Why Zero-Proof Cocktails Matter
There are dozens of reasons why someone might not want to drink alcohol. Maybe they are celebrating their sobriety, perhaps they are pregnant or new parents, or maybe they want a night out without the hangover. Whatever the case, in the past, the options for sans-alcohol options at bars were limited to sugary sodas or water. Thankfully, that has all changed in the past year, and the OKC cocktail scene is taking note.
As someone who has my foot in the industry, I have found it is imperative to have a balance. In a way, teaming up with Dennis from Uncovering Oklahoma is very personal to me. I have told my husband on multiple occasions that “I’m too old for this shit.” Meaning, I’m no longer a spry twenty-something who can drink all night with zero consequences. It’s essential to know the balance and be able to partake in the incredible cocktail culture without romanticizing the alcoholism.
With that said, I’m so glad that Dennis teamed up with me to go around town to showcase the bars which are providing beautifully hand-crafted, zero-proof cocktails around the city. It’s time to put the Shirley Temples down and walk away from the virgin Pina Coladas. What we found were grown-up drinks for adults who want to have a drink that looks, feels, and tastes like a balanced cocktail. So let’s get to it! But first, we need to answer the number one frequently asked question:
What’s the Difference between Zero-Proof Cocktails and Mocktails?
Glad you asked! Think about mocktails. They were something you got as a kid so that you could feel “grown-up” with your parents as they had a cocktail of their own. Typically, they are syrupy, sugary, and not much more than a flavored soda. Additionally, mocktails carry the connotation that you are a joke or being mocked by the bartender (and your friends) for ordering something with no alcohol. For better or for worse, mocktails are really for kids.
Zero-proof is a new term coined by the bartending industry to indicate a cocktail concocted with low or no alcohol (hence, the zero-proof). These are created to be balanced, beautiful, and something that you can drink without calling attention to yourself if you are out with friends who are drinking. These nonalcoholic cocktails are often crafted to hit the anatomy of the cocktail (sweet, bitter, sour) without the alcohol. These are crafted with adults in mind, so the sweetness isn’t overpowering or syrupy. Instead, you get a balanced cocktail that you can enjoy no matter your level of sobriety. In other words, zero-proof cocktails are for grown-ass adults.
The Guide to Zero-Proof Cocktails in Oklahoma City
If you go to almost any bar in OKC, you will probably find a bartender willing to handcraft you an alcohol-free craft cocktail. I chose four venues for our trip with Dennis. I’m also going to mention a few places at the end, which I know make excellent zero-proof cocktails, either on their menu or by request.
Frida Southwest/The Daley
In case you didn’t know, I’m absolutely heart-eyed, over-the-moon in love with everything that Gabbi and her team of badass cocktail babes make. Gabbi and I had previously talked about the importance of booze-free drinks, so I knew she had to be first on the list as Frida and The Daley drop their full zero-proof menu.
They have EIGHT cocktails on their zero-proof menu right now, including everything from their “Marti-no” and “No-groni” (made with their own non-alcoholic vermouth) to the savory “Tea Time” and the sweeter “Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice.” We tried the latter two on our visit.
Tea Time is made with SEEDLIP Garden, Urban Teahouse-based black tea syrup, lemon juice, and carbonated tomato water. This is a collins-style drink that hits all the right savory notes. If you like Bloody Mary’s or less sweet drinks, this one is for you.
Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice is made with SEEDLIP Spice, lemon, Urban Teahouse-based chai syrup, spiced bitters, heavy cream, egg white, and cream soda. It is also available in a vegan option! This is a Ramos Gin Fizz riff, so it will take a little bit for the bartenders to make it. Expect them to shake the cocktail for about 5 minutes, not including making the rest of the drink. It’s worth the wait, I promise!
It’s no secret that I love Barkeep Supply. Julia has carefully curated her darling bartending supply shop, and it’s evident in almost any bar you see in OKC. What most people don’t know is that she has a bar inside where you can grab one of the best cocktails in town and shop for new bitters, barware, or glasses for your home.
Barkeep doesn’t have a formal nonalcoholic cocktail menu. Instead, each cocktail is crafted to the tastes and preferences of the individual. For us, Julia created a jam-based Collins-style cocktail. The jam worked as the sugar, while the vanilla bitters and orgeat added in the bitter and sour components to the drink. She topped it off with Topo Chico to create a refreshing and balanced cocktail that you can enjoy year-round.
Don’t forget to pick up a Casmara Club soda while you’re there! These amaro sodas are incredible and zero-proof as well!
Ponyboy is one of the best bars in OKC. As part of the Tower Theater, they are uniquely able to transition you from an incredible concert to a night out with friends by simply opening a door. Ponyboy is beloved by industry folks, and it’s not uncommon to see a few familiar bartending faces hanging out on their day off.
Alex, the Beverage Director, and his team typically have a zero-proof cocktail or two on their menu at any given time. For us, he made a Pink Panther and a Diet Old Fashioned. Old Fashioned’s are my go-to cocktail as I am a true Southern girl and love most whiskey. Alex was able to get the depth and color of whiskey by black tea, bitter angelica root, local honey, and a sea salt solution. It gives you that rich and bitter taste akin to an Old Fashioned. The Pink Panther is a Paloma-inspired vegan cocktail that is built with grapefruit, ginger beer, lime, cranberry, and colloid, which gives it the rich mouthfeel you would expect in an alcoholic cocktail.
Both cocktails are made to look, taste, and feel like a regular cocktail. The stealthy Diet Old Fashioned was definitely one of my favorite zero-proof cocktails from our tour!
Ludivine is one of the best places to get a cocktail in Oklahoma City. They have revamped their cocktail menu and pulled some of the best talent from across the city to create an incredible bar scene. Fun fact: they make my favorite Boulevardier in OKC.
We met up with Jake Holt, who shared with us their current and upcoming zero-proof cocktails.
Their Hibiscus Ginger Beer is a riff on a collins. They up the ante with hibiscus, house-made grenadine, lime juice, and house-made ginger beer. It’s honestly a perfect summer zero-proof cocktail.
The second version is their twist on an Espresso Martini and is made with espresso, heavy cream, Coco Lopez, and maple syrup. This is a twist on one of the drinks from their upcoming fall menu, and let me tell you: IT IS GOOD. We fought over who was going to finish it (ok fine, not really).
Other OKC Bars to Try Zero-Proof Cocktails
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the bars that I know are doing zero-proof cocktails. The Kitchen at Commonplace was one of the OGs who brought on SEEDLIP at the very beginning. You can trust the team to create a unique and delicious booze-free cocktail to your tastes!
Word on the street is that Stitch is working on an alcohol-free cocktail menu. We didn’t get a chance to visit them, but I’m excited to see what they put out.
Additionally, The Jones Assembly, O Bar, and Mary Eddy’s all have the ability to create you a no-or-low ABV cocktail.
Ihad so much fun talking to the bartenders and managers about zero-proof cocktails. My hope is that this is a trend that will stick around and grow in our community. Whatever your reason, adding zero-proof craft cocktails to your mix of beverages is a great choice in my opinion.
Ready to watch the Uncovering Oklahoma video? Check it out below!