It happens more than you'd think, says bartender Sam Gillespie of The Mitchell in downtown Dallas: A group of people will be seated at a table, when a woman with the group approaches the bar alone and says, in a near whisper: "Can you make me a drink without alcohol? I'm pregnant, but I don't want to tell my family yet.'"
"And I'm the only one who knows the secret!" Gillespie says.
Not every request packs so much drama, but bartenders are getting used to no-alcohol requests, whether inspired by pregnancy, lifestyle choices or even "Drynuary," the practice of going alcohol-free in January. Often called mocktails, these no-proof drinks are part of a savvy bartender's mental repertoire, and sometimes they're even on the menu: Macellaio, in Bishop Arts, features four sparkling alcohol-free drinks, for example, while Victory Park's Billy Can Can has an apple cider made in-house.
Bartender Jonathan Maslyk of Industry Alley, in the Cedars, doesn't drink alcohol, "so I make mocktails for myself all the time," he says. He often relies on tiki-style ingredients, with their range of syrups and juices, and he uses teas or anise to imitate flavors that bitters or absinthe add to traditional cocktails. But the approach is the same, he says; it's all about balance of flavor. That's the same philosophy that drives mocktails at Thompson's Bookstore in Fort Worth, where no-proof drinks are tailored to customers' tastes. "We ask them what they like, what they don't like, whether they have any allergies," says bar manager Brittany Day, who has considered adding alcohol-free drinks to the menu to meet a bump in demand.
Meanwhile, bartender Ravinder Singh, now at the "adults only" restaurant RM 12:20 in Lake Highlands, regularly includes mocktails on his menus — most recently at Macellaio, where he featured drinks like a sparkling ginger-basil lemonade. And while they were popular with professionals who had to work the next day but still wanted to go out and enjoy themselves, "believe it or not," he said with a chuckle, "the vast majority of people who ordered the drinks were kids."
Sparkling sage-rosemary lemonade
from bartender Ravinder Singh of RM 12:20 in Dallas
1 oz water
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup *
3 sage leaves
6-8 rosemary leaves
2 oz Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water
Add all ingredients except mineral water to an ice-filled shaker. Cap and shake hard for 8 to 10 seconds. Add Topo Chico, and fine strain into an ice-filled Collins Glass. Garnish with sage, rosemary and lemon wheel.
Or, ask for it at RM 12:20, 9850 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas.
from beverage director Brittany Day of Thompson's Bookstore in Fort Worth
1 oz orange juice
1 oz pureed strawberries
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup
Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and top with ginger ale. Garnish with an orange wheel.
Or, ask for it at Thompson's Bookstore, 900 Houston St., Fort Worth.
from bartender Jonathan Maslyk of Industry Alley in Dallas
1 1/2 oz white grapefruit juice
3/4 oz cinnamon syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz cane syrup
1 oz water
Shake with ice or swizzle with crushed ice in a Collins glass. Use mint as a garnish.
Or, ask for it at Industry Alley, 1711 S. Lamar St., Dallas.