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.