Cleanse on steroids. The Secret Garden, which has Seedlip Garden, agave and lemon, and is probably less harsh on your digestive system.
8500 Beverly Blvd. #115, Beverly Grove. 424-332-4595, calmarerestaurant.com.
How fitting that the Prohibition-themed speakeasy is also known for drinks that come sans alcohol. The Paper Moon, made with cucumber, lime and tonic water, is a favorite. For those who want something sweeter, the Natasha includes raspberry, lemon and pineapple juice. There's also the Amelie with mint, lemon and honey, which sounds like the ideal sipper for anyone battling a cold.
108 W. 2nd St., #101, Downtown. 213-613-0000, edisondowntown.com.
Even the ritziest bars are getting in on the mocktail action. Want a concoction that can be made without alcohol but won't lack flavor? Look for the gem symbol next to the drinks on Genever's expansive, frequently changing menu. Recent options have included the Matcha Maker — a comb of cachaco, matcha, banana, lime and orgeat — and the Filipino G+T, which deletes the gin while upping the quantity of Datu Puti vinegar and citrusy calamansi to balance out the tonic water.
3123 Beverly Blvd., Historic Filipinotown. 213-908-5693, geneverla.com.
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The West Hollywood vegan Mexican food restaurant preaches that you should treating your body well, so its cocktail menu, while heavy on the mezcal and tequila, also has alcohol-free options. Search the On The Wagon section to find a virgin margarita. They also serve Whalebird dry-hopped grapefruit kombucha, either straight-up or as part of the Michelada Sin Cerveza, which also comes with habanero bitters and jalapeno basil ice.
8905 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood. 323-978-2170, graciasmadreweho.com.
Harvard & Stone
When you'd rather get a live music headache than a booze-induced one, search for the stars on this Los Feliz bar's menu. They denote drinks that can be made with non-alcohol distilled spirits. Baby's First Bourbon uses Seedlip's Spice variety plus a marcona almond flavoring with lemon and bitters. The Honeydew Collins mixes Seedlip's citrus-flavored Grove with honeydew, lime juice, coconut milk and lime leaves.
5221 Hollywood Blvd., Los Feliz. 747-231-0699, harvardandstone.com.
Because other things go well with rainbow trout and rabbit meatballs aside from an Old Fashioneds and a Tom Collins, Brian Dunsmoor and Jonathan Strader's wood-fire food mecca also has mocktails. The online menu pushes the Straight & Narrow, which comes with lemon, orgeat, pomegranate and rose water.
12517 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City. 310-391-4222, hatchethallla.com.
Both the Breva brasserie and Bar Figueroa inside the historic downtown hotel offer mocktails that taste as good as they look on Instagram. They include the California Dream (Seedlip Grove plus East Imperial grapefruit tonic, oleo saccharum and rosemary) and the Caffe Kasbah (Seedlip's Spice flavoring, espresso, vanilla bean, demerara sugar and a lemon twist). Bar Figueroa and the hotel's cocktail lounge, Rick's, also offer the Garden Spritz, which mixes Seedlip Garden with celery juice, verjus and Fever-Tree's elderflower tonic. It's then garnished with a ribbon of celery and served in a wine glass.
939 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. 213-627-8971, hotelfigueroa.com.
Star mixologist Matthew Biancaniello is always game for some fun libations (see the omakase menu he created for Malibu's Mon-Li last year). He's in residence every Tuesday and Wednesday through June at the Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt, where he's mixing up several mocktails. His favorite is still unnamed but it contains Saint Lucia sea moss-infused verjus with curry leaves and kumquats. He describes it as briny [and] salty; really like a delicious acidic grape juice with blast of sesame and orange flavors.
7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 323-769-8888, thehollywoodroosevelt.com.
Yes, non-drinkers can have fun at tiki-themed joints. This one, a great, non-touristy spot in Hollywood, has virgin pina coladas (pineapple, coconut and lime), Painkillers (pineapple, orange and coconut) and Missionary's Downfall, a blend of mint, caramelized pineapple, peach, honey and lime. Lono even plans to launch an extended menu with more non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drink options.
6611 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 323-848-4475, lonohollywood.com.
Love & Salt
Situated a few minutes' walk from the end of the Manhattan Beach pier, Love & Salt is the place to pop in for some pappardelle ragu or a wood-fired pizza topped with duck egg and pancetta. For non-alcoholic drink pairings, there is the Signora Rosa, which comes with Health Ade's pink lady apple-flavored kombucha, lemon juice, pear puree, nutmeg and honey. The Cherry Pomb is flavored with Health Ade's pomegranate kombucha as well as cherry syrup, lime juice, rosemary and agave. If fermentation isn't your thing, there's the Fraise Lavande, a mix of strawberry, lavender ginger syrup, lemon juice and mint.
