Zero-Proof Cocktails in Vancouver: Creative and Delicious

Blood Orange No-Groni; Photo: Fable Kitchen

Over the last few years, interest in zero-proof drinking in Vancouver has increased significantly. Due to the incredible bartending talent in the city, drink programs in restaurants and bars feature an array of mocktails for those who want a well-crafted, grown-up drink—without the alcohol.

Bar managers share their thoughts about the evolution of mocktails in the city, and the exciting drinks they’ve been creating. Try them all!

Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar

Photo: Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar

Gotham Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar has a drink menu that features non- and low alcohol selections, including delicious mocktails, a sparkling wine, and a non-alcoholic lager. Bar Manager Ryan Mellor says that a few years ago, the restaurant would offer a special mocktail for lunch but diners rarely ordered it.

However, more recently, he has seen a steady rise in demand. “The growth in the Non and Low-Alcohol categories reflects broader lifestyle changes. Many younger guests are looking for alternatives. They generally consume less alcohol but still want fun and interesting options,” says Mellor. He adds that diners are being more moderate in their alcohol consumption (often for health reasons), particularly since the pandemic.

He says that Vancouver’s bar community dreams up mocktails that are inventive and visually attractive. “The glassware, ingredients, and garnishes for Non and Low-Alcohol drinks are equal to those of traditional cocktails, and we spend just as much time, if not more, creating each one,” he says.

Just like any cocktail, a mocktail is about balance and how the various components work together. “A mocktail should be unique, maybe a little unexpected, and capture the senses,” Mellor says. He adds that it’s important that non-alcoholic cocktails aren’t just sweet, that they also appeal to drinkers who like a savoury or tart flavour profile. Then, it’s a matter of picking the best glassware for showcasing the drink. “One concoction may taste a little flat out of a wide mouth coupe but the scents and flavors intensify when enjoyed in a taller, narrower Nick ‘n Nora glass,” he explains.

Mellor highlights three of Gotham’s non-alcoholic cocktails, the first being the Caribbean Fizz, a crowd favourite consisting of pineapple and lime juices, falernum syrup, and egg white—all shaken together. “Then, we add ginger beer, strain into a chilled coupe, and lightly dust with cinnamon. Paradise found!” he says.

Gotham also has a low-alcohol cocktail called the Veneziano Spritz, which has 1 oz of Campari, club soda, and French Oddbird sparkling wine. It’s served in a wine glass filled with ice with three expressed orange coins for “a citrus punch and a visually playful garnish.”

Finally, one of Gotham’s newest mocktails is the Lavender Spritz, with lemon juice, lavender syrup, bitters, a hint of simple syrup, and club soda for effervescence. “Served in a Tall Glass with two expressed lemon coins and sliced strawberries, it’s as beautiful as it is tasty,” Mellor says.

Fable Kitchen

Fleur de Sureau; Photo: Fable Kitchen

Kevin O’Neill, Bar Manager and General Manager of Fable Kitchen, also sees the popularity of mocktails in the city growing. “Being in Vancouver and having a very health-conscious community around us in Kitsilano definitely plays a big part, the other is the quality of product that is now on the market with zero proof spirits,” he says.

Whereas, in the past, non-alcoholic drinks like the Shirley Temple and the Roy Rogers were cloyingly sweet, this is no longer the case. “The quality of zero proof spirits is at such a high level now, that it makes it possible to almost duplicate full proof cocktails while taking into consideration level of flavor profile balancing,” he says.

O’Neill says aesthetics are really important, and a starting point in his creativity. Since zero-proof spirits can be a little sweeter, finding balance in a mocktail requires adjusting the other components. “You really have to know when to be scaling back certain ingredients like simple syrup, and also matching flavor profiles of citrus juice,” he explains. For example, he’ll adjust pineapple juice so that it has the same acidity as lemon juice but gives a different flavour profile and viscosity.

