Adults love their adult beverages, but not always the buzz that comes with it. With sales of alcohol dropping around 1 percent in the U.S. in 2018, an increase from 2017, Americans seem to be joining a growing European movement: eschewing boozy cocktails, beers and wines for low- or no-alcohol beverages.
The “moderation trend” is apparent beyond beverage sales data. In 2019, “Dry January” caught on among millennials who committed to a full month of sobriety. Heineken 0.0, an alcohol-free version of the classic brew, was introduced in the American market in late 2018, hyped with ads showing people drinking the beer in a work meeting and behind the wheel of a car. And mocktails, once considered the consolation drink of teenagers and pregnant women, are now on the menu of high-end bars from London to L.A., thanks in part to the innovation of alcohol-free spirits (most famously, Seedlip).
“One thing I do every year as a New Year’s tradition is I look at what the internet says was a trend last year and what’s coming up. Mocktails were on both of those,” said Josh O’Connell, an award-winning mixologist who recently developed the cocktail menu for Rodina in Cedar Rapids. “There’s a fair amount of people who ask for mocktails, whether they’re pregnant or, just the other night, we had a guy who’d had a few at the last place and wanted to take it easy, but still wanted to have the social aspect of sharing a drink with friends.”
Are eastern Iowa alcoholic institutions, from Cedar Ridge whiskey to Big Grove beer, facing an existential threat? Hardly, but growing demand for low-ABV options has created more diversity in the brewing market and led local bartenders like O’Connell to get creative with non-boozy recipes. Before you settle for an O’Doul’s or seltzer, try one of these tasty and temperate options.
Creating a more fruit-centered mocktail recipe, Josh O’Connell said he looked for refined ingredients that take the drink “past a lemonade, and have some interest in there for your palate beyond just acidity and sweetness.”
The Fizzy Peach is heavy on peach bitters with grapefruit juice, simple syrup, lemon juice, soda and a lemon peel garnish.
When brainstorming booze-free recipes for Rodina’s menu, O’Connell said he’s looking to demonstrate to customers that mocktails are not only an option, but can pack “the same caliber as a craft cocktail, just without the alcohol.”
The star of the Cardamom Daydream is, unsurprisingly, cardamom—beloved by O’Connell for its unique flavor—complemented with grapefruit juice, honey syrup, club soda and an orange peel and star anise garnish.
210 N Linn St, Iowa City
Using locally sourced ingredients and housemade juices, Wild Culture brewer Tim Roed experiments with a range of flavor combinations. For a slightly boozier option, Roed pairs his kombuchas with Iowa craft brews. His rotating menu of kombucha shandies include the Beet Generation (above), combining ginger orange lime kombucha with Exile Brewing Company’s Beatnik Sour; Jurassic Juice, with pineapple kiwi coconut kombucha and Toppling Goliath’s Pseudo Sue IPA; and Soaring Eagle, grapefruit carrot ginger with Iowa Brewing Company’s Iowa Eagle lager.
Blood Orange Radler
59 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
Combining house-made, non-alcoholic blood orange soda and Bridge Beer—a light golden brew clocking it at just 3.6 percent ABV, about the lowest alcohol content you’ll find in a craft beer—this summertime radler from staple Cedar Rapids brewpub Lion Bridge is the perfect session drink for those with a taste for tang.
203 N Linn St, Iowa City