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The 6 best non-alcoholic drinks to order at a bar, according to the pros

Want an NA drink a bit more complex than bitters and soda? Try one of these bartender-endorsed options

A pair of mocktails.
Jay Gajjar / Unsplash

The non-alcoholic drink spectrum has become broader than ever. In the last few years, we’ve seen an influx of zero-proof beers, wines, and spirits, and the quality keeps improving across the board. That means now’s a great time to order a non-alcoholic drink while out on the town, whether you’re sober curious, or simply the designated driver for the night.

As we tend to do when seeking quality info, we reached out to some of our favorite bartenders and drinks pros for some wisdom on the topic. They offered a slew of mocktails and other NA options that can be ordered and enjoyed at just about any bar out there. These are drinks that often resemble signature drinks or classic cocktail recipes, just no alcohol. And, when made right, they rival most of the best drinks out there — period.

Here are they are, the best half-dozen non-alcoholic drinks to order at the bar.

A glass of cucumber gin gimlet with cucumber slices on a table and container.

Gimless

Scott Tipton is the director of food and beverage operations at Portland’s Heathman Hotel and its house restaurant, Tavern at the Heathman. He says to go for a non-alcoholic take on the classic Gimlet. The one at his establishment features drinking vinegar, Lyre’s pink NA gin, blueberry, and lime. Drinking vinegars have become more popular over the years and offer a nice kick of tartness to the drink. At The Heatman, they use locally-made Som drinking vinegars, the brainchild of prominent chef Andy Ricker.

Mojito

Virgin Mojito

Andreas Aktipis is the owner and event manager at Kellari in NYC. “One of the absolute best mocktails you can get anywhere is a Virgin Mojito,” he says. “You can even make these at home as the recipe is super simple and refreshing — plus you can add just a dash of your favorite fruits and juices to take it up another step. At Kellari, we took this idea and ran with a Mango Mojito, which goes perfectly with mint for a thirst-quenching summer drink in this outrageous heat.”

Beer being poured from tap

NA Beer

There’s never been a better time for non-alcoholic beer. It took a while to dial in the recipes, but the stuff coming out now actually resembled its alcoholic brethren in terms of complexity and flavor. Bars tend to have something decent on hand, either in the can or bottle or on draft. Tipton likes Crux’s NO MO IPA out of Oregon. “If you’re looking for a great non-alcoholic beer to order at a bar, this is a great option for those looking for a non-alcoholic ‘craft brew’ experience,” he says.

highball cocktail japan

Highball Mocktail

A highball or something similar is another pretty easy thing to replicate at the bar. Most establishments will have what’s necessary to make one, even if it’s not technically advertised. At The Heathman, Tipton says they make one out of Lyre’s vermouth, Som Pineapple Szechuan Drinking Vinegar, lemon, tonic, and mint. It’s called Your Party and mixes up tropical notes with spicy and refreshing elements.

bloody mary cocktail lime

Virgin Bloody Mary

A NA Bloody Mary is a great option as you get a lot of ingredients for your money. That said, you hardly even know the alcohol isn’t in the mix, as there’s plenty of complexity already in the form of tomato juice, various condiments, citrus, and more. Plus, you can have tons of fun with the garnish and drink it just about any time of day (especially when it’s a Virgin Bloody Mary). It can be personalized to your taste and get as funky as you’d like, taking on things like Clamato. The better bars out there will have a house Bloody Mary mix on hand that’s often quite delicious and can just be enjoyed on its own over ice with a proper rimmed glass.

Shirley Temple mocktail.

Shirley Temple

We’re not about to dethrone a classic. The Shirley Temple is a simple two-ingredient drink, mixing up ginger ale and grenadine and topped with a cherry. With all kinds of ginger ale and ginger beer offerings, you can tailor it to your liking, going sweet or spicy or somewhere in between. And if grenadine is too syrupy, swap in pomegranate juice.

Now you know what drinks to order at a bar. While we’re on the topic, check out the best bars in America and the best cocktails to order at the bar, also supported by drinks pros. Cheers!

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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