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Drink and thrive with Vancouver area’s mocktails

Clark County establishments' nonalcoholic menus have grown, giving local imbibers a healthier option

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The Coral Club in downtown Vancouver offers the Virgin Painkiller. (106 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver; 360-989-5725; open 4 p.m.
The Coral Club in downtown Vancouver offers the Virgin Painkiller. (106 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver; 360-989-5725; open 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Monday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday) Photo Gallery

Cocktails have been around since the 1800s. They flourished during Prohibition when bartenders used sugar, citrus and bitters to balance out the unpleasant taste of bathtub gin. Since Prohibition ended in 1933, spirits have exponentially improved, giving bartenders an excellent base for building drinks.

Mocktails, however, are relatively new. With recent research indicating that even moderate drinking can be harmful to your health, more people are looking for a satisfying virgin drink.

Alcohol-free spirits like Seedlip and Wilderton have flooded the market, but they don’t have the viscosity or complexity of regular spirits. They tend to be thinner and heavy on botanicals and other flavoring products. Alcohol-free spirits can’t be substituted for regular spirits in existing recipes, so new ones need to be developed.

That’s why it’s harder to find a good mocktail than a good cocktail. In the absence of spirits, layering several juices with simple syrup as a bartender would in a cocktail creates an excessively sweet drink.

“There’s no way to replicate using a spirit,” said Ruby Mendez, bar manager at The Grocery Cocktail & Social. “It’s a better endeavor to make something completely different. It’s like creating a new language.”

It took Mendez several weeks to create the Not Far Behind, which was the best mocktail I sampled for this article and the only one that wasn’t a sugar bomb.

It will take time for bars to develop drinks that rival such cocktail classics as a dirty martini or a Manhattan. Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of mocktail offerings around Vancouver.

The Grocery Cocktail & Social

115 W. Seventh St., Vancouver; 360-258-1324; open 2 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday

Six months ago, The Grocery added a “Zero Proof” section to the cocktail menu. It currently features an alcohol-free version of the house rum punch ($8); the Not Far Behind, a cranberry and red apple drink ($12); and Choose Your Own Adventure, a hot drink with pomegranate juice, spice syrup, orange juice, honey and cinnamon ($12).

I tried the Not Far Behind, which uses shrub — a vinegar syrup — as its base. In this case, the shrub is handmade from cranberry and red apple. It lent the nuanced flavors of an adult beverage. A sprinkle of cracked black pepper on top further elevated the drink.

Amaro’s Table

816 N.E. 98th Circle, Vancouver; 360-718-7046; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Amaro’s Table’s Hazel Dell location always has one rotating mocktail on the menu ($7-$10). A recent nonalcoholic concoction included pear, ginger, lemon and green tea. Beverage director Preston Groves is considering adding a rotating mocktail to the menu at the downtown Vancouver location. Bartenders at both locations can make custom mocktails based on the preferences of the customer.

The Coral Club

106 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver; 360-989-5725; open 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Monday; closed Tuesday and Wednesday

This dimly lit downtown tiki bar currently has four mocktails on the menu, ranging from the Fauxjito with lime, spiced syrup, mint syrup and soda water ($12) to the Pina Colada with pineapple juice, coconut cream and lime. Bar manager Emma Campos plans on changing the menu in March, with a more extensive mocktail list.

Thirsty Sasquatch

2110 Main St., Vancouver; 360-597-3223; open noon to midnight Wednesday through Monday; closed Tuesday

This Uptown Village bar, arcade and pizza spot offers seasonal mocktails. For the holidays, the menu featured a coquito with coconut milk, coconut cream, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon ($13) as well as a mulled wine with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, orange and star anise ($13). New drinks will be added soon.

The Sedgwick

801 Washington St., Vancouver; 360-433-9776; open noon to 8 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday

The Sedgwick has two mocktails on the menu: the Mama Llama Drama with Coco Lopez, lime simple syrup, pineapple juice, banana simple syrup and homemade grenadine ($13); and the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gin with housemade non-alcoholic gin, lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup and lemon juice ($13).

Wahi Hana

1819 Main St., Vancouver; 360-360-4656; open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday

The new tiki bar in Vancouver’s Uptown Village, Wahi Hana, has four mocktails on the menu, including the Demigod with lime, lemon, pineapple, orgeat and cinnamon ($7); and the Pink Tide with lime, lemon, pineapple, passion fruit and pomegranate ($7).

Rachel Pinsky: