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Los Angeles Bar Mavens Have Simple Solutions for the Non-(Alcohol)-Drinking Bar Patron

Zachary Bernstein


What’s your drink of preference after a long day at the office? Do you go out for a beer? A glass of wine? What would you say to a Citrus Spritzer mocktail? While they don’t make up the majority of bar customers, non-alcoholic drinkers regularly show up at bars asking for a little something beyond a Shirley Temple they can gulp down for themselves. Bartenders would be wise not to discount those who don’t drink alcohol; the teetotalers who nonetheless insist on an active social life, those adjusting to recent news of their gluten-intolerance, the good Samaritans who volunteer to be the designated driver. But what do these anomalous creatures of sobriety crave?

The Blind Barber in Culver City, CA.

  Justin Fix, Bar Manager of The Blind Barber
“At the end of the day, people want a damn good-tasting drink," says Justin Fix, Bar Manager of The Blind Barber, Culver City, CA’s premiere combination cocktail bar and barbershop. Whether it’s honest booze or a non-alcoholic mix, he pays special attention to make sure fresh and seasonal ingredients are king at his establishment. And he’s not alone.

Nicolas De Gols, the new General Manager of The BLVD restaurant at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel offers a similar philosophy. “You need to understand what they expect,” says De Gols, and he just happens to work in an establishment where the clientele expect the very best. For a non-alcoholic mojito, for example, De Gols is partial to replacing the rum with Fever-Tree Ginger Ale, a brand that markets itself as the choice brand to mix with other drinks.

Over at the Mohawk Bend in L.A.'s edgily hip Echo Park, Bar Manager Lauren Reyes takes a stance in favor of self-sustainability, forgoing brand mixes for in-house creations where all cocktails on the menu can be turned into mocktails. “There’s still room to be creative,” she says, offering drinks like house-made ginger beer and serving kombucha on tap.

Back at The Blind Barber, Justin Fix keeps a few tricks up his sleeve. For the gluten-free patrons, he offers Fair’s award-winning (and in this case, still very much alcoholic) quinoa vodka. Fair takes its name from their ethos of being a Fair Trade company which, for this particular concoction, sources its quinoa from Bolivia and distills it in France. For his non-alcoholic crowd, Fix claims to have been early to hop on the ever-growing bandwagon for substituting alcohol in his cocktails with Altar Herbal Martinis.

Altar’s “herbal and botanical mood mixers,” have enough organic ingredients in them to make for a unique stand-alone treat. Altar provides five distinct mixtures of fruits, vegetables, teas, herbs, spices, and botanicals, employing exotic flavors ranging from Indian sarsaparilla to fennel bulb juice to vert du Vietnam green tea leaves. But these mixes are also able to contort themselves to blend with spirits, or as their replacement.

James Rhey, who manages The Well, which sits in the heart of Hollywood and caters to quite a few office workers who know they maybe probably shouldn’t drink before they get back to work, has been in the drink trade for two decades. He’s happy to report that people are much more concerned now with what’s in their drinks compared to 20 years ago. And whether they’re filled with gin or ginger ale, it’s safe to say drinkers of all stripes want only the best.


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