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.

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Downtown Date Night

The atmosphere at Allsopp and Chapple is decidedly contemporary upscale casual with comfy leather chairs, and uncluttered décor.   

Out to dinner on a Friday night in Downtown Little Rock, my husband and I decided to try Allsopp and Chapple, a new establishment known for its signature burger.  True to my mission, when our drink order was requested, I asked for a Mocktail.  Our waiter unflinchingly replied that they didn’t have Mocktails per se, but he’d see what he could do. I’m not gonna lie, I totally appreciate a “can do” attitude, and the bartender fearlessly put something together.  What he came back to the table with was uncomplicated, yet satisfying; a fruity mixture of ginger beer and pineapple that turned out to be the perfect complement to my delish Farmer’s Market Hash.  As with all newborns, this baby came out nameless, so we christened it the Allsopp and Chapple fizz.

Would I return to Allsopp and Chapple, or recommend it to friends?  Without a doubt for the food, and for alcohol imbibers it’s a thumbs up.  For me, I look forward to a little Mocktail real estate on the menu.

We’re Number One!

Every journey starts with the first step.  I couldn’t imagine a better beginning than the exclusive tasting of the upcoming Spring Mocktail menu at The Fold restaurant.  Sarah Repp, the bar manager is the genius behind these spirit free libations.  We had talked a few days before about the void in grown-up, alcohol free cocktails, and how she wanted to create a new menu for spring.  I was more than happy to oblige as a guinea pig, so a few friends and I got together on a gray February afternoon to experiment.  In stark contrast, a rainbow of color shone from the bar with six absolutely delicious creations.  From white to pastel green and pink to the most saturated indigo-red, each in an individually shaped glass. 

Mocktail Wonders at The Fold

These were no ordinary non-alcoholic drinks.  No, these were Mocktails with a capital M!  Each one had an identity of its own, and none were a disappointment. There was a standard virgin pina colada that was light as a feather with its tropical sweetness.  My personal favorite was an herby rosemary citrus combination that you could easily sip on a hot summer evening.  We all decided that the drink we called “Berry Minty” was the perfect first date drink because it was refreshingly fruity and left your breath smelling great.  One tasted like Skittles, but not as sweet.  We called that one “Taste the Rainbow”.  There was a yummy cucumber mint combo that was spring in a glass, and a Pear Collins that brought sophisticated Rat Pack thoughts to mind.

Everyone agreed that they wouldn’t feel less-than if they ordered any of these Mocktails when out with friends for drinks.  Each drink had complex flavors that deserved to be savored, and I left absolutely effervescent with joy. What a way to start! Sarah completely gets it when it comes to Mocktails, and I look forward to many visits to The Fold to see what she invents next.

A toast to being Number 1!

Don’t Put Me at the Kids Table

So.. Here we are at the start of something big.  It turns out that Mocktails are a thing starting to make traction in popular culture.   What an exciting time to be an imbiber of non-alcoholic bevs.  Up to now when I have gone to a restaurant and asked for a Mocktail it has been a hit-or-miss situation.  A couple of times I lucked into a bored, but creative bar tender who took the challenge and came through.  Mostly I‘ve been offered some version of a Shirley Temple, which is a sort of maraschino syrup soda, or fruity slushies. There must be another way to go out for drinks, and not feel like I should be sitting at the kids table.

What I’m looking for is a non-alcoholic drink for grown-ups.  Something that isn’t sweet enough to rot my teeth, or with a name reminiscent of a six-year-old in ringlets.  I am seeking a drink with a level of sophistication worthy of the name Cocktail.  How many more adults could be served if they were offered a menu of Mocktail creations?  Come on all you mixologists out there- you artisanal barkeeps;  I’m certain that if you put your mind to it…the sky’s the limit. 

Mocktails…It’s a Thing

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 Mocktail! 

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.