There’s never been a better time to find delicious non-alcoholic cocktails in Chicago. Bartenders across the city are ditching sugary mocktails and seltzers-and-lime for genuinely sophisticated zero-proof concoctions; at home, amateur mixologists can stock their shelves with bottles of bracing zero-proof liquors and non-alcoholic beer sold everywhere from Whole Foods to Binny’s. Still, unlike cities like L.A. and New York, Chicago has long lacked its own dedicated alcohol-free bottle shop—until now.
Located in Bronzeville, Prāzbar is Chicago’s first-ever retailer stocked solely with alcohol-free spirits that employ herbs, spices and other botanicals to mimic the bite of liquor, sans any actual booze. Inside the bottle shop (which is open Fridays and Saturdays, plus by appointment on Sundays), visitors can browse everything from alcohol-removed wine to zero-proof whiskies, gins, vodkas and more, or head online to place an order for local delivery.
Owner Quenjana Adams says she dreamed up the idea for Prāzbar (which she shortens affectionately to “Prāz,” pronounced like “praise”) after discovering a dearth of options for non-drinkers in the Chicagoland area—a population which, according to Adams’ research, numbers in the hundreds of thousands. That’s part of a broader national interest in what’s often called the “sober curious” movement, which is to projected bolster the average annual growth of no- and low-alcohol brands at a rate that far outpaces their alcoholic counterparts.
“What I like about Prāz is that we’re here to support non-drinkers, whether you’re sober, not drinking for faith reasons, or health reasons,” Adams said. “There are so many reasons why Chicagoans don’t drink, and we’re just excited to have resources and all these different brands to help you along the way.”
Adams does extensive Google dives to find new alcohol-free brands to add to Prāzbar’s offerings, which include local companies like Ritual Zero Proof in addition to producers from across the globe. Lately, for instance, she’s been enjoying a bourbon alternative from the British company Lyre’s, a toasty riff on American malt that you can mix into classic cocktails like a whiskey sour or Old Fashioned.
“It has this distinct flavor,” she said. “It’s not peppery—because I’ve noticed some [brands] put in a little bit of pepper to match the heat of a whiskey—but it fits the cocktail. It just suits well.”
Prāzbar also operates a monthly themed pop-up bar out of Sip & Savor’s Bronzeville cafe, which allows visitors—whether sober, sober-curious or just interested in trying something new—to sip cocktails fashioned from the bottle shop’s non-alcoholic wares, or try pours of individual spirits. The March pop-up, titled “Gin City,” focused on zero-proof gins, and there are plans for whiskey, wine and tiki-themed events in the coming months.
Adams hopes the pop-up series will help gauge interest for eventually opening a brick-and-mortar bar somewhere in Chicago. For now, the interest seems palpable, and Prāzbar’s pop-ups have attracted folks from the city’s various sober communities as well as curious passersby eager to try the spirit-free version of their favorite drink—or to explore inventive ways to cut back on alcohol consumption.
“Whatever you would traditionally get with a cocktail, order that at Prāz,” Adams said. “We have the non-alcoholic rums, we have the tequilas, we have everything you need to normalize your sobriety or whatever reason you’re not drinking tonight.”
Prāzbar (3251 S King Dr) is open Fridays 3pm–6pm, Saturdays noon–5pm and Sundays by appointment. Pop-ups are hosted every first Sunday of the month at Sip & Savor (78 E 47th St). For a full list of upcoming pop-ups, visit Prāzbar’s website.