Bar Beat

Houston's Mocktail Revolution

Sweet Mercy offers a spicy juice blend without the booze.
Sweet Mercy offers a spicy juice blend without the booze. Photo by Kimberly Park

Dry January is over. For some folks that means they are heading back to their debauched ways but for others, it may be a lifestyle change they want to continue. Whether it's your turn to be the designated driver or you are committed to your hard-earned sobriety, the trend toward non-alcoholic cocktails or "mocktails" is a positive one for many people who want to enjoy an evening out with their friends and not feel deprived. Gone are the days of ordering club soda or N/A beer. Not only are conventional cocktail bars and restaurants offering zero-proof drinks, there are even alcohol-free clubs opening like Sans Bar in Austin and Listen Bar in New York City. Whether it be for your mental, physical or spiritual health, Houston has non-alcoholic drinks that still give a sense of occasion without the booze.

Here's a list of delicious mocktails to try.

Brennan's of Houston
3300 Smith

For New Orleans ambiance and cuisine, Brennan's has been the go-to restaurant for Houstonians since 1967. Though fire during Hurricane Ike and flooding from Hurricane Harvey have wreaked havoc on the restaurant over the decades, it still charms underneath the glow of the old gaslights. There are few al fresco patios more enchanting in which to enjoy a fruity mocktail. Brennan's has a selection of three non-alcoholic drinks, so you can try them all and still walk away with your sea legs.

The first is the spicy Sweet Mercy, made with fresh lime and grapefruit juices, prickly pear syrup, jalapeno slices and sprite. It's served in a rocks place rimmed with cayenne pepper sugar. While enjoying one of its Texas Creole Brunches, you won't feel left out as you sip a flute of Simply Peachy, a blend of Martinelli Sparkling Cider and peach syrup, garnished with mint and a turbinado sugar rim. For something fruitier, there's the OJ Smash with muddled blackberries, mint and freshly-squeezed orange juice. All three drinks are $7.

click to enlarge You can sparkle without the alcohol. - PHOTO BY CHRIS POLDOIAN
You can sparkle without the alcohol.
Photo by Chris Poldoian


1830 Westheimer

You can rose all day at Camerata with a glass (or bottle) of Sparkling Spatburgunder from Rheingau, a non-alcoholic rose. It's sustainably grown and produced from 100 percent pinot noir grapes. It's also a fairly dry wine, so you won't be overwhelmed by the fruit.

click to enlarge Dandelion Cafe has some healthy mocktails. - PHOTO BY MARIE ELGAMAL
Dandelion Cafe has some healthy mocktails.
Photo by Marie Elgamal

Dandelion Cafe
5405 Bellaire

While there are plenty of coffee drinks, juices and smoothies to be had at this cute cafe, it also offers seasonal mocktails to accompany its panini and pastries.

The Hibiscus Honey Tea is made with organic hibiscus tea, local honey and a splash of ginger beer. There's also the Blueberry Mint Lemonade with muddled blueberries, mint and housemade lemonade. For a morning wake me up or digestif, the Lemon Ginger Shot (fresh ginger, lemon juice and cayenne pepper garnish) will hit the spot, especially if you are one of the unlucky ones recovering from the seasonal flu. Ginger is also good for nausea, so if you need a hangover cure, this is better than "the hair of the dog".  Its Italian sodas come in tasty flavors such as vanilla cream, cucumber mint and hibiscus strawberry for some bubbles.

click to enlarge The Lemonberry Elixir at Dish Society is berry delicious. - PHOTO BY KIMBERLY PARK
The Lemonberry Elixir at Dish Society is berry delicious.
Photo by Kimberly Park
Dish Society
23501 Cinco Ranch
12525 Memorial
5740 San Felipe
1050 Yale

Dish Society offers two house elixirs for a reasonable $5, so you can enjoy them with breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner at this casual Houston-based restaurant. For a mojito without the rum-o, the Virgin Mojito offers the same refreshing flavors of lime juice, cane sugar, mint and club soda. There's also the Lemonberry Elixir with muddled mint, lemon juice, strawberries, blackberries and cane sugar.

