Bathroom tile floor
seeking–toilette hugging- head pounding misery is where my story begins. After turning 45 I began having recurring
headaches that lasted for days. What brought the problem into sharp focus was
three separate occasions when I had a single drink before dinner and ended up
in the aforementioned position in the loo.
I was desperate for and answer, and saw a doctor who told me to wash my
hands more – Hah! Undaunted I searched the internet and
discovered Alcohol Intolerance. (Think
of lactose intolerance but with booze.) The heavens opened and the angels
sang. Halleluiah! Something that described my symptoms and made
sense. Except the part where the most
common risk factor is being of Asian descent.
Uncertain, but I’ll roll with it.
Problem identified, the
solution to the problem is to not drink alcohol. Now, I’m a gal who enjoys the social aspect
of adult beverages like meeting friends for drinks, or having a bourbon while
making pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving, and the midnight “chin-chin” of champagne
flutes on New Year’s Eve. Being alcohol
free has really put a dent in celebrations.
What does a body do? Have a
I am on the hunt for
Arkansas’ best non-alcoholic cocktail.
There are plenty of recipes online , but I’m curious what our foodie
culture has to offer. Please join me on
my journey. Together we will achieve
oneness through Mocktails.
It seemed like March 12, 2020, was a day that the entire globe shut down. Little did we all know for how long the sudden stop would last. It turned out that for nearly two years people shuttered themselves, if not exclusively in their homes, then within the confines of their city or town. Yes, we adapted to our compartmented lives and, in some ways, flourished. From the comfort of our sofas and PJs we peered into our laptops and met people that otherwise would have remained a distant mystery. People we only would have heard or read about, not had actual conversations with over ZOOM. (Please raise your hand if you knew ZOOM existed before 2020.) The subsequent shut down from the pandemic had emotional and mental health consequences for us that will only be revealed by time. However, as the initial fear passed during the global confinement what was most evident was the trouble that isolation brought on all our psyches. Humans are meant to socialize with other humans. We must have contact with others to live complete lives; and after almost two solid years of hunkering down we set forth to do just that. According to Travel and Leisure magazine, “This year, the United States travel sector is anticipating a 35.6% bump, compared to 2020. In total, travel is anticipated to generate nearly $2 trillion of the U.S. economy in 2022.”This need for getaway travel was satisfied in the alcohol-free space as well.
This year a world- wide parade of AF “happenings” took place from retreats that included frigid spirit building ice baths in Spain and floating dinner parties on the Thames River to quite a few zero proof festivals sprinkled along the European and North American continents. People have begun to venture out and relish the fellowship of being in each other’s presence. Where we felt a soul crushing sense of isolation in 2020, we now are making up for with communal exuberance.
Like so many others, I also indulged my vagabond shoes and headed out for new adventures elsewhere. I took a long weekend trip to New York and rekindled a deep love for the city and whet my appetite for more travel. On two occasions, Austin was the destination of choice. Both Texas trips were for AF celebrations. One to commemorate the actual “launch” of a new boozeless cruise entertainment company and another to spend the weekend with likeminded women enjoying AF festivities.
What stood out to me while travelling was that without alcohol, the level of joy and celebration was never diminished. The mocktails flowed at every destination and authentic connections were made minus the late-night booze inspired “tears and consequences”.
It was on my first trip to Austin that I witnessed firsthand the “no booze= no fun” archetype be absolutely obliterated. At the Yacht Drops maiden voyage on Halloween weekend everyone embarked all dolled up in their costumes, and as I stood on the top deck awaiting our launch, I looked around and felt the undercurrent of excitement. The sense that something truly significant was happening dawned on me as more people made their way to the top deck to what was soon to be the dancefloor. The phrase “It’s happening” kept going through my mind. People from different walks of life but with the same intention were getting together for the same purpose, to party AF style. The typical subdued greetings and getting to know other passengers took place. Complementing each other on costumes and meeting in person, people only known over electronics as per what usually happens in a social setting. Thus, the cruise began…and then the music started. The awkward few people stepped onto the dancefloor to set the pace like so many do. By the time DJ Missing Mei took the music up a thousand notches, everyone was out and literally dancing their butts off. No Austin Halloween party would be complete without the famous Congress bridge bats taking flight at dusk, and we were all treated to airborne streams of bats soaring through the night sky. A natural blessing that everything was as it should be. Then it was DJ Caliceaux Jack’s turn to whip the crowd into a whirling storm of synchronized bouncing bodies and smiling faces. To any onlooker it would have seemed like a typical Halloween party, which it was – with only one thing subtracted from the equation. Nothing was missing, including photo mementos of the night with partygoers, AF drink in hand, dancing the night away.
