A desire to use excess rhubarb led to a popular drink called Rhubarb Shrub at Mill Valley Kitchen in Minneapolis. “We had some rhubarb left over from last season in the freezer,” explains chef de cuisine Jourdan Morris, who added the fruit to raw cider vinegar, lime, and soda. “A lot of people start itching for seasonal flavor even when it’s not available yet.” The catch is that this isn’t a cocktail. It’s a non-alcoholic sparkling wine, featured in a section of the menu called “Natural Refreshments” that mirrors Mill Valley Kitchen’s healthy-dining mantra. “It’s important to have a beverage concept that fits into that,” Chef Morris says.
Similarly, the Whey Cooler, which features fermented kombucha (introducing a slight fizziness), whey, orange, and lime, makes good use of an end product. About 70 percent of whey is waste, Morris says, “but it’s also fun that you get a source of protein in your refreshment.”
“Most of our non-alcoholic beverages are served during lunch, so that’s when we market those,” says Morris, who uses Instagram to post photos of the drinks, enticing potential customers to try them.
Another spritzer created on a whim, this one at Arola—inside Hotel Arts Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain—quickly evolved into a permanent offering. “Bee Aware”—orange juice, organic chamomile honey, lime juice, and soda, garnished with honey foam and organic bee pollen—was initially offered during the restaurant’s Earth Hour in March to bring awareness to the colony collapse disorder impacting bees. The drink is now at all of the hotel’s restaurants and bars.
In addition to being health-minded, these non-alcoholic spritzers appeal to diners who don’t consume alcohol. “People who can’t—or won’t—drink [alcoholic beverages] appreciate the opportunity to have a pairing experience,” says Doug Weiler, a chef at Willow Restaurant, which opened in Portland, Oregon, in March and offers a six-course tasting menu. The restaurant also serves a low-alcohol sparkling wine (dry white wine that has been reduced and topped with club soda), poured into an elegant flute glass. On the non-alcohol side, Willow's Apple & Celery Kvass combines diced apples and celery with a salt solution, which is left to infuse over a few days. “It’s a slightly tinted beverage that has all the flavor of what was submerged,” says John Pickett, another Willow chef.
Rye Milk (rye berries soaked overnight before being puréed and seasoned with salt and maple syrup) and Mirepoix Sun Tea (bay leaves, juniper, and black peppercorns steeped for six hours before being strained and seasoned with salt) are also on the menu.