Ask the Editor: Where Can I Drink Hip Mocktails?

This teetotaler loves checking out new bars, but sometimes feels awkward ordering just a soda.

Welcome to Ask the Editor, Boston magazine’s new dining advice column. Need a restaurant recommendation? Ask a pro.


The Apprentice is one of a few creative mocktails on the menu at Waypoint

The Apprentice is one of a few creative mocktails on the menu at Waypoint. / Photo provided by Waypoint

Question:

I like to go out and see a lot of restaurants and bars. But as someone who doesn’t drink, it is awkward to go out and sit at a bar and just order a soda. What restaurants/bars have the best bar program for mocktails and non-alcoholic beverage selections?

—J.A.

Kudos to you for not being totally intimidated by being a teetotaling barfly. And rest assured, you’re on the forefront of a burgeoning trend: Non-alcoholic, yet thoughtful “mocktails” (get it?) have been gaining prominence in bar programs here and around the country for a few years. As dining out is a more popular hobby than ever, and healthy options like build-your-own grain bowl counters and fresh-squeezed juice bars are driving much of the dining development in Boston and beyond, healthier cocktails are a logical, and welcome, conclusion.

Alden & Harlow, Michael Scelfo’s secretly veggie-focused flagship, and his newer seafood-and-smoke den, Waypoint, both have strong lineups of $8 mocktails on the menu. It makes sense, with such baller bar programs for the boozehounds.

Alden’s A Drink to World Peas, for example, is an intriguing savory sipper that uses English peas, celery, lemon, and agave for sweetness. At Waypoint, we like the Apprentice, made with lemon, honey, sparkling water, and house-made orgeat, a common cocktail ingredient that’s just a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar, and floral water. Both spots have large, popular bars in view of the bustling restaurant—and when you do manage to snag a stool, there is no need to feel guilty that you’re not giving the bartenders an opportunity to shake things up for you. (Alden & Harlow, 40 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617-864-2100, aldenharlow.com; Waypoint, 1030 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-2300, waypointharvard.com)

Tiki Rock is a relatively new bar anchoring the tiki trend as the city’s surprisingly only dedicated Polynesian-style hideaway. Fresh juices and high-end spirits typically fill the kitschy mugs, but why should the drinkers get to have all the fun?

Beverage director Charles Smedile (who, among other stellar spots, is an alum of Waypoint) has a trio of tiki-inspired, non-alcoholic libations for “Landlubbers,” as the menu marks them. Your Tai is a booze-free riff on the house version of the classic Mai Tai, with kumquat and lime, that subs soda for rum; and Slugworth’s Sizzler uses the same strawberry-long pepper syrup developed for the boozy Scrumdiddly Rumptious.

The room gives a sense of boarding a docked pirate ship, with serene painted scenes crowning the large, rectangular bar; and portholes casting eerie blue light above the sushi bar. There is lounge-style seating, too, so this place is great for catching up after work with groups of friends. (2 Broad St., Boston, 617.670.0107, tikirock.com)

Another technicolor option is Sumiao Hunan Kitchen. It debuted last summer in Kendall Square with a bold beverage program to match the spicy Chinese cuisine. For the summer season, the bar team just rolled out a new menu focused on bright colors and tropical flavors, and they did not forget about the teetotalers.

Among the $6.50, non-alcoholic options are three new drinks made with coconut cream, including a creamy Island Limeade; and Watermelon on the Beach, which also has fresh watermelon puree and coconut water.

The sunny space is full of art curated by owner Sumiao Chen, which will be a great conversation topic to broach with new friends you meet at the bar. (270 Third St., Kendall Square, Cambridge, 617-945-0907, sumiaohunan.com)

Hope these suggestions quench your thirst, J.A.—and for anybody reading who doesn’t avoid alcohol, remember: A well-balanced mocktail isn’t just for teetotalers. Anyone can order a boozeless beverage, no ID required.