Two weeks later this cowgirl was headed back to Austin for a weekend-long Sober in The City gathering with the sole purpose of connecting in person and celebrating life without alcohol. The entire weekend was packed with activities, dancing, speakers, and plenty of AF drinks to sample. Although not actually a conference, it had that feeling of a large group of women learning with and from each other – minus the compulsory business meeting over too many drinks and wondering if you owe anyone an apology the next day.
I came late to the party, arriving on Saturday morning and heading directly to a dance/ exercise session titled “Disco Dance Party” that I thought was only a few blocks from the hotel. Unfortunately, as I stalled at a food truck waiting for the class to begin and wondering why no one was there it dawned on me that maybe I was in the wrong place. Suitcase in tow, I walked to the hotel and considered my options since I was there way too early for check-in. A cluster of gold lame’ clad women were assembled at the front door of the hotel. I instantly knew who they were and where they were headed; and after introducing myself to them without hesitation they swooped me up and packed me into their Uber off to the actual destination. Afterwards we got to know each other over lunch. We all laughed and bonded as we shared family pictures and similar experiences of children, marriage, and living alcohol free. It was so nice to be taken under their communal wings. My social anxiety never had a chance with such a warm inclusive group of women. They were a pod of five women from the Sober Sis movement who until then had only known each other in Marco Polo information bytes. They knew each other well and yet, were still meeting for the first time; solidifying their connection to one another while folding me in temporarily.
At the dinner party that evening I had the opportunity to reconnect with some now familiar faces. Chris Marshall from Sans Bar, whom I’ve known since the beginning of my journey, spoke at the VIP lounge and later poured some devastatingly delicious mocktails. Jen Kautsch, the leader of the Sober Sis movement spoke at dinner about the significance of all of us simply being together alcohol- free. And from the previous Austin trip, DJ Caliceaux Jack was back in attendance providing beats for all to get their groove on.
As I flew home the next day, I was struck by what a blessing these trips brought. My cup was overflowing from the benefit of connecting with a vast range of beautiful people whose commonality was letting go of alcohol. Even though we all came from and array of backgrounds, the need to be in each other’s presence was undeniable. There were no boundaries of where we were on the sober spectrum – it wasn’t important. Inclusion and connection were the goal, and I found those in abundance at every destination.
Thankfully the time of shutting ourselves in has ended, even if the pandemic continues. There are more and more opportunities to gather and celebrate being alive AF. And if you ever are given the chance to experience zero proof travel, I urge you to jump at it.
The AF movement is a firework with an ever shortening fuse that is on the verge of exploding onto the mainstream scene.
We all started somewhere to get where we are now; which is at the beginning of something excitingly full of possibility. My personal journey was more divinely handed to me rather than a decision made on my own. I entered the AF community after developing intolerance to alcohol that would made me sick for days after one drink, but not every single drink. For me it was a roulette game of, “Will this be the one that lands me on the sofa, out of commission, or not?” After three separate painful episodes over an extended period of time of about a year and a half, I stopped trying. It wasn’t worth the risk. My final alcohol drink landed me in the Urgent Care clinic. Lesson learned, I put down drinking alcohol and picked up a new lifestyle with a purpose. I wanted to continue living complete with celebrations and socializing, just without booze. It seemed simple enough until I went out and gave it a try.
My mission was born out of necessity to socialize with a drink that didn’t include dire consequences. Now…in my corner of the world at the end of 2018 AF drinks were pretty sparse. There was only one restaurant in town that had mocktails on the menu. At most places if I ordered a mocktail I got curious looks or even snarky comments from unenthusiastic bartenders. Undaunted, I was determined to see mocktails on every menu. So I began talking with restaurants and bars spreading the word that a new category of customer was looming on their horizon. I passed out mocktails at food festivals, art walks, ladies nights out, and even competed in an Egg Nog competition just to educate the public on the idea of alcohol free cocktails/mocktails. Most people humored me by tasting my wares. Some people asked where I sold my drinks. Very few understood that I was selling a concept – a lifestyle. Not everyone took me seriously, but by the end of 2019 there were twelve places in town with mocktails on their menu. (Insert celebratory fanfare here) Meanwhile I began an Instagram account and found a community of like-minded souls that inspired, supported, and encouraged each other. I kept hearing my thoughts echoed back to me there, “Why can’t I socialize minus the alcohol?” “Don’t seat me at the kids’ table with a Shirley Temple.” “Please set your mind free to create an AF cocktail worth sipping.” “Having a drink without alcohol IS the point.” One part of my life was an uphill struggle while in another area I was meeting more and more kindred spirits.
Then 2020 hit….