317 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach. 310-545-5252, loveandsaltla.com.
The Pasadena lounge isn't shy about its love for boozy events (on Mondays you can get a margarita and three tacos for $15 and on Tuesdays they focus on bourbon and burgers). But it also has a soft spot for sober companions. Non-alcoholic drinks include the Not-So American Dream (strawberry, lemon, mint and seltzer) and the Snappy Ginger (lime, ginger, rosemary, blood orange and seltzer).
492 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. 626-584-1126, themaghouse.com.
Who says weekend meals are just for staving off a hangover? The Inglewood spot, which is open for Sunday brunch and also hosts private events, proudly boasts the MiddleBar Mary. The alcohol-free take on the Bloody Mary is so popular that it's also bottled and sold at area shops and restaurants. (You can always add vodka, if you want).
129 N. Market St., Inglewood. 323-454-7577, middlebar.com.
In addition to its extensive wine list, the Atwater Village branch of this cozy Mediterranean restaurant has gained a reputation for its Anar Cooler, a mix of house-made pomegranate grenadine, cherry bark, vanilla, lemon and soda water. Both this and the Beverly Hills branch also serve the non-alcoholic Turkish beer Efes.
3245 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village. 323-522-3488, atmomed.com.
Top Chef alum Mei Lin's Chinese-influenced Arts District restaurant has its share of fun cocktails (see the milk punch that's heavy on a rum-whiskey-port). Its also offers a sweet mocktail for non-drinkers. Called the Summer Flight, it comes with carrot, tangerine, ancho-infused grenadine, citrus fruit and pineapple mousse before it's garnished with zest from the citrus and chili threads.
923 E. Third St. Ste 109, Arts District. 213-626-8888, nightshadela.com.
Who knew that drinking could also be good for the environment? Kim Stodel, the bar director at Michael Cimarusti's seafood-centric restaurant, specializes in what he calls zero-waste cocktails and mocktails. He takes scraps from the kitchen and infuses them in drinks or uses them as garnishes. Pat yourself on the back as you sip a Sea Cucumber (cucumbers and citrus) or a Pucker Up (calamansi drinking vinegar, grapefruit and soda).
5955 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. 323-460-4170, providencela.com.
General manager Stephanie Neal jokes that the not-so-secret secret of her New Orleans-themed bar is that it makes better mocktails than anything else. The concoctions contain as many as nine ingredients and her current favorite includes mint, lemon juice, ginger syrup, housemade grenadine, pineapple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice and passion fruit puree, topped with soda water and Sprite.
1233 N. Vine St., Hollywood. 323-467-2800, sassafrassaloon.com.
The hipper-than-thou DTLA lair sells an alcohol-free pineapple ginger beer. But why stop at mocktails when you can do rounds of non-alcoholic shots? Try the Facemelter, made from lemon, fresh-pressed ginger syrup, pineapple, sea salt and cayenne. General manager Bryan Tetorakis says it's perfect if you're feeling under the weather.
118 E. 6th St., downtown L.A. 213-265-7089, 213hospitality.com/the-varnish/.
Built to look like a giant wine barrel, the Idle Hour is known for signature drinks like the Power Nap (lots of tequila, among other libations) and the Problem Child (more tequila, plus mezcal). It gets cheeky with its signature non-alcoholic offering, the Virgin Presbyterian. It's made with lemon juice, ginger syrup, pineapple and bitters and topped with club soda.
4824 N. Vineland Ave., North Hollywood. 818-980-5604, idlehourbar.com.
Wine isn't the only beverage that pairs well with Middle Eastern food. In fact, the most popular alcohol-free drink at chef Anne Conness's Israeli-inspired spot is a ginger elixir. It comes with pineapple juice, turmeric syrup, ginger syrup, lemon juice and soda.
8048 W. Third St., Beverly Grove. 323-433-4978, jaffa.la.
Skybar at the Mondrian
Don't get glassy eyed at the notorious Sunset Strip industry hang, where bartenders will make you a non-alcoholic mojito. It has soda water, natural sugar cane juice, fresh lime juice and mint, and it goes great with their French fries (but, then, most everything does).
8440 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. 323-848-6025, sbe.com/nightlife/brands/skybar/.