After a month-long bender through unending holiday parties that culminated in a blow-out year-end fete, you might feel like January is the longest hangover — ever. Luckily, in the city where debauchery seeps well beyond December and into the other 11 months of the year, NYC bartenders have caught on to the occasionally required break from booze and are proving it by way of inventive, alcohol-free creations. Call them what you will — mocktails, soft cocktails, prohibition-style sippers — just don’t confuse “sans alcohol” with “sans skill.” With one less ingredient (a big, beloved one at that) at play, barkeeps are required to get extra savvy in building complexity and balance for these 0 percent ABV concoctions. Here, we present 10 reasons — all at $9 or less — to keep just one of this month’s health-conscious resolutions.
10. The Ginger Remedy, The John Dory Oyster Bar, 1196 Broadway, 212-792-9000
Sasha Petraske helms the beverage program at this Ace Hotel corner spot tenant, whose “afternoon drinks” selection credits the classics, including a ginless mule and afternoon rickey in dry form. Even the vaguely medicinal hot toddy gets bonus health cred in the ginger remedy, a honey-potent mug of ginger, lemon, and star anise — complete with a cinnamon stick swizzle.
9. French Vanilla Soda, Center Bar, 10 Columbus Circle, Fourth Floor, 212-823-9482
If you need a fourth floor shopping break at the Time Warner Building (and you’re not willing or able to splurge at Masa or Per Se), head to Center Bar. The drinks menu is smartly divided by notable booze eras, and the “prohibition” section is where you can find the law-abider’s libations. A sip of the French vanilla soda, a Collins glass of energetically carbonated Chamomile-steeped simple syrup and vanilla extract, is like a low calorie root beer float.
8. Cosmonot, Gramercy Tavern, 42 East 20th Street, 212-477-0777
Danny Meyer’s fawned over social hub has been gaining lifelong followers — locals and tourists alike — since its 1994 opening, and the answer may lie in the meticulous but unpretentious details. Take, for example, the Cosmonot: an all-ages shaken martini made of pinot noir juice, grenadine, and a piercing trio of citrus. Our guess is that the minimal liquid-to-rim gap is on purpose, and in your — and your white-donning date’s — best interest.
7. The Social Tea, The Stanton Social, 99 Stanton Street, 212-995-0099
This Lower East Side scenester-pleaser is best known for its small plates, but the drinks are solid accompaniments — with hooch or without. For recharge and recovery purposes, forgo the Stoli Citrus in the Social Tea, a porch swing-worthy snifter of gunpowder green tea and citrus that is slightly sweetened up via orange-honey marmalade.
6. The Nimble Rabbit, Riverpark, 450 East 29th Street, 212-729-9790
The team at Riverpark grows culinary inspiration in its own backyard, where an on-premise farm dictates what goes on the plates and into the glasses at this East River neighbor. One sip of the Nimble Rabbit, an effervescent carrot and orange tipple, recalls the vibrant, citrus-fueled zing of an Orange Julius mall session. One more ages the experience to a much more desirable reality: mega vitamin intake with an insane view.
5. Streamline Baby, Alder, 157 Second Avenue, 212-539-1900
With drinks available in spirit-free or half-size (and half-price) form, it seems as though Alder’s beverage program was built for keeping its patrons’ responsible conscience in mind. That, or the bar team is made up of big-time believers in trying multiple quaffs in one setting. The Streamline Baby lives up to its name: Floral rooibos tea, fresh tangerine, and intensely carbonated tonic are wildly harmonious in their rivalry for most memorable component; the verdict, as it turns out, is a fortunate tie.
4. Hemingway’s Garden, Rouge Tomate, 10 East 60th Street, 646-237-8977
If you have any guilt upon exiting this Michelin-starred superfood-focused sanctuary, it’ll likely be due to the check rather than blowing any diet or resolution. The kitchen’s green thumb generously extends to the beverage program, for which head bartender Zach Moore has created more than a dozen liver-friendly libations that dominate the menu’s first page. Skip a trip to your local juice bar with the Hemingway’s Garden, a shaken and strained eye opener of kale, cilantro, and cucumber that is buried under a cloak of pineapple foam — a thoughtful and necessary sugar counterpart to the savory elements.
3. The Cease and Desist, The NoMad, 1170 Broadway, 347-472-5660
With libations luminary Leo Robitschek setting up the NoMad’s spirits shop, it’s no wonder the drinks are as serious and thoughtfully-conceived as Daniel Humm’s bucket list-worthy plates. The “soft cocktails” menu section maintains a proud first page presence and kicks off with the Cease and Desist, an abruptly floral, Dreamsicle-reminiscent concoction of orange juice, cream, and orange blossom water. One taste channels and charms our inner eight-year-old.
2. The English Breeze, Clover Club, 210 Smith Street, Brooklyn, 718-855-7939
If you’re curious about how hooch-less balance plays out in the glass and you find yourself at this Smith Street tincture destination, you’re in good hands — and these hands know a thing or many about shaking and stirring. Tart grapefruit and sweet elderflower cordial assist one another in the English breeze, resulting in a bright and rampantly refreshing alternative to the restaurant’s colossal cocktail offerings.
1. The Stella by Starlight, Angel’s Share, 8 Stuyvesant Street, 212-777-5415
The mocktail selection at this second floor imbibing hideout may be minute, but it’s mighty. Bar spoonfuls of homemade green apple and shiso sorbet veil the floor of a tall Champagne coupe with grassy and tartly sweet notes before a to-the-rim ginger ale topping and a routine lemon garnish — only this one is whimsical; masterfully trimmed into a theme-befitting star. The drink also carries some sentimental footing: the recipe was passed to the bar team from a pastry chef friend.