The elixirs are not available at the Finn Hall location.

click to enlarge The Limon Fresca at 8th Wonder Distillery is limey and fresh. - PHOTO BY MORGAN ROSENBAUM
The Limon Fresca at 8th Wonder Distillery is limey and fresh.
Photo by Morgan Rosenbaum

8th Wonder Distillery
2201 Dallas

8th Wonder keeps it simple with its refreshing limeade, the Limon Fresca. It's just house-made mint simple syrup, lime juice and water. But it's very pretty.

click to enlarge "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee!" - PHOTO BY EMMALINE STAFF
"Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee!"
Photo by Emmaline Staff
3210 W. Dallas

Emmaline with its blend of European elegance and Southern vintage charm is the perfect place to indulge in a leisurely lunch or special dinner. Its mocktail, Sandra Dee ($8), is perfect for those behaving goodly with its strawberry shrub, lemon passion fruit and soda.

click to enlarge The Lucha Libre will free you from a hangover. - PHOTO BY CAROL RIVAS
The Lucha Libre will free you from a hangover.
Photo by Carol Rivas
La Lucha
1801 N. Shepherd

This restaurant from Ford Fry is known for its fried chicken dinners and fresh Gulf seafood. There's a homeyness in dishes like the Fried Oyster Loaf. While a cold beer seems a perfect pairing, sometimes you have to behave. Having a Lucha Libre ($6) won't make you feel like you are missing out. It's a concoction of pineapple, lime, agave, spicy tamarind and chili arbol syrup. It has all the ingredients of a special cocktail without the spirits. It's an off menu item, but you now know the secret.

click to enlarge Let me take you downstairs to Raspberry Fields. - PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANTHONY
Let me take you downstairs to Raspberry Fields.
Photo by Michael Anthony

La Table, Marche
1800 Post Oak Boulevard

La Table's downstairs bistro, Marche offers classic French dishes like Tuna Nicoise or Caramelized Cheese Souffle. If a glass of wine is not in the cards for your day, you can treat yourself to a  Raspberry Fields mocktail instead, made with muddled raspberries, mint, simple syrup and soda water.

click to enlarge It's the time for the season of mocktails at Le Colonial. - PHOTO BY ALEXA BRASWELL
It's the time for the season of mocktails at Le Colonial.
Photo by Alexa Braswell

Le Colonial
4444 Westheimer

While Houston boasts as many Vietnamese restaurants as Dublin has pubs, Le Colonial combines elegant Vietnamese cuisine with French Colonial decor. Yes, there's pho bo, but it's a sophisticated version made with Wagyu oxtail broth and beef tenderloin.

It is offering four mocktails that represent the four seasons, even if Houston arguably has only two or three. Here's the list:

The Autumn (Mua Thu) - Thai basil, Vietnamese-spiced syrup, lemon juice and Sprite
The Spring (Mua Xuan) - blackberries, lemon juice, mint, syup, Sprite
The Summer (Mua He) - mango, nectar, pineapple juice, lychee puree and lime juice
The Winter (Mua Dong) - muddled cucumber, lime juice and ginger beer

click to enlarge Present Company goes both ways: with or without spirits. - PHOTO BY BECCA WRIGHT MULTIMEDIA
Present Company goes both ways: with or without spirits.
Photo by Becca Wright Multimedia
Present Company
1318 Westheimer

Some like it bright and Present Company offers neons and tropical colors in a fun and quirky setting. There are all kinds of creative cocktails here, but if you're wanting a good time without the liquor, it has two Le Croix cocktails that can be made spiritless. Just make sure you order them that way.

The Principle Kisses Alligator is made with blackberry cucumber Le Croix, lime juice, agave and fresh blackberries. The Stranger Danger is watermelon-kiwi Le Croix with lime and watermelon juice. The drinks are served in the Le Croix cans and are $6. The alcoholic versions are $10, so you can be responsible and thrifty at the same time.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.