The Results are In!

Fasten your seatbelts kids, we’ve got to talk.

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.

Raduno
The Fold
Sauc(ed)

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.

…a what?

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.

Dos Rocas – Ole’ Baby!

If I were an adventurer looking for mocktail treasure …   Oh, but I am and I have found an absolute gem at Dos Rocas Beer and Taco. Ok friends and followers, I do see a pattern in my return trips to the SoMa district, but so far I keep coming up with delightful mocktail finds.  What’s a girl to do?

Dos Rocas Cherry Lime Mockarita

It was another damp dreary Saturday afternoon, and I was restless to discover something new.  Dos Rocas had been on my radar with its simple unassuming lightbulb framed sign quietly inviting people in.  Curious about what was beyond the sign, Dos Rocas became the next watering hole to explore.  Inside, the vibe is casual and friendly.  I headed straight for the bar tucked away in the corner of the wide open restaurant space.  The usual thing happened when I asked Stephaney, the bar tender, for a mocktail.  “A what?” she asked back, confused.  After introducing myself and explaining my mission we were definitely on the same page.  I ordered a margarita and anything else alcohol-free she deemed appropriate.  Stephaney went to work on the margarita a little uncertain at first, but then everything seemed to click. Fresh lime juice and other tasty ingredients went into the rocks glass. The result was a pretty cool looking drink with a bright red layer at the bottom and lime wedge perched atop the salted rim. Everything in between was tangy lime lusciousness.  Stephany called it the mocktail version of their Cherry Lime Margarita.  Yes Ma’am! It was just what I wanted.  The balance of flavors of salt with the tartness of the drink was the perfect complement to my chorizo tacos. This mocktail deserves a permanent place on Dos Rocas menu as their signature alcohol alternative cocktail.  It looks and tastes like a drink for grown-ups that stands toe to toe with any “adult beverage”.  This drink is a definite jewel!  Next time you’re in Dos Rocas give it a try, and tell Stephaney Mocktail Mo sent you.

Ooops I Did it Again – at Raduno

To those of you who read my blog- I know, I’ve already written about Raduno, but some things require more attention.  Which is why when Bo Bennett, General Manager and resident mocktail wizard at Raduno asked me to taste-test what he was creating for summer I had to say,” Yes”.   If you haven’t had a mocktail at Raduno, what makes their drinks so special is the care that goes into the combining of ingredients.   It all starts with the base of each drink, freshly juiced fruits, veggies, and herbs.  All that lusciousness is then added to cocktail mixers that dance together on your tongue in joyous harmony.  Bo’s absolute passion for the garden and combining the freshest of flavors are the key to what makes me come back for more.

The Summer Mocktail menu will still contain the standards – the Cucumber Limonata, which up to now has been my favorite and the For your health (an incredibly close second).  Both drinks are for sure fabulously tasty.  The freshly juiced cucumber and lemon flavors are light and slightly effervescent.  The For Your Health is also delicious with its herby essence and floral finish.  But I was there to taste the new kid on the block, the Cherry Basil Tonic.  To begin, it is a beautiful drink served in a cut-glass rocks glass garnished with fresh basil and lemon slice.  It resembles a sunrise with a pink hue settled at the bottom of the glass that graduates up into translucence.  Bo used Pink House Alchemy dark cherry grenadine with fresh basil as a base and finished with tonic water to create something that at first sip brought me back to the days of sitting on Columbus avenue in NYC people watching and sipping on vodka tonics.  My mouth immediately started to water from the astringent tonic flavor.  The underlying hint of cherry and basil flavors round out the drink perfectly.  This mocktail is a definite go-to summer sipper.

Cherry Basil Tonic

If you’re wondering why the encore at Raduno my answer is this; menus change and I want to keep you up-to-date with what’s out there.  True to my mission of “discovering the best mocktails in Little Rock and beyond”, I have reported on what I’ve found.  Which is also why I am repeating myself, there are very few mocktail offerings in Little Rock.  This leads me to my new mission: A Mocktail for Every Menu.

Read about it in my next installment on mocktailmo.blog

Letting Le Bon Temps Rouler at Raduno

In preparation for Fat Tuesday, we in Little Rock like to party on like there actually is no tomorrow.  In the SoMa district the party begins with the Mardi Gras parade down Main Street, is followed by brunch at any one of the establishments in the area, and then continues until Ash Wednesday.  Not really…well maybe.

Mardi Gras Mocktails

 This year’s post parade brunch brought me to Raduno.   Now, I had been to Raduno before my unfortunate current state of health that prohibits me from imbibing alcohol, and had a lovely Bloody Mary garnished with a slice of pizza.  I knew they served Mocktails, and boy do they!  I have found my Nirvana on Main Street.  At Raduno there is actually a Mocktail menu with three drinks to choose from.  There is the Good Luck Chuck, the Cucumber and Limonata fusion, along with the To Your Health; all of which come with a description of ingredients, but no need.  The flavor alchemy is the product of Bo Bennett, whose wizardry begins in the garden.  Coming to Raduno after owning a juicing business, Bo has a wonderful understanding of how Mocktails should taste.  I have to confess that I had all three, and couldn’t for the life of me pick a favorite.  Each one is really complex in flavor and so worthy of taking one’s time to enjoy.  The edible flower garnish really brings the cocktail experience all the way home.  Nothing is missing.  Each drink is visually appealing and tastes fabulous. 

