It can be hard to cut down on drinking—or abstain from it altogether—in a city where excellent cocktail bars and craft beer bars reign. But with the rise of alcohol-free libations, you don't have to nurse a Topo Chico while your friends pound shots at the bar. Indulge in these mocktail options from some of Austin’s best bars, ranging from tart to herbal to vinegar-based drinks. Cheers to a booze-free night out!
The Roosevelt Room is the best bar in Austin for many reasons: the service is great, the professionalism and skill of the bar staff is unrivaled and they have an insane selection of drinks—including three signature mocktails. The Glitter & Marigold is made with orange juice, orange flower water, pistachio extract, vanilla bean and cream, perfect for those with a sweet tooth. The Sober as a Bird starts with tart grapefruit and lime juice, then given aroma with rose water, cinnamon syrup and vanilla extract and punctuated with a few drops of salt tincture. And the aptly-named Castaway evokes tropical vibes throughout the year with flavors of fresh mint, cucumber, coconut cream, spicy ginger beer and sweetgrass tincture, which provides sweetness and notes of vanilla.
In addition to their signature cocktails, the quirky downtown diner offers great non-alcoholic drinks with flavors that rival the real thing. Shrubs—made by soaking sugar, vinegar and fresh ingredients together—are combined with Topo Chico for an acidic yet sweet drink; choose from apple and mint, peach and basil, cherry and sorrel or grapefruit and habanero. Or opt for something from the their short list of mocktails—simply named Spicy, Sweet, Citrus and Energy—for a custom drink to suit your taste buds.
For years, modern Thai eatery Sway has offered non-boozy drink options inspired by Pan-Asian flavors. Drinking vinegars are popular in across Asia; at Sway, they're all housemade, served over crushed ice and topped with sparkling water. There are a handful of flavors to choose from but we love the mango-chili for it’s sweet spiciness and the turmeric for it’s intense flavor and touted health benefits. Also, try their refreshing housemade coconut-lime and calamansi-vanilla soda (calamansi is a Filipino citrus that tastes like a more aromatic lime or lemon).
Photo: Travis Hallmark
With the change of each season, Houndstooth’s locations design a new mocktail. Right now, you can opt for an herbal Basil Spritz (cold brew, balsamic simple syrup, tonic, orange and basil garnish) from the North Lamar store. If you’re craving something a little more cocktail-y, hit up the Congress Avenue Houndstooth for the 221B—a nod to Sherlock Holmes’ London address—that's made with black tea, aromatic fir tips, Champagne-flavored syrup, cocktail bitters and lemon slice garnish. Technically, this drink has a tiny bit of alcohol due to the bitters—but we won't tell on you.
Photo: Sal Bautista
Hillside Farmacy serves farm-fresh ingredients in a hip, vintage-inspired setting and, luckily for those of us taking a break this month, they're serving virgin cocktails in the form of housemade sodas. Feeling fresh and fruity? Go for the strawberry, basil and balsamic-infused Pickpocket. Craving superfoods? The turmeric soda with lemon, ginger and black pepper is for you. Need a warming pick-me-up? The Hot Country Doctor combines ginger, fresh apple and cinnamon for a winter warm.
Photo: SHDW Studios
Sip on fresh and complex mocktails at Launderette, like the Bruleed Pineapple comprised of spicy ginger beer and enhanced with fragrant sage peppercorn syrup and lemon, or the Watermelon Shrub, which uses a vinegar and watermelon base that's sweetened and spiced with chili basic syrup, given depth with sea salt and lengthened with soda water. Both drinks are served with Launderette’s famous color-changing straws.
Midnight Cowboy is one of the best cocktail bars in Austin, so it’s a no-brainer that their new non-alcoholic drinks are equally impressive; each drink is given a tongue-in-cheek name to reflect it’s lack of the hard stuff. Highlights include the Sweet Nothings, which uses strawberry-hibiscus syrup, grapefruit, lime and vanilla, while the Oxymoron (smoked mustard honey, lemon, ginger beer, cayenne) is a clean drink you’ll actually crave.
Within the Unleaded section of Garage’s vehicular-themed menu exists a nice selection of non-alcoholic cocktails. Using Seedlip, a one-of-a-kind spirit distilled with fruit, herbs and vegetables, Garage’s bar team has created the Serene Dream, a light and fresh combination of aloe, cucumber, lime, sugar and Seedlip’s Garden spirit for a vegetal and floral mocktail. The Seedlip Milk Punch uses Seedlip’s Spice (which sings alone with notes of allspice and cardamom) and is mixed with fig, pineapple, coffee, lemon, orange and turbinado sugar.
Photo: Julie Cope