Anyone who has ever jumped aboard the Dry July (or Feb-Fast, or Oc-Sober) wagons will know all too well that socialising in Australia is often intrinsically linked with grog. Cafés offer a sober alternative, but there’s usually a cap on how many coffees you can drink in a day before it becomes hard to keep your soul from jittering out of your body.
Manly local Leanne Freel spotted a solution when she was in the UK for her niece's wedding and has brought Australia’s first alcohol-free bar back with her. It’s not a juice bar – she’s not sitting amongst a pile of bananas and the constant whirr of a blender – Apples @ Manly is a cocktail bar without a single ABV percentage on its shelves.
Freel is not a teetotaler herself, but neither are a lot of the visitors to her Manly bar, which opened in August. Some of her first customers were her upstairs neighbours who brought their teenage children with them. Another was a cyclist stopping in for a drink and a rest before hitting the road, and that’s before you count the people wanting a night out without the hangover. It’s especially convenient given the carpark directly opposite the bar offers two-hours free parking – this bar is made for designated drivers.
The back bar is stocked with the McGuigan range of zero per cent wines – sauvignon blanc, sparkling, chardonnay and shiraz – Maggie Beer’s alcohol-free sparkling grape beverages, Seedlip’s spirits, Lyre’s American Malt, non-alcoholic ciders from Bilpin and the Hills in South Australia, and five booze-free beers, including an IPA from local brewers Modus Operandi up in Mona Vale. For people feeling snackish, she’s assembling cheese and antipasto boards to go with your drink.
The cocktails all take their inspiration from the bar's surrounds: there’s the Seagull, the Blue Grouper, the Quarantine Station and the Manly Mule, each of them riffing on classic recipes like a Bloody Mary and a Moscow Mule.
Freel describes her bar as a ‘midlife crisis’. After 25 years in the fire containment industry she has thrown the deck in the air and opened her little venue just off the Corso.
Beach suburbs in Sydney conjure images of healthy living, so it makes sense that Freel has started in Manly and has plans to open a second bar in Bondi in the coming months. If you’ve ever wanted a place to hang out, catch up and have a drink that didn’t come with the potential brain fog later, Apples @ Manly has the antidote to your usual poison.