For all you good souls giving up the sauce for Lent, may I recommend Raduno for guilt-free cocktails?  Join me for forty days of hooch-free, booze less, sansahol, Mocktail bliss.  Of course, my mission will continue on, yours will end at Easter.

A Votre Santé

Mocktail MO

Mocktails at Sauce(d) That’s What’s Up

Just another National Margarita Day, and I’m hard at work on the lookout for Little Rock’s finest Mock-arita offerings. 

Sauce(d) Mock-arita

Since Sauce(d) had been on my wish-list of restaurants to try for a while, I decided to see what  sort of boozeless  cocktail they might have to celebrate national margarita day.  Now, for the most part in this adventure I’ve encountered puzzled faces when ordering Mocktails, which held true at Sauce(d) at first, but then…Wow!  With a mischievous smile, the lovely and talented Emily walked away to create.  She returned with a light, refreshing Mock-arita full of flavor that had me sipping with joy.  It was so good, I decided to stay a while.

I think it was how game Emily was to devise new drinks that kept me in my seat not wanting to leave.  I settled in and ordered another one, but something different.  For any of you who read my blog, this Mocktail movement that I am trying to generate does have a genuine purpose, but also provides wonderful moments of connecting with new people.  Emily’s enthusiasm behind the bar was so contagious, I gave something else a try.   My new side challenge is to have a drink named after me, so I asked if she could make a “Motini”.  That devilish grin reappeared, and she asked me to describe myself in three words.  “Not sweet, straightforward, and loving”,  I tossed back to her as she left.   She returned with much swagger, and rightfully so.  If I were a Mocktail this is what I would be.  In a stemless martini glass was a deep berry red fusion of flavors with a distinct zap of lime.  At first the not-too-sweet berries played with my taste buds, and then the citrus zinged like a lightning bolt that made me smack my lips and pucker  a little.  Yep, she nailed it!  My friends tasted it and we all giggled in agreement – flavorful, not too sweet, with a punch at the end.

MOtini

It was time to go, and I have to say that an entertaining afternoon was had by all.  The best part was that after leaving a bar I drove home and didn’t have to think “be cool…be cool”, behind the wheel.  I just drove home.  A big “Thank You” to Sauce(d) and Emily for a fun Margarita Day.

Dealer’s Choice at Atlas Bar

Firsts are always thrilling; first kisses, first job, first time on two wheels… I had the joy of being the first customer at Atlas Bar. 

The vibe at Atlas is upper west side New York neighborhood hang-out.  You definitely want to spend time there because each space is so inviting, from the cheerful lipstick red barstools and table chairs to the pool table area in the back of the bar.  It lures you in and allows room to get comfortable, so I did.  Sitting at the end of the bar I watched as everyone in the room was humming with anxious anticipation like thoroughbreds at the starting gate.  I was handed a menu, and told the kitchen wouldn’t open for a while, which didn’t bother me.  I was there for a drink.

So, let’s talk Mocktails.

Atlas Bar

Perusing the menu I saw that instead of a range of Mocktails they have expeditiously put “Dealer’s Choice” on the list of drinks.  This lets the bartender on duty decide exactly what you’ll get.  Being a person who likes surprises, this way of ordering was exciting and fun. It gives the customer a chance to have           A) a drink specifically made to their tastes, or B) a drink that expresses the personality of the person behind the bar.

Samira and Marcus were tending the bar- two dealers, two different drinks.  First up was Samira’s lovely fruit with a ginger-zip drink that was tasty. She easily reproduced the same drink for another customer, qualifying it as a standard – I dubbed it the “Atlas Standard”.   I asked Marcus what sort of mocktail would he deal, and he did a little research into what types of drinks I prefer. After getting his answers he laid down the voodoo that he do so well and concocted a drink that very much tasted like an old fashioned, I’ll call it “Voodoo Doll”.  Of course, these are just made up names for my amusement.  Every time I go back to Atlas Bar I hope to have something new.

After spending time talking to people and watching the crowd grow it was time to move on. I will always remember my first at Atlas Bar, and the irony of me being the first customer wasn’t lost on the owner, Tony Poe.  “I’ll never forget the first drink we made was a Mocktail”, he mused as we said our good-byes. 

Why Mocktails?…Let me break it down for ya

It goes a little something like this –

For those of you reading my blog for the first time, my own personal reason for drinking non-alcoholic drinks is a developed intolerance for alcohol.  (Think of it as a dietary restriction that evolved into an extraordinarily fun lifestyle.)  One alcohol drink makes me sick for days, which of course is absolutely no fun.  But I fit within only one section of a large category of people who don’t consume alcohol for countless reasons.  Here are a few: There should always be a designated driver for groups of two or more people drinking. These people want to feel included even if they are being the “responsible ones”.  Many people don’t imbibe because of religious beliefs.  Pregnant women, who do actually drink, won’t during pregnancy. Perhaps you live in a dry county, of which there are plenty in the Bible belt. Not to mention people who are underage, and curious about cocktail culture. And last, but not least a large number of people who have devoted the rest of their lives to not drinking due to addiction.   This makes up a large population of people who, for whatever reason, don’t consume alcohol, but do spend money and go out. Am I painting a clear picture?

For those in the food and beverage business, this group of consumers is a source of revenue that has not yet been taken seriously.  Wouldn’t you agree that a bit of room on the menu for Mocktails would show considerable hospitality to an up-to-now untapped profit resource?

We want to go out and have fun, and not feel less-than, or excluded, or as a distraction to a busy bartender.  The time for Mocktail culture is now.  Let’s get this party started.

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