The entire world shut down and life as we knew it literally vanished almost overnight. This “Mother of all disrupters” year has brought surprising bright spots and devastating losses. I hunkered down along with everyone else, and lost touch with many of the local places with whom I had built relationships. I don’t know if they currently serve mocktails or not. Although, it’s probably a safe bet that they aren’t all that interested in conceptual expansion into another drink category. I believe they have been hanging on for dear life, and sticking with what they know, which is … sell booze. A big personal loss for me was a local bar that was near and dear to my heart succumbed to the shattered economy and closed. I was their first customer the day they opened, and the first actual paid-for drink they served was a mocktail. It was very sad to see them go.
On the other hand, as we all turned away from our physical communities we began to gather on the internet. We have mastered the art of Zoom meetings and Facebook live events and IGTV sharing. It has been quite an impressive pivot personally from local to global interests. I may have lost touch with people and place here, but I now can say I have new friends in Spain, Australia, the UK and across North America. It has been a year of Mindful Drinking festivals and Beer festivals and interesting group hangouts with amazing people. This year I have witnessed both the AF community and AF industry grow exponentially. There has been quite a number of new brands take off and brave new entrepreneurs take on the task of packaging and selling them. Their courage is heartening. It has been a year of people taking challenges and turning them into opportunities.
Missing your celebration bubbly wine? No problem! There are many wine makers who continue to develop better and better NA and AF versions of their wines. Is opening a wine bottle an issue for you? Well, there are enough canned versions of these beauties and wine infused sparkling water brands to satisfy.
The most successful drink translation to NA and AF in my opinion is beer. Nothing is lost in the flavor of countless craft brews on the market. This category continues to grow in the most delicious ways.
Alcohol free spirits is also making enormous strides in “sippability”. What began as botanical water distillations has blossomed into delightfully textured libations.
In order to solve the problem of getting these products into the hands of AF consumers brand new companies have started up as bottle shops and curated packagers that offer introductions to multiple beverages that before could only be purchased on the manufacturer’s website. One stop internet shopping is becoming easier and easier.
And marketing the products directly to the people who want them? This is where I, among others step in and highlight them in our IG stories and feeds. We interview the product makers, and develop new ideas for drinks to share with the world. Everyone I have met so far has had a generous spirit in common. From both sides of the equator people are happy to use their 15 minutes of internet fame to give wholeheartedly to this community.
As my perspective shifted, the mission shifted from “A mocktail for every menu” to crusading for bringing the AF movement into the mainstream globally. By sharing the stories of the fascinating people I meet and the fantastic places and products I find; I hope to engage, enlighten, and entertain the general public. For me, zero has meant a whole new world. I didn’t just give up drinking alcohol. I gained a universal kinship and exciting new way of life.
Curious about “Mindful Drinking” or what a Dry January or Sober October might mean for you? If you’re interested in making modifications, if not all out prohibition in your drinking habits, January might be the time to take some time off.
Taking a month to put some distance between you and over indulgence is not a bad idea. The good news is it doesn’t have to include you wearing a shroud and acting like a monk. Being sober can actually include being social. No need to worry about club soda as your only option when out and about. Whether it’s “Dry January” or “Dry Any Day”, there are quite a few places in Little Rock to go out with friends and enjoy an actual cocktail without the consequence.
…Welcome to the land of Mocktails!
Some of the drinks I have had the pleasure of trying, and some I look forward to tasting soon. Check back with the guide every so often because menus are always changing.
Historic Arkansas’ yearly eggnog competition has been a way to set sail into the Christmas season for me and my family since my son was in elementary school. The event has always proven to be crowded, messy (in the best of ways), and thoroughly enjoyable. Even with the abundance of boozy Nog offerings, there have always been one or two tables with an a booze-less drink for the kids allowing everyone a taste.
Being a part of this holiday party was absolutely on my Mocktail MO list of accomplishment goals. After reaching out to see if they might be open to the idea, I discovered it also just happened to be Historic Arkansas’ goal to have an alcohol free category of competitors this year. Talk about serendipity! …and I knew exactly what I would serve.
Last year was my first holiday season to celebrate without any alcohol; and I was on fire to create a cocktail that was festive and special. After a little trial and error I came up with something absolutely decadent, but refreshing at the same time. It was that mocktail creation I wanted to share for the Nog-off. When I first made it I used store-bought eggnog as the base, but there was no way I could enter a NOG competition without making my own. Oooh la la! Little did I know what I had gotten myself into. I poured over the internet for an appropriate recipe and finally settled on one that made the most volume per batch. The result of home made eggnog is much better tasting, but very labor intensive. In order to serve the masses that attend the Nog-off, three days were dedicated to after work eggnog making. After numerous trips to the grocery store for more ingredients to mix and blend, by day three we had it down to a science, but still only ended up with about five gallons of eggnog vs. the twelve gallons that were recommended. Yikes! I was sweating bullets the entire drive to the Historic Arkansas Museum on competition day. I just knew we would run out after thirty minutes. Hundreds of people walked through the venue, and in a fish and loaves moment we made it through the entire evening! It was truly miraculous.
