Our Take: Who says summer drinks have to be sickly sweet? Certainly not the bartenders at Artusi—their slushy, crimson-hued take on a mojito stays sophisticated and balanced, thanks to a heavy dose of Campari. The bitter Italian aperitivo—a creative edition to the classic rum, lime, and mint cocktail—almost overwhelms the other flavors…almost. But that’s where the icy character of the drink goes from gimicky to genius, helping numb the tongue to the Campari’s intensity. You can thank the rich Smith & Cross rum too; it warms the rest of the flavors, tearing some of the emphasis away from the bitter roots. The result: fruity and spicy, with the perfect amount of bite.
When a patron slips up to the bar and asks what beverages are on offer which don’t contain alcohol, chances are that they’ll be met with a blank look (or worse). The bartender, often clueless, comes from a world where alcohol is prevalent, and non-drinkers rare. Be they recovering alcoholics, pregnant, or just looking for a night off, the service industry often abandons non-drinkers to fend for themselves with mega-colas or to settle for water while their friends drink eye-catching, umbrella-adorned cocktails.Slowly, though, this tide is turning, and Seattle, politically correct town that it is—equal opportunities for everyone—is on board with the non-alcoholic cocktail movement.
At Restaurant Zoë, on Capitol Hill, diners digging into Chef Scott Staples’s famous gnudi can pair the rich dumplings with a refreshing “Clear Conscience”: fresh citrus, cucumber, and soda, shaken and served up. Unlike many of the craft-cocktail bars serving mixed mocktails, Restaurant Zoe’s non-alcoholic specialties are kept at extremely reasonable prices.
At Westward, those who don’t drink can still find a reason to belly up to the beautiful and ridiculous, giant boat-shaped bar on the Lake Union waterfront. For those who don’t drink at all, various craft sodas are on offer (Bundaberg Root Beer, Loux Sour Cherry Soda), and a seasonal shrub mocktail is always on the menu—with interesting flavors, such as quince and thyme. For those who are just interested in less alcohol, Westward also offers lighter cocktails, designed to be afternoon sippers that won’t wreck your evening.
Many of Seattle’s top craft-cocktail bars pride themselves on creating custom cocktails based on patrons’ tastes, and this extends to non-alcoholic drinks, too. Tavern Law, Bathtub Gin, and the Knee High Stocking Co. have all shown themselves to be both amenable to and skilled at creating drinks that pack a punch only in flavor.
For the mega-fancy, the ultimate in non-alcoholic drinks comes a few hours north of Seattle, at Willows Inn on Lummi Island. There, the $165 tasting menu can be accompanied by either a traditional wine tasting for $75, or for just $40, a juice pairing. A recent spring juice pairing included gooseberry, wild huckleberry, French sorrel, and cherry blossom infusion.