Wednesday, February 29, 2012

No Liquor? No Problem. Order a Mocktail.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 8:45 AM

Fuds Heidi VanPelt-Belle will make your liver happy.
  • Jaimie Warren
  • Fud's Heidi VanPelt-Belle will make your liver happy.
That first cocktail of the night is the best. Your senses are still collecting data, and your taste buds have yet to be muddled. That third cocktail, though? Boy, howdy. There you sit, piping blue slush down your gullet, ruining tomorrow in advance. Alcohol abstention is in your immediate future. You need a new drink, and not some uninspired soda or cup of burned coffee — you’re taking a break from booze, not style. It’s time for a mocktail. A well-crafted nonalcoholic beverage can still be refreshing, even bracing. And it can still taste and look as complex as the mess-you-up liquor mixtures you’ve sworn off.

But where do you find them? Many local watering holes don’t include nonalcoholic drinks on their menus, and finding a place that has put some thought and craft into its mocktails is a time-consuming, frustrating task. (Don’t even try a Google search with the words virgin and drink, an errand that yields unfortunately eye-opening and soul-crushing results.) Bartenders often are up to the challenge of de-boozing a favorite drink, though, so sitting at the bar helps.

“We have a couple of drinks that we typically offer to the teetotalitarians or preggers,” says Scott Beskow, bar manager at Grünauer (101 West 22nd Street, 816-283-3234). To make a virgin flüssiger strudel, Beskow’s staff puts in more strudel juice and lemon juice and leaves out the Gosling’s dark rum. (You’ll taste Szeged cinnamon and egg whites, too.) And to make the restaurant’s popular Radler (beer with lemon soda) for the alcohol-averse, the bar uses Bitburger Drive instead of the usual pilsner or lager.

In boozy Westport, the most extensive nonalcoholic selection is at Californos (4124 Pennsylvania, 816-531-7878). The $3 Pink Panther is a fine place to start: It’s just Sprite, cherry juice and orange juice. These and the drinks below won’t fool your liver — they aren’t supposed to — but a couple will impress your palate, and one might prolong your life.

The Bear-Peary Tini at Eden Alley.
  • The Bear-Peary Tini at Eden Alley.
The drink: Berry-Peary Tini
The place: Eden Alley (707 West 47th Street, 816-561-5415)

What it tastes like: Eden’s tini thankfully lacks the tini-typical “Wait, did I just eat a bag of sour gummy worms” aftertaste. The drink’s mix holds up throughout an entire meal without settling. Though it lacks the bite of a real tini, the pear juice (infused with berry nectar and blended with organic apple juice) provides enough kick to cause a moment’s wonder.

Fun fact: “The tini was inspired by a trip to San Francisco where my wife had a nonalcoholic tini that was horrible, and she thought she could do way better,” says Greg Corder-Clootz, co-owner of Eden Alley.

The price: $6 for an 8-ounce glass. That’s almost $2 less than its alcohol-laden siblings.

Bonus: It’s vegan. Also, while the drink doesn’t appear on the restaurant’s regular menu, it’s featured nearly every day.

The drink: Liver Cleanse Tonic
The place: Füd (813 West 17th Sreet, 816-785-3454)

What it tastes like: The slush version is bright-orange, but it’s a far cry from the sweet orange-drink beverages of your youth. Citrus overtones subtly hide the cayenne pepper, garlic and olive oil that are about to work on your sick little organ. This is not an easy drink to conquer, but if you drink it fast, it starts to grow on you. Or in you.

Why get it: No other beverage in town has been formulated exclusively to stimulate bile secretion. “The garlic is a natural antiviral and antibiotic,” says Füd co-owner Heidi VanPelt-Belle. “The citrus cleanses bad fats in the bile. The cayenne stimulates blood flow through the capillaries. The olive oil helps the bile to secrete.”

The price: $6 (a fair price to maybe see age 65).

Bring: A tin of breath mints to munch on after drinking.

The drink: Strawberry Lavender Kombucha, from Soda Vie
The place(s): See sodavie.com/FindUs.aspx for restaurant and retail locations.

What it tastes like: A tart delight (a hint of lavender complements the tangy strawberry wallop) that makes a tasty addition to any meal, whether you’re hung-over or not.

Possible health benefits: This fermented tea is purported to be a probiotic health drink and detoxifier. So in theory, it can aid the liver and digestive system. But it’s not liquor, so it can’t hurt, right?

Sip or gulp: Sip.

Price: Varies by location.

Alternative: Local company Soda Vie makes several other flavors, served locally at markets and in restaurants.

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