To say that fun was had by all would be an understatement. Two dear friends enlisted in the Mocktail MO squad to help assemble the three different parts of the mocktail and serve it to attendees. We all pushed the drink hard with some mixed reactions. Some people were absolutely overjoyed to have an alcohol free option while a couple of people came for the booze only. They either abstained completely or lamented the lack of hooch as they sipped. A few people were confused by my being a blog writer, and not a restaurant. They would ask my location and all I could reply was “On the internet”. One woman made a point of coming back and telling me I should sell this drink. Many people asked for the recipe.
As promised this is the MO-Nogtail recipe: In a glass place 1-2 tablespoons vanilla bean ice cream. Cover the ice cream with eggnog (home made is best) Fill the rest of the glass with a spicy ginger beer. (Fever Tree or Q work well) Et Voila!!! the MO-Nogtail especially for you!
Sometimes flying by the seat of your pants lands you in the most interesting places…
As we wind down 2019 and head into Thanksgiving, I look back with a grateful heart at what can be described as a perfect beginning of what I hope to be one of the best paths in my life. As those of you who have read the blog know, I blindly stumbled into this Mocktail/ alcohol free (AF) movement. My slide into an AF lifestyle was purely by divine design, not so much a choice as an end to things. After a life of casual imbibing, I went from a “one and done” kind of gal to suddenly alcohol makes me sick – period. And being conditioned to avoid things that make us sick, I landed on a path of discovery. Little did I know just where that path would lead.
In January I started the Mocktail MO blog to chronicle my search for AF drinks. The logical next step to move traffic to the blog was to promote it on Facebook and Instagram… amiright? So that’s what I did. On Facebook old friends have given encouragement and support to this new phase in my life, even if they don’t completely understand it. But I suppose that’s what friends are for. Their cheering me on helped me gain confidence when I had no real idea what I was doing. At first I was simply trying to find a place that I could socialize with friends over a drink that didn’t contain alcohol. The search was a short one, because at the beginning there was one restaurant in town that actually had a mocktail menu with actual craft AF drinks. This disappointing fact lead me to change the objective from journaling mocktail finds to a full on mocktail crusade. I became determined to have a mocktail on every menu. And in less than a year, I can barely keep up with all the local restaurants with mocktails on their menu. I can’t take credit for it all, but I do believe that I have contributed consistent if ever so small propulsion in that direction in my hometown. As recognition for that contribution Mocktail MO was featured in Arkansas Life magazine’s “Best of 2019” issue. (That took me by surprise and sent me a bit over the moon.) I was also interviewed by Laura Monteverdi, THV-11’s morning news journalist in her story about the mocktail trend. All of this has confirmed to me that Mocktail MO is more than just a lark, but has a purpose and should continue.
My mantra has become, “Keep going and see what happens.”
There have been times when I’ve wondered what’s the point in all this, but a
little voice keeps urging me on. My
curiosity (see what I did there…? #sobercurious) has fueled me to continue to
see what I might find. I’ve discovered
that somehow I have landed in the middle of a wave that is global and growing
in size. The cool part is that I get to be a part of it all. Remember when I
said that this journey was of divine design? I believe that for some real
reason my sickness has brought me to a new place in life with the possibility
of more. On Instagram I kept hearing echoes
of things I had been saying myself. “I
don’t want to feel excluded.”
“Socializing doesn’t have to be alcohol
required.” “Alcohol free cocktails / Mocktails really are a thing and worth
more than just a smile and a shrug.” One of the best discoveries has been a
tribe of strangers that I didn’t know would become so dear to me. I am proud to share a common ground with the sober
community of moving forward in life differently – with honesty, sometimes being
fearlessly vulnerable, and unapologetically asking for a world big enough for
socializing with and without alcohol.
I have also found an ever expanding market of alcohol free
products and people who review them.
Unfortunately most of them are sold in Europe, but more and more are
making it to – and being made in the U.S.
It’s fun and exciting to try all the alcohol alternatives that I
find. And although I keep telling people
that I am absolutely not a bartender, I am an enthusiastic experimenter. I look forward to a time that we start seeing
bottles of the alternatives on the shelves above bars. Who knows what incredible
things could be created in the trained hands of a professional? Someday…
Where the future will take this AF wanderer is unknown, but
as far as beginnings go… even the yellow brick road’s got nothing on me. If 2020 is anything like this past year has
been, I’m in for quite a ride.
I would like to give a special thanks to the generosity of
the people and establishments who have played a large roll in this wonderful
Laura Monteverdi for her interest in the Mocktail movement, and including me in her story.
Jordan Hickey for listing Mocktail MO in the Arkansas Life magazine’s Best of 2019 issue.
