THIS STORY IS PART OF OUR 2022 BAR GUIDE. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THAT FEATURE.
2423 N. MURRAY AVE.
Draw: Tight, intimate sets by live local and national performers, plus affable bartenders who can whip up anything
Mocktail: Triangular Dream – Rishi turmeric mango tea, simple syrup, Bittercube orange bitters, lime and seltzer
5900 W. NORTH AVE.
Draw: Great hospitality, people watching and expert drink-making
Mocktail: West North – Amass Riverine (an herbal, zero-proof spirit), lemon, lychee syrup, mint and Bittercube Jamaican No. 1 bitters
320 E. CLYBOURN ST.
Draw: The business’ own distilled spirits, seasonal dining menu (risotto, steak) and a setting that drips with industrial/old-bones character
Mocktail: Hornchata – rice milk with cinnamon, vanilla and simple syrup
2718 N. BREMEN ST.
Draw: This homage to tiki feels like you’re at a Polynesian island hideaway without a care in the world.
Mocktail: Coco Noa, blending pineapple juice, coconut, passionfruit and lime
818 S. WATER ST.
Draw: Classic cocktails served up in a hip saloon-like space (coonskin caps welcome), plus the food truck Taco Moto
Mocktail: Cardinal Punch – muddled mint, crushed cherries, raw sugar syrup, lemon and cranberry juices
6. Lost Whale
2151 S. KINNICKINNIC AVE.
Draw: Inventive craft cocktails in a Bay View crib lifted by its retro-modern aesthetic, adept drink makers – and can we mention the comfy, plush seating?
Mocktail: “Whiskey” Wisco old fashioned, sweet or sour
4195 N. OAKLAND AVE., SHOREWOOD
Draw: The fancy fish dishes (not to mention oysters Rockefeller) and unhurried style of dining
Mocktail: CosNOpolitan – Seedlip Grove 42 nonalcoholic spirit, lime, simple syrup and cranberry juice
8. Odd Duck
939 S. SECOND ST.
Draw: Outside-the-box small plates; zealous, polished service staff; and energetic, quirky atmosphere
Mocktail: #90 – Seedlip Spice 94 spirit, house caramelized fig cordial, fresh lime, NessAlla blueberry mint kombucha
A MKE-Made Sober Spirit
Great Lakes Distillery’s new non-alcoholic spirit is a bit elusive in the local shopping world. I phone one retailer, only to be met with, “It’s called what?” “Sans Junipre. By Great Lakes Distillery,” I tell him again. The guy stocking the liquor department at Whole Foods looks at me blankly, too, but seems happy to know about this botanical launched in early 2022.
Once in hand – I find it at Otto’s on Oakland (Ray’s Wine & Spirits in Tosa has it, too) – I immediately begin the christening process in a seltzer-cranberry juice spritzer. Topped off with a twist of lime, this combination is herbal and earthy, with a delicate piney bite. Sans Junipre – the first from GLD founder Guy Rehorst’s Boundless Beverages Co. – is made from “natural botanical extracts” and flavors ranging from the expected juniper to ginseng, basil and chili pepper. While the herbaceous profile works well as a non-alcoholic substitute for gin, it can take the one-to-one place for any spirit used in a cocktail.
Whatever reason you don’t want alcohol in your glass, it’s great to have a local maker exploring the growing zero-proof field of spirits. And you don’t necessarily need to commit to a $32 bottle. Great Lakes’ Tasting Room includes several Junipre-based drinks on its menu. The Every Cone features it with lemonade and rosewater; the low-ABV Crantini mixes it with Good Land cranberry liqueur and an orange twist ($8 each). 616 W. Virginia St.,
Beyond ‘Near’ Beer
S’mores stout. Dry-hopped Italian pilsner. Passionfruit sour. Juicy IPA.
If your idea of nonalcoholic beer is poisoned by the lackluster lager knockoffs of yesteryear, it’s time to get with it. The NA sector has taken a craft turn in recent years, and one of the national leaders is right here in Wisconsin.
Untitled Art, based at Octopi Brewing Co. in Waunakee, just outside Madison, made its name with contemporary beverages like hazy IPAs, fruity sours, pastry stouts and hard seltzers.
But the NA line it introduced in 2020 has been driving the company’s growth. “We see the consumer and market wanting all the flavor and less alcohol and calories,” says Untitled Art co-founder Isaac Showaki. “The ‘good for you’ movement is growing in all beverage categories.”
For Untitled Art, that’s meant 270% growth in its NA beers this year, up to a quarter of the company’s sales. Octopi has invested to expand the costly equipment it takes to dealcoholize beer, with a capacity of 350,000 barrels – that’s some 50% more than the leading state craft brand, New Glarus Brewing, made last year.
Untitled Art’s NA brews are nearly indistinguishable from their alcoholic counterparts in flavor, aroma and, critically, body. They’re simply good craft beers. Says Showaki: “The best compliment is when people tell us they can’t tell if it’s an alcoholic beer or a NA beer.”
Just because a cocktail is nonalcoholic doesn’t mean you can’t still get a little buzz.
Earlier this year, The Sugar Maple in Bay View introduced drinks infused with Delta-8 THC to Milwaukee. This legal form of cannabis has some psychoactive effects but is still quite a bit tamer than old-school marijuana. It can be made into tinctures that work nicely in cocktails.
The four cocktails on The Sugar Maple’s regular menu are all nonalcoholic to prevent mixing buzzes: Spicy Doinks, Pineapple Express, Fresa Flora and Bong Water. These drinks’ 5-milligram dose is pretty small – “just enough to get a little smiley,” says Sugar Maple proprietor Adrienne Pierlussi – and takes about an hour to kick in.
I had two beers before arriving at The Sugar Maple for my Delta-8 cocktail (a tasty but limited-run recipe), and I was definitely feeling smiley as it set in. It was a good mood that felt of a different stripe than a third-beer mood – more elevated, and maybe a bit more energetic. High times, indeed. 441 E. Lincoln Ave.