O’Neill is a big fan of two of Fable Kitchen’s zero proof cocktails, the first the cleverly named Blood Orange No-groni, which features Abstinence Cape Floral, Abstinence Blood Orange Aperitif, Undone Italian Bitter Type Vermouth, and orange zest as a garnish. “I like to express lemon oil on top of the finished Mocktail as I find it brightens the drink and makes the Blood Orange flavor profile pop a lot more,” he says. The drink is stirred and strained over a king cube in an old-fashioned glass.

The other mocktail O’Neill recommends at Fable Kitchen is the Fleur de Sureau, a non-alcoholic take on an elderflower gin sour. This mocktail consists of Seedlip Grove Taste 42, lemon juice, egg white, elderflower cordial, simple syrup (not too much due to the sweetness of the cordial), grapefruit, and saline solution. “The saline solution really helps the Elderflower shine through and leaves an amazing taste that stays long after the sip is taken,” O’Neill says. The mixture is double strained into a couple glass and then garnished with edible flowers.

El Camino’s

Photo: El Camino’s

Michael MacIntyre, Bar Manager at El Camino’s, a fun Latin American street food restaurant on Main Street, says that mocktails appeal to all sorts of drinkers in Vancouver, from those who never drink alcohol to those who don’t want to drink alcohol on a particular night (e.g., they have to drive or they have to get up early the next day). “That’s the beauty of a virgin cocktail—there’s still that sense of occasion but there’s no hangover,” says MacIntyre. He adds that the elevation of mocktails parallels the refinement of the modern palate. “People seem to be eating better food, drinking better drinks, and there’s no reason why a mocktail shouldn’t have interesting flavours,” he says.

MacIntyre says the most challenging part of making mocktails is finding creative ways to use certain ingredients. For example, for an alcoholic cocktail, he’ll often make bitters, a tincture, or an infusion when wanting to incorporate the flavours of a herb. For mocktails, he’ll come up with different solutions. As well, ingredients that are usually accompaniments to alcohol play a larger role in mocktails.

At El Camino’s, MacIntyre has two go-to non-alcoholic options. One is a refreshing mix of ginger syrup, fresh raspberries, lime, and sparkling water. As an alternative, he substitutes ginger beer for the syrup and sparkling water. “But my favourite at the moment is a very simple drink but I find it hits all the buttons with people who’d like a mocktail,” he says. His current favourite is a non-alcoholic version of rum punch, which contains spiced and hibiscus syrup, as well as lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple, and orange juice. The punch is garnished with a pineapple slice, a maraschino cherry, and a mint sprig. The drink is another thirst-quencher for a hot day.

Five Sails Restaurant

Italian soda at Five Sails; Photo credit: Tara Lee

Five Sails Restaurant, located at Vancouver’s waterfront, is a lovely spot to appreciate a zero-proof cocktail, especially during their daily Happy Hour from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. Enjoy bites such as steak tartare, lobster beignets, and a half dozen oysters on the half shell as you sip a mocktail and soak up views of the mountains, water, and docked cruise ships.

View from Five Sails; Photo: Tara Lee

Sarah Reid, Bar Manager at Five Sails, says that diners are increasingly turning to mocktails to be healthier, as well as to avoid the after-effects of alcohol. In parallel, she says, “zero proof spirits, wine, and beer are getting better every day.” As a result, perceptions of mocktails are getting “flipped on their heads,” with them now being perceived as an art form, just like full-proof cocktail-making.

Reid says she approaches mocktails in the same way she does alcoholic cocktails. “Is it something I’ve never tried before? Do I feel these ingredients balance and blend well together? Do I feel like thought and work have gone into them?” she says.

She recommends that guests at the Five Sails try a “bright, fresh, and delicious” mocktail consisting of hibiscus-infused non-alcoholic floral gin, Peychaud bitters, lemon, and egg white, with a saline spray and rose water.

Based on the many thoughtful and beautiful mocktails in Vancouver, there’s never been a better time for zero-proof imbibing.

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Comments are closed for this post

Comments are closed.

  • Insider Access

  • Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram Follow us on Twitter Watch us on YouTube


    Vancouver Event Calendar

    604 Neighbourhoods

    TED Host City