Amy Counce at Nexus Coffee and Creative for always saying “Yes” to my crazy ideas.
Brandy McNair at Bella Vita Jewelry for providing such a lovely platform for sharing Mocktails.
Atlas Bar and Dustbowl Little Rock for being such fierce competitors in the Monarch of Mocktober competition.
And finally to all the restaurants and
bars out there that are willing to open their eyes to something new.
Looking ahead to aspirational hopes and dreams…
I would like to team up with a local brewery to
create a zero proof craft beer. (Yes, even in Arkansas)
A YouTube “Mocktails with MO” show (Stay tuned!)
That one of the outcomes of this movement is a
future where kids don’t feel compelled to treat alcohol as a rite of
passage. (Possibly a high school tour??)
Thanks for joining me and being a part of this journey. Here’s
to what happens next.
Happy trails to you…until we meet again. Happy trails to you…keep smiling until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together? Just sing a song, and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you…’til we meet again.
-Dale Evans and Roy Rogers
Certain occasions need to be
celebrated in a memorable way. As 2019 marks fifteen years of marriage for my
husband and me, it was therefore worthy of an unforgettable experience. To honor this momentous adventure together we
decided to visit our happy place, Morro Bay, California; and since the hubs
hadn’t seen the western U.S., a road trip was in order. There is nothing quite like the expansive
vistas that the west offers, and they are completely missed by plane. You have to be a part of it to really
understand the mind blowing beauty of it all.
Our course took us through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah,
Nevada, Arizona, and finally California.
Not to play favorites, but I have to say that driving down the 70
highway through Utah is like being inside an oil painting of a western
landscape. It is simply indescribable,
the magnitude of its beauty. Every turn of the head, angle of the sun, mile
down the road is breathtaking. Needless to say…our fifteenth anniversary will
The downside of road trips is weariness at the end of the day. Mostly you’re stiff and tired and want to hit the sack, and this was true for a lot of our stops along the way to our landing spot. (I intend on circling back another time to investigate mocktails further in the future in Colorado as well as a few other places we passed through. I understand the NA craft beer scene is pretty next level there, and a whole other trip should probably be planned to do it justice. Stay tuned friends…I’ll see what I can do about that.) The M casino and spa in Las Vegas was the first place we had the opportunity to dress up a bit and have a night cap. We had taken our time driving through the aforementioned splendor of Utah and were trying to push through to California, but Nevada was as far as we could go. Road weary and desperate for a place to stay outside of the neon jungle that is Las Vegas, we soldiered on until the skyline got darker.
The M was the last hotel we saw before the desert began again. As we drove to the entrance I volunteered to go in and see if there was a vacancy. I didn’t care how much it cost; it was time to stop. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t’ sure at the time where we were exactly – Henderson? Las Vegas? The lovely woman at the front desk set me straight on our location, and during the check-in process found out we were celebrating our anniversary. Not long after we were in our room chocolate covered strawberries were delivered compliments of the front desk. Nice, huh? And the room was sexaaay! Sexy! Not a clichéd mirrors on the ceiling kind of thing, but a low light twinkling skyline, bathtub with a window to the twinkling skyline sort of sexy. I’m not gonna lie, it was a great stop. We filled our bellies with a fantastic meal and set off to the bar to wrap-up the day with a mocktail. Continuing this theme of fabulous hospitality, there was no problem ordering alcohol free drinks. The bartender offered a mojito and suggested a Heineken zero for my husband. We sat and blissfully enjoyed our beverages while congratulating ourselves on our good fortune.
The next day was a long haul to The
Inn at Morro Bay, our celebration destination. We arrived just at sunset (a
perfect time to be in Morrow Bay) and soaked it all in over a cocktail. We sat at the bar a little worse for wear, and
were treated by our bartender Tracy like family. No sooner had I asked “do you serve alcohol
free…” she finished the sentence, “Mocktails?” All I could do was nod and
smile. She made a perfectly refreshing
fruit and cucumber mocktail that blended into the colors of the setting sun
while the hubs opted for a full octane Blue Hawaii. It felt like coming home.
After a restful night sleeping to the sound of the distant fog horn sighing its monotone song it was the big day. Fifteen years of a committed relationship is quite something if you think about it; but it’s just a chorus compared to the complete love ballad of twenty-five years our dear friends that we had come to visit were celebrating. Our anniversaries are one day apart from each other, and occasionally we get to celebrate together. Because this was quite a milestone for us all we made the pilgrimage out west to share in the festivities. The day was spent touring around the exceptional central coast of California just soaking in with every pore the charm and glorious nature that part of the country displays. The vast ocean and all its creatures entertained us by just going about their day. Otters twirled in the kelp or slept in their prayer poses, seagulls squawked begging for food, land squirrels practically sat in our laps eager for nibbles of whatever snack we had, and sea lions barked at each other for the best sunning spots all while the pulse of the ocean rolled on. Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but my hear lives at Morro rock.
