As Dry January approaches, you may be thinking about cutting back on drinking after a string of spirited holiday celebrations. You might even be looking to get a head start by not overindulging on New Year’s Eve.
Whether you’re stone-cold sober or sober curious, San Francisco has plenty of nonalcoholic beverage options to explore at its many bars. We’ve rounded up some of the hot spots and hidden gems for mocktails in the city with nods to a few of our favorites.
Ocean Beach Cafe is mocktail central in San Francisco. The NA cafe, bar and bottle shop is the brainchild of bartender-turned-business owner Joshua James and is on a mission to offer the largest selection of nonalcoholic beverages in the world.
The establishment offers an assortment of NA wines, beers and booze-free beverages with cheeky names. Want to try before you buy? Ocean Beach Cafe also offers hourlong “Temperance Tastings” of NA craft cocktails, mixology classes and membership to Club AF (which stands for alcohol-free). The subscription service, billed as “a community of mindful drinkers,” offers mixers, discounts and unlimited happy hour to members, which is normally 3 to 6 p.m. daily for everyone else.
Whether you pop in for a booze-less French 75, a hemp-infused Destroyer of Bad Vibes, a mezcal-inspired Good Buzz Daisy or a botanical New Pear-Adigm, you’re sure to find something to tickle your taste buds without the regrets of tying one on.
Though technically a bottle shop, the San Francisco outpost of this growing NA brand offers regular tastings of its booze-free spirits, wines and bubbly beverages at its brick-and-mortar in Hayes Valley. You can sign up for its text subscription service to get the latest on events.
You can get your Thai tea several ways at this Bangkok-style restaurant in SoMa. But we recommend going for the sweet SoMa Strawberry-Basil Nojito with muddled strawberries, fresh basil and lime juice doused in soda water ($7.50). For something more herbaceous, try the Tup Tim, a mixture of pomegranate, unsweetened Thai tea, lime juice and lemongrass syrup with soda water ($7.50).
With its wide offerings of freezer martinis, highballs and swizzles, you can certainly have very boozy brunch at Causwells, but if you’re looking to be a little more virtuous, try the restaurant’s NA gin & tonic or sweet Blood Orange Nah-Perol Spritz, both $13.
While Dalva’s online NA menu looks sparse, check the menu at the bar for the barkeep’s latest booze-free creations. Dalva’s mixologists have been known to stir up a refreshing cucumber shrub and kick their nonalcoholic tonics up a notch with mala, a blend of Sichuan peppercorns and other dried spices that’ll numb your tastebuds with a delightful hangover-free zing.
Make it a mocktail bar crawl and head over to ABV across the street from Dalva for another round. ABV is not only known for its low-ABV cocktails. It also offers a nonalcoholic Negroni with an NA aperitif and a charred grapefruit tonic ($10), as well as your choice of a ginger, tarragon or passionfruit-infused soda with lemon juice ($9). Go for the passionfruit soda if you’re hankering for something sweet. Choose tarragon if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous.
You can’t get more San Francisco than an Irish Coffee. Fortunately, you don’t have to forgo this San Francisco tradition at Casements. The sophisticated Irish cocktail bar offers a nonalcoholic version “without the Irish,” including freshly brewed Andytown coffee and maple whipped cream ($8).
You’re bound to find a creative concoction on Trick Dog’s ever-evolving menu, known for its whimsical concepts and change-ups every six months. Trick Dog’s latest book of spirits, “one part poetry anthology, two parts cocktail menu,” offers a muse-like mocktail called Dreams in honor of the Langston Hughes poem of the same name. Sleep blissfully, without booze-infused nightmares, after sipping on this mixture of Lyre’s dark cane spirit NA rum, Wilderton Earthen’s nonalcoholic botanical spirit, passionfruit, ginger beer, mint and lemon served on crushed ice.
In an attempt to not drown their patrons in vodka, beloved queer bar Lookout has whipped up a holiday mocktail dubbed Madonna of the Pomegranate. Named after the famed Botticelli painting, the seasonal and virginal beverage boasts pomegranate seeds and syrup, lemon juice and a lemon twist, and Riverine zero-proof spirit, a gin-like substitute.
This pretty Financial District fern bar offers a refreshing mint shrub soda mocktail with lemon and lime. Aptly called Mint Condition, it costs $5, and you can “make it boozy” for $5 more. Another alcohol-free option called Freelancer is made with sencha green tea, pineapple syrup and salted grapefruit shrub ($7).
This trendy Divisadero Street bar offers a nonalcoholic peach shrub mocktail with spirit-free orange aperitif, Sichuan peppercorn, basil and NA sparkling wine, dubbed Liar, Lyre ($13). You can also allow the bartender to whip up something custom for you by going with the dealer’s choice-style Driver’s Cup ($7). You tell the bartender what you have in mind, and they’ll whip something up according to your specs.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at email@example.com