Denver, CO

Doing Dry January? Here’s where to find the best mocktails in Denver

Brittany Anas

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A non-alcoholic Gin Fizz served at Deviation Distilling.Deviation Distilling

By Brittany Anas / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) We’re about halfway through Dry January, a time when people press the pause button on their alcohol consumption.

If, by now, you’re starting to miss those happy hour gatherings with friends or sipping a well-balanced drink alongside a meal, you’re in luck: Bartenders in and around Denver have dreamed up some elevated mocktail recipes, and there’s even a sober bar dedicated to these non-alcoholic beverages.

Here’s everything you need to know about Denver’s mocktail scene.

The art of making mocktails

A far cry from Shirly Temples, today’s mocktails are nuanced, with bartenders getting creative to replicate the flavors and even appearance of classic cocktails to create booze-free dupes.

Take, for instance, the Aviation cocktail, a gin drink that’s distinctly purple. Tiago Amaral, a bartender with Deviation Distilling, uses whole violets instead of the crème de violett that’s traditionally called for in the drink. To achieve the same lavender color, he’s giving the mocktail a splash of beet juice.

“Since the alcohol component is missing, you’ll often need to add soda water to balance out the sugar and add body,” Amaral says.

Booze-free libations

Giving momentum to the mocktail movement is the fact that bartenders and at-home cocktail enthusiasts now have a bevy of craft non-alcoholic spirits to choose from, thanks to more makers entering the market.

The sales of non-alcoholic beverages shot up 33 percent in the past year, with $331 million in total sales, according to Nielsen, hinting that booze-free libations may stick around for another round beyond Dry January.

Some examples of booze-less brands making a splash include Monday, which makes an alcohol free gin with an herbaceous blend of juniper and botanicals, plus citrus and spices that mimic a classic London dry gin. Or, Lyre’s non-alcoholic Dark Cane Spirit that’s akin to a dark rum and has notes of caramel, fudge and fig.

Locally, Chef Frank Bonanno is spearheading a non-alcoholic beverage program that’s being implemented throughout Bonanno Concepts, including the Denver Milk Market. The restaurant group is making its own “zero-proof spirits" from scratch, including non-alcoholic rum, whiskey, gin, vermouth and tequila.

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Denver Chef Frank Bonanno torches a banana for a non-alcoholic spirit.Bonanno Concepts

“The trick to non-alcoholic cocktails is finding the right combination of ingredients to mimic the taste profiles of alcohol,” Bonanno says. “For example, you can use chilis to simulate the burn. Charred banana skins will give those tropical notes while also adding that complex aged flavor. Burnt wood chips can do the same.”

Denver’s sober bar

Step foot into Awake (2240 N. Clay St., Unit 100 in Denver) in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, and you’ll notice plush emerald bar stools and a bar filled with bottles. But absent from the menu is alcohol of any type.

Designed for the sober (and sober-curious), this stylish bar has a list of mocktails that include margaritas, Manhattans and mojitos as well as cleverly named drinks such as the “Not Berry Buzzed,” made with a non-alcoholic spirit and bursting with strawberries and blackberries.

The alcohol-free bar, which was started as a way to socialize without alcohol as a focal point, also has an entertainment calendar with live music, a bottle shop with Colorado’s largest selection of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits as well as a coffeehouse.

Mocktails to try at local bars

Here are some mocktails to try based on the classic cocktails you enjoy.

If you like a fruity margarita …

The Rain Priest at Kachina Cantina (1890 Wazee St. in Denver) is a non-alcoholic beverage that defies seasonality, says Ryan Williams, bar lead and supervisor. “Mint and watermelon provide a crisp, fruity base while chipotle-agave gives it enough depth for the coldest of winter months,” he says.

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The Rain Priest mocktail from Kachina Cantina.Kachina Cantina

If you like a paloma …

The team behind Roger's Liquid Oasis (5505 W. 20th Ave in Edgewater) and Curio Bar (2669 Larimer St.) have curated a menu of “Zero Proof Cocktails” at $9 each. They have a booze-less cocktail for a lot of the classics including negronis and bloody marys. A standout is the paloma, which is made with Seedlip Grove, a bright, non-alcoholic citrus blend, plus lime, grapefruit and Squirt.

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A booze-free paloma that's served at Roger's Liquid Oasis and Curio BarRoger's Liquid Oasis

If you like a gin fizz …

Fizzy and garnished with a trio of berries, Deviation Distilling (1821 Blake St., Suite 130 in Denver) has created an herbaceous non-alcoholic gin fizz. Enjoy a mocktail over happy hour alongside loaded charcuterie boards and burrata at the craft distillery located on the Dairy Block.

A non-alcoholic Gin Fizz served at Deviation DistillingDeviation Distilling

If you like a Moscow mule …

Looking for an après--ski mocktail? Maya (126 Riverfront Lane in Avon) by Chef Richard Sandoval at the Vail Valley’s Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa makes a non-alcoholic Moscow mule with a spicy ginger ale, ruby grapefruit and lemon and lime bitters. The copper mug will look familiar.

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A non-alcoholic riff on a Moscow mule at Maya.Maya

If you like a mojito …

Consider the Japanese Blossom a creative riff on a mojito. Served at Foraged (1825 Blake St. in Denver), this mocktail has muddled cucumber, a raspberry simple syrup, soda and yuzu juice, which is a tart and bright citrus that’s slightly herbaceous.

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With muddled cucumber and yuzu juice, this mocktail from Foraged is bursting with flavor.Foraged

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Brittany is a journalist in the Denver metro area with more than two decades of writing and editing experience. She covers travel, restaurants and other lifestyle topics.

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