That night we were treated to another Technicolor sunset as we dined at the Ventana Grill in Pismo beach. Did they have mocktails on the menu? Yes, yes they did! I ordered the AF version of their coconut mojito, a blend of coconut milk, lime, and mint. The hubs had a zesty muddled berry, lime, and orange AF Ventana View. I loved both drinks equally. Both were light on the taste buds yet full of flavor. We all ended the evening at the fiery 1865 Craft House and Kitchen where we had wild and wonderful Unicorn Palomas which they graciously deleted alcohol for me.
A treat for the eyes as much as it is to drink. It starts with a charcoal black salted rim and inside is where the magic happens… a huge blue ice cube floats in the middle of the drink changing the color as it melts. Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo! Unicorn alchemy in a glass. The night was getting late, and it was time to call it a wrap on the day’s revelry and tuck ourselves into bed.
We bid farewell to our beloved Morro Bay and headed back east with a side trip to visit more friends in Palm Springs and another opportunity to sample a new mocktail. Dinner was at the Tropicale, a restaurant that maintains an absolutely perfect balance of homage to the mid-century beginning of the area and fully modern cuisine.
The hubs went neck deep into the vibe and had a dirty martini. I was given an excellent lemongrass and basil mojito. Wow is all I can say about that. It was completely delicious. I had never had lemongrass in a drink before – I can’t recommend it enough. It was so tasty with the other herbaceous ingredients, and made the drink beautiful to look at along with the flower decorating the rim. It was a very memorable drink to end a very memorable anniversary road trip.
We hot-footed it home replete with
soul redeeming re-connections with old friends, great food, nature, and the
Pacific. A very memorable anniversary journey
Have you ever had a really draining work week that was
completely erased by a fantastic dining experience?
You know what I mean. When you’ve survived a week from Hell; solving one crisis after another while trying to maintain calm, but the inscrutable facial veneer is starting to wear thin. When you’ve said one too many helpful things in the last meeting of the week and you know it’s time to zip it and make your exit. When you take your car on the road trip to help out a high-mileage friend, just to discover the battery’s dead when you’re heading back to the office. When 5:00 Friday finally arrives and you really just want to just hit the couch and wrap up in your Snuggie. But first you need to eat. Sometimes this involves a quick spin to a drive-thru window and getting home ASAP. Sometimes you have just had enough with giving attention all week to bosses, co-workers, clients, spouse, and kids – and want to be the one receiving it. Yearning for something to renew your faith in human interactions, sometimes you just want to be waited on with a warm smile, no complications…and a mocktail.
So far in this quest for alcohol-free cocktails ordering a
mocktail goes along with an explanation and often times a little coaching. Not exactly what you’re looking forward to
at the end of a tough week. It was a
great relief to discover two places in Little Rock with mocktails readily available
to the alcohol free drinker. I am happy
to say that on these two separate occasions after asking the waiter for a
mocktail I was treated to the word I’ve been longing for, “Yes”- simple satisfaction in three letters. It feels like a warm hug to walk into an
establishment and with absolute ease order “something before dinner” without
The first time this happened I ventured into Kemuri after a particularly long soul sucking week at work expecting the need to give the same song and dance to our waiter. My shoulders slid down from my ears two inches when my reply to his pre-dinner beverage query was met with a selection of two mocktails from which to choose. Oh joy and rapture! The happy start to my weekend happened at that moment making the doom and gloom of the week begin to fade. We of course ordered both so as not to miss out on anything. When they came to the table I thought, “You totally get me”. Mine was a cucumber basil tonic with an astringently herbaceous flavor that went perfectly with my sushi. The hubs ordered a tall stemmed beauty that was fruity sweet and refreshing. Both of the drinks looked inviting and tasted distinctly like cocktails, not soft drinks. The dinner that followed was sculptural and delicious. If you’ve been to Kemuri you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t been, it’s an absolute treat. Every dish is a delight which begins with its presentation. Imaginative floral arrangements that contain a meal amongst the blossoms is how I would describe each plate. We left full, but lighter in spirit than when we sat down.
The second instance was less of a surprise. I had heard that Trios had a new list of mocktails on their menu and was eager to give them a whirl. Once again after a humbling work week it was time to relax and have a more affirming experience. It was definitely to be had at Trios. We sat at a high top table in the bar area and ordered two from three mocktails offered on the menu. It was glorious. No fuss- no muss, just a whole lot of inclusion. I asked for a Rosemary Blueberry Smash, and my husband had the Mango Mule. They both were fantastic with complex craft cocktail tastes. To be honest I was afraid that the Blueberry Smash was going to be too much like a fruit-slush. It was just the opposite. The mocktail was transparent with slight purple tint and layered with flavor. The Mango Mule, which was served in a traditional copper mug, was just as satisfying with the sweetness of mango countered by the bite of ginger. Dinner included warm brie and a lamb burger that lifted us both to cloud nine. The best part of the evening was overhearing the table sitting behind us ordering mocktails for themselves. Talk about affirming. Although I can’t take credit for Trios’ Mocktail addition, hearing that people are actually taking advantage of them being on the menu is a great big yes to me.
