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Love & Salt

Drink This Now—The 10 best mocktails in Los Angeles

By Karen Young

It’s two months into 2017, and whether your resolution to cut back on alcohol is still in effect or you have some other motivation not to imbibe, socializing can still be a tricky proposition. But here’s the good news: More and more bar patrons are requesting booze-free cocktails. Behind-the-bar talent is responding by creating innovative zero-proof drinks with the same care as handcrafted cocktails, using a combination of fresh herbs, bitters, and house-made sodas, juices, and syrups. Here are ten of the best we’ve sipped so far this year.

The Mock Green Goddess at A.O.C.
The most legendary mocktail in Los Angeles must be the Mock Green Goddess (pictured above left) at A.O.C. —the virgin version of the original cocktail with green tea–infused vodka that was created by Christiaan Rollich for Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s West Hollywood restaurant. Known as a “salad-in-a-glass,” the healthy mix is smooth and tangy with green tea, arugula simple syrup, cucumber juice, lemon juice, and a splash of jalapeño juice, topped with cucumber slices and a mint sprig. It’s then shaken, strained, and poured into a tall Tom Collins glass. A green drink never tasted so good.
Neighborhood: West Hollywood MAP

The Grape White Hope at Love & Salt
The names of zero-proof drinks at this Manhattan Beach Cal-Italian-inspired restaurant are every bit as creative as the recipes. Consulting bartender Vincenzo Marianella worked with co-owner Sylvie Gabriele to create drinks that appeal to an adult palate by using house-made syrups and spices to enrich flavors. The Grape White Hope (pictured above right) is a unifier—bringing together sage, seedless grapes, and elderflower syrup muddled with pear juice and club soda.
Neighborhood: South Bay MAP

Salted plum with lemon at Cassia
At this esteemed Santa Monica restaurant, bar manager Kenny Arbuckle offers a rotating selection of seasonally driven “mocktails” using house-made sodas, created to complement chef-owner Bryan Ng’s Vietnamese- and Singaporean-inspired dishes. The current winter flavor, salted plum with lemon, combines classic cocktail elements with an exotic flair, and most of the ingredients are sourced from the nearby Santa Monica Farmer’s Market when in season.
Neighborhood: Santa Monica MAP


Delilah

Mr. Oxford at Delilah
This five-month-old swanky West Hollywood celebrity hot spot is known for serving up luxurious libations of the boozy variety, but the zero-proof Mr. Oxford, composed of pineapple and lemon juices, a couple drops of sherry vinegar, and a shot of orgeat (a sweet almond syrup), stands up to them all. Master mixologist Matt Siegel says he created the drink as a nod to the “grand and timeless 1920’s Great Gatsbye-sque vibe of The h.wood Group’s restaurant, Delilah—and to recognize and give those guests who aren’t drinking alcohol a little something fun."
Neighborhood: West Hollywood MAP

Winter Harvest at Plant Food + Wine
Vacation mode with a modern, Mediterranean flair is the vibe at Matthew Kenney’s plant-based indoor/outdoor restaurant on Abbot Kinney in Venice. Embracing the breezy ambience, general manager Stephen Buckley’s latest seasonal zero-proof creation, the Winter Harvest complements Kenney’s sophisticated, ever-evolving cuisine with a mix of fresh, local kumquats, fennel, vanilla bean–infused agave, bitters, and local, organic apple-ginger kombucha.
Neighborhood: Venice MAP

Virgin maid at Otium
Accompany your visit to the Broad Museum downtown with a visit to Timothy Hollingsworth’s striking restaurant, Otium. Relax on the airy patio in view of 100-year-old olive trees while sipping on a Virgin Maid—you won't find it on the menu, so be sure you ask for it specifically. Assistant bar director Brian Hollingsworth’s spin on the classic Old Maid, it’s prepared with house-made cucumber syrup, lime juice, and ginger ale, shaken, served over ice, and garnished with mint sprigs grown in the restaurant’s sustainable mezzanine garden.
Neighborhood: Downtown MAP

Rhode Island Coffee Milk at Connie and Ted’s
If you’re feeling celebratory and in need of a wake-up call but want to forgo the alcohol, then the Rhode Island Coffee Milk is your best bet at Michael Cimarusti’s New England-inspired seafood “shack” in West Hollywood. Beverage director Hoang Nguyen and his team created this White Russian–inspired drink by mixing coffee syrup made in our nation’s smallest state with whole milk and a pinch of nutmeg.
Neighborhood: West Hollywood MAP


The Wallace

The Designated Driver at The Wallace
Beverage director Greg Bryson complements the farm-to-table sharing menu at this buzzy Culver City restaurant with ambitious drinks that use a mix of herbs, spirits, juices, and spices. For both tipples and the non-boozy versions, he says he creates drinks to awaken the palate—and his Designated Driver concoction —carrot and orange juices mixed with pineapple, ginger, and turmeric—is as tasty as it is healthy.
Neighborhood: Culver City MAP

Omaha sour at Paley
The “Without Proof” cocktail list created by bartender Melina Maze for this stylish Hollywood restaurant (named in celebration of the artistic and innovative age shaped by legendary CBS CEO William S. Paley and his wife, Babe), is specifically designed to be "indulgent without the booze." As an homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, these mocktails radiate glamour and grace as costars. The Omaha sour is a play on the whiskey sour, with the earthy taste of Rooibos syrup mixed with a sweet-tart mix of lavender syrup poured into a Collins glass, topped with club soda, and sealed with a lemon wedge.
Neighborhood: Hollywood MAP

Pineapple ginger beer at The Varnish
Craft cocktails are the name of the game at this tiny tucked away spot in the back of downtown’s legendary Cole’s French Dip. Co-owner and barman Eric Alperin has established himself as one of the top names in mixology, with an emphasis on classic American cocktails. Freshly made juice, house-made syrup, a perfect piece of ice, and a specific spirit all add up to a precise drink. But if zero-proof is your game, then the pineapple ginger beer should not be missed. Freshly squeezed lime and pineapple juices are mixed with ginger syrup and strained into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Topped with crystallized ginger and lemon wedge, it’s the perfect refresher—and you won’t even miss the alcohol.
Neighborhood: Downtown MAP

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