The Sound Check at Catalyst
Health-conscious locals looking to cut out or cut down on the booze are in luck: It’s a fine time to be a teetotaler, with more menus offering mocktails as tasty and celebratory as their high-proof neighbors. “It was important for us to have thought-out drinks for people who are choosing not to drink alcohol because we want them to have fun too!” says Ryan Lotz, beverage director at the South End’s Bar Mezzana. “We wanted to be able to put that menu down in front of our guests and feel like we had well-balanced drinks that were interesting; too often the request for a mocktail ends up being some sort of soda-cranberry-lime concoction that is delicious, but everywhere.” So principal bartender Jenna Rycroft put together a list of options like the Bramble Berry Spritz, featuring ginger, blackberry, lemon and Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic. “It’s spicy and refreshing, with a bitter edge from the tonic,” Lotz explains. “It’s nice to have something with a little bitterness on the mocktail list because it’s so often a flavor you don’t get to enjoy in beverages if you’re abstaining from alcohol.” Meanwhile in Cambridge, the bar team at Catalyst, having noticed an uptick in regulars on the wagon for Dry January, just debuted a trio of nonalcoholic tipples, including the Sound Check, made with carrot juice, coriander seed soda, lemon and fresh coriander. “I came up with the idea for the Sound Check while making an Indian carrot dish and thought, ‘This would be great as a drink!’ ” says bar manager Curtis Hancock. And over in Concord, Woods Hill Table beverage director Andrew Rich is offering a maple and pine soda, featuring house-made syrups crafted with ingredients foraged from the restaurant’s namesake New Hampshire farm. Not that thoughtful nonalcoholic concoctions are entirely new of course: Craigie on Main has long devoted menu space to selections such as Hi Honey, I’m Home! (hibiscus, lemon, crystallized ginger-infused agave nectar and mint), Island Creek Oyster Bar to the likes of Abigail’s Delight (a soda of pineapple and housemade orgeat). And the pastry team at L’Espalier has been squeezing juice alternatives to wine pairings, like lychee mint lemonade and Concord grape ginger, for more than 35 years.