I want to extend my gratitude to the restaurants and bars
that are warming up to and even embracing the idea of Mocktails. You are heroes to those who feel excluded
from fully enjoying going out and socializing over a drink.
Sometimes we start out on a mission and grow weary of its pace, either too slow or too fast. I have to say that meeting new people, making new friends, and being a part of a swiftly growing global community of alcohol free imbibers is one of the most rewarding paths I have taken in my life. This new adventure started as a search for something that I thought would be easy, alcohol free cocktails. I quickly found out that so far in Arkansas it is a strange and new concept for most in the hospitality industry. There are a couple of restaurants with mocktails, and a few bartenders willing to play my silly game of “Create a MOtini, MOrita, CosMO”…etc. Not all of them take me seriously, but what keeps me going is the joy it brings to talk to people about sober drinking, and to see the light bulbs switch on when they start to understand the idea. Alcohol is not a requirement to enjoying socializing with people, nor is it the root of all sin in my book. What I’m interested in (and the exponentially growing number of A.F. drinkers agree) is a world where “cocktail” has a broader meaning than just a boozy drink.
I have to credit Instagram, and the wonderful groups of people I find there for spurring me onward. I have definitely found my tribe there. So many people are choosing to be “mindful drinkers” for health reasons, be it lowering calories or wanting to be hangover free. Some are “sober curious”, and looking for an alternative to getting drunk. The inspiring crowd of people who choose to stay sober because of addiction is absolutely remarkable. There is so much care and support in that community, it gives my heart wings. I have also been inspired to continue on this path by certain people I follow. There’s The Mocktail Project that shares my mission and has taken it to the next level being the first to officially serve Mocktails at the Kentucky Derby. Sans Bar and Listen are pop-up event bars that create a safe place for sober people to party. On the other side of the Atlantic, The Virgin Mary bar in Dublin is a completely alcohol free bar. How crazy is that? I mean when you think of Ireland you think of pubs and people downing pints and angry whiskey fights am I right? That picture is changing as of now because of the Virgin Mary. On that note… Europe seems to be way down the road with low and no alcohol drinking. There are so many alcohol-free spirits to choose from it would be easy to create all kinds of sophisticated and complex tasting mocktails. Seedlip is by far the best known alcohol free spirit, and can now be found in the U.S. Caleno, The Bitter Note, and Silk Tree Botanics also sound so interesting, but most aren’t sold in the U.S. making it a challenge to try them.
All this keeps me plugging away here at home in Arkansas. My mission continues to be A Mocktail for Every Menu, and with that in mind I am open to talking to any and all business owners who are curious about expanding their clientele. This is a movement after all, and that starts with educating people. Mine is a “build it and they will come” kind of plan, and I am happily gaining some success. Without going into specifics…yet, I have talked with a few restaurateurs who are interested in adding space on their menus for mocktails. I will also be collaborating with a local hot spot bar to expand their mocktail service. Watch my instagram feed (mocktail.mo) for updates and upcoming events with BellaVita Jewelry and Nexus Coffee and Creative.
I never knew at the beginning just where this journey would take me, and I’m still not completely sure where it will go. I do have ideas on where I’d like to take it. (Possibly becoming the face of the Mocktail Movement?) All I know is I’m having a blast along the way and will continue on the crusade. Mocktails… it really is a thing.
Alright friends, we have another
first for the Mocktail MO mocktail movement.
Nexus Coffee and Creative and Mocktail MO teamed up at Little Rock’s 2nd
Friday Art Night. The theme: Makers on a
Mission. This was my first event to
spread the word of mocktail culture.
What an exciting event to be a part of; there were illustration/sketch
artists along with artists who made leather goods and a line of jewelry that
works with women in recovery. Served
were two mocktail creations especially made for the evening, a Sparkling Orange
and Lavender Espresso and a Nitro-tado, a blueberry nitro coffee with cream and
topped with whipped cream…Yum!
It all started as I was making coffee one morning, and I realized that practicing my sermon was in order. And by that I mean creating a more inclusive world where people who don’t drink alcohol can feel equal ordering a cocktail to those who do. If I am supposed to be preaching inclusivity why was I being so exclusive? Mocktails don’t have to only be on bar menus. Why was I only looking in one area? I needed to broaden my view. Sipping my morning joe I thought, with so many coffee houses in Little Rock there is plenty of room for other opportunities to have an alcohol free cocktail while enjoying the company of others.
After doing a little internet research I settled on Nexus Coffee and Creative to float the idea of mocktails at their special evening events. Amy Moorehead, the owner of Nexus and I sat together and brainstormed over a latte. I have to say that she was extremely open to the idea. We shared our personal stories about drinking, and not drinking. I explained how my journey began with illness, and has transformed into an extraordinary journey of meeting new people and making connections. We agreed that having cocktails with friends is more than just the booze factor. It’s about spending time with people and having fun. We also agreed that people sharing mocktails was a good fit for the Nexus mission of building community. And when I revealed my dream of becoming the Joanna Gaines, Martha Stuart, or Anthony Bourdain of the mocktail world, Amy was totally on board. That’s how she decided that 2nd Friday Art Night would be the best time to present my lifestyle vision. My art contribution for the evening was to promote a fearless alcohol free mocktail space. …And so I did.
The event was an absolute blast. Mocktails flowed throughout the room, and because the drinks were coffee based everyone had a different kind of buzz. Over the course of the evening everybody got to know each other’s work and discovered the mission behind it. We toasted each other over sparkling espressos; and I was happy to find that people were really interested in mocktails as an alternative drink. It filled my heart with joy to see a room full of people on a level playing field; drinks in hand that may or may not have had alcohol, and it didn’t matter. At the end of the night a crowd came in to celebrate a birthday. Needless to say mocktails were a part of the party. For me, it was really special to share the evening with so many talented people and new friends.
Initially my mission as Mocktail MO was to discover the best mocktails in Little Rock and beyond. The objective was to make lemonade out of the lemons life had given. I figured if I can’t drink cocktails with alcohol I should be able to have the same experience without it. Easy enough, no? Well after a few months of searching I believe I can call it “Mission Accomplished”. I think I have had the best Little Rock has to offer. Along the way I have had many mocktails, some good – some bad, and written about my experiences with the best I have found so far. Does this mean the end of Mocktail MO – heavens no! My goals have only expanded from finding the best mocktails –check, to A Mocktail for Every Menu. We’ll talk about that later.
In my effort to find a really good alcohol-free cocktail my taste buds and I have had drinks for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner. I am now ready to announce my top three picks for Best Mocktails in Little Rock, but they are all number one in my book. Raduno is at the top for actually having a Mocktail menu and serving consistent flavored drinks. The Fold will always be special for starting me on this journey in such a divinely delicious way. I was served a tremendous variety of drinks to choose from, and each one was as tasty as the other. And to round out this triad is Sauced for fearlessly diving into making a signature “MOtini” I will never forget. There are a couple Honorable Mentions too: I have to give Atlas Bar props for mocktail space on their menu; and Dos Rocas for the absolute best mockarita on the planet. It may look like I only traveled down South Main Street on this quest, but that just isn’t the case. I have ordered mocktails all around town with varied outcomes. It is interesting though that the culture of the SoMa district seems pretty open to the idea of alcohol-free mixed drinks.
I still get that look a confused dog gives you when you say something they don’t quite understand when I order a mocktail at restaurants. You know; how they cock their head to the side and sort of curl their upper lip? That one. I won’t talk about the dud experiences I’ve had. This mocktail thing is a new concept for many, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before it catches on. For my new mission I have contacted a few restaurants and made suggestions for signature mocktails that represent the personality of their particular establishment. So far people have been open to conversation, but I haven’t noticed much actual movement in that direction – yet. I’m nothing if not optimistic about the future. I think their hesitation lies in the fear of losing money on less expensive drinks, but if they changed their perspective just a notch they might see the revenue loss of people only having the option of ordering soft drinks instead of drinks with alcohol. I generally pay around $5.00 for a mocktail – considerably more than a soda, and much more than a water; which are the current options. If I may, I’ll refer back to my Why Mocktails? Let Me Break it Down For Ya post for more a detailed analysis.
On this mission I have made other discoveries worthy of noting. I have made connections with people that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for this. Thanks to Instagram, I’ve discovered that Europe is way down the road on this alcohol-free drinks for grown-ups thing. I’ve seen multi-shelf displays in super markets of different types of mocktails from different companies. There is a gentleman in England that regularly posts about the different alcohol free beer he gets in pubs around town. The U.S. isn’t far behind either. There are pop-up bars that have entire mocktail nights from Austin to New York, and are sold out. And for the first time ever, mocktails will be officially served at the Kentucky Derby this year. You see Arkansas, mocktails really are a thing, and I am totally on board to be the leader of the pack.
If you are an establishment interested in talking about mocktails,
let me know – I’m huge on collaboration.
If you are a person looking for an alcohol alternative cocktail – be
bold and order one! Change isn’t always easy…but it might just be fun.