Coffe, Tea or ...
November 9, 2006 11:37 AM   Subscribe

What are some options for non-alcoholic drinks at a fine restaurant?

I can no longer drink alcohol, and I've already gotten tired of cranberry juice as an option. When I'm home, I drink cola, but I don't want to do that at a fine dining restaurant. Does anyone have favorite mixed drinks or spritzers that most bars would have the ingredients for?

And what are your thoughts on non-alcoholic wines? I received one bottle as a gift, but it was very sweet. I'm wondering if there are brands with a more robust flavor, like a peppery syrah.
posted by saffry to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
A Virgin Mojito if they have a nice bar.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:45 AM on November 9, 2006

wtf is in a virgin Mojito? Some sugar and a crushed mint leaf?

Non-alcoholic wine is pointless--a lot of the flavours of wine are related to how the alcohol dissolves them

Go with San Pellegrino (or whatever brand(s) the restaurant has), maybe with a couple pieces of fruit in.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:50 AM on November 9, 2006

Sparkling (fizzy) mineral water. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I really like it. And if you put a bit of lemon in it, people will think you're drinking a G&T (if you want to deflect the "why aren't you drinking?" questions).
posted by web-goddess at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2006

shirley temples all the way. pure class.
posted by teishu at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2006

Pick a Mocktail, or if it's not too embarrassing, ask the sever orecomend one!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2006

I like club soda with a splash of cranberry and a lime. Also good 1/4 orange juice, 1/4 cranberry juice, 1/2 soda. I've been tempted to order this as a "virgin madras" but haven't tried it yet. Also fun (esp. if you want it to look like a "real" drink) is a Shirley Temple in a martini glass.
posted by megnut at 11:54 AM on November 9, 2006

*changes wireless keyboard batteries*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2006

I know people who drink club soda with a twist of lemon or lime.
posted by vytae at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2006

Sparkling mineral water is great, as others have suggested. I also like soda water and lime juice. A decent restaurant should be able to give you real lime juice; if not, a splash of lime juice cordial will do the trick.
posted by different at 11:59 AM on November 9, 2006

Order a virgin martini. Fancy drinks are overrated and olives are tasty.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2006

Most fine restaurants that serve cocktails will happily make you virgin versions of them, where feasible. Virgin cosmopolitans are my favourite, but then depending on their cocktail repertoire, you can ask for recommendations. The barman can make you a cocktail to order.
posted by Joh at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2006

Best answer: If what you like is soda, I don't see any trouble drinking it with fine food. Depending on the restaurant, they might even have unusual, super good ones (ever had microbrewed root beer on tap? YUUUUMMM).
This might not apply to the kind of restaurants you want to go to, but it's always fun to order 'traditional' drinks, like Thai iced tea or other specialty teas at Asian or mid-eastern restaurants. Chai, hot or cold, mango or yogurt lassis, at Indian restaurants. For myself, I still haven't worked up the courage to order an 'avocado julius' from my local Vietnamese restaurant. I hope your pursuit of new beverages might lead you to try new foods.
posted by Sara Anne at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2006

Cola was originally designed as a non-alcoholic substitute for an upmarket European cocaine wine blend. I say, go with your instincts, be secure in your taste, and enjoy your cola. What do you care what other people think?
posted by meehawl at 12:16 PM on November 9, 2006

Gingerale is also a tasty option.
posted by 10ch at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2006

Cola is such a delicious beverage. The raisin-y, vanilla-y, fizziness - they don't just stock it for children and mixers you know. If that's what goes well with your meal then I say go for it!
posted by dendrite at 12:22 PM on November 9, 2006

Don't bother with the virgin cocktails: do you really want to pay $7 for cranberry juice in a martini glass? Drinking at restaurants is about pairing food and (generally) wine; I can't think of anything nastier than having a nice entree and drinking some OJ/grenadine combo with it. Go with Pelligrino water. It's neutral fizzy fun!
posted by sfkiddo at 12:29 PM on November 9, 2006

As someone who likes going out to nice places, and also doesn't drink, you know what I've figured out? I'll order what the hell ever I want. I really don't care if the waiter thinks it's appropriate at a nice restaurant. I order soda, or tap water, or sparkling water, or whatever I feel like ordering. Once at a wine bar I ordered a glass of milk!

And if anyone asks me why, I simply say I don't drink, and that's the end of that. People rarely push it any farther.

So seriously, just order a soda or what have you.
posted by KirTakat at 12:34 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Iced tea or Iced coffee. But I agree with KirTakat. Order whatever the f*ck you want. Who cares what anybody thinks?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2006

Cranberry and ginger ale is a good option. The cranberry cuts the sweetness of the ginger ale, and makes for a good fizzy fruity drink.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 12:42 PM on November 9, 2006

Response by poster: It's not that I care what other's think, although if I'd been asking 10 years ago I would. I just find that coke kills the tastebuds, and does not compliment gourmet meals.
posted by saffry at 12:45 PM on November 9, 2006

If you are looking to complement the meal, then water is it (still or sparkling) Almost all of the other alternatives are too sweet and would be more appropriate in place of a before-dinner cocktail. Unsweetened tea is another possibility, though.
posted by TedW at 12:53 PM on November 9, 2006

San Pelligrino is not the only sparking water out there, Perrier does taste different. Perrier with lemon gets my vote.
posted by lilithim at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2006

You could try an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade) or a Lake Breeze (lemonade and cranberry juice). Both are very good and are easily accomodated in high-class restaurants.

Now that I look for a recipe for a Lake Breeze, it occurs to me that it may only exist in a select few restaurants I go to...since all the Lake Breeze recipes I have found have alcohol. Nonetheless, lemonade and cranberry juice are super tasty together.
posted by Not in my backyard at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2006

Seriously when I tended bar the only virgin drinks I knew were pina coladas and margs. (maybe a daquari).

I wouldn't have a clue how to make a virgin martini or mojito. (I could guess but who knows what the customers expectations are).

I'd also think virgin drinks look cheesy. An iced tea or a coke at a fine restaurant is fine. Or the fizzy type water with lime.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:00 PM on November 9, 2006

Best answer: Then you're looking for something that will round out the flavor of what you're ordering and won't be overbearing and help enhance your experience.

Water shouldn't detract from your experience, but doesn't add to it.
Sparkling water with or without citrus fruit gives you a nice acide with no sweet and goes with a great number of foods quite well.
You can also look at splashes of mixers in there with your base (as others have mentioned). Sometimes I like orange juice with sparkling water. You could also try fruity or spicy tease with sparkling water or on their own.
A Virgin Mary gives a nice spicy set of overtones that will go well with more than your typical brunch. I'd have one with a steak.
Lhassi (yogurt/milk and mango and lime) goes very well with a wide variety of spicy foods - no real surprise there.
If you're looking at non-western foods, by all means explore the potables commonly served with that cuisine. There's usually a pretty good reason why they're paired together.
posted by plinth at 1:05 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Virgin martini = two olives in a martini glass. It would be rather funny to order one just to see what the bartender would do...
posted by sfkiddo at 1:06 PM on November 9, 2006

Odoul's if you are into beer. Any Fine Restaurant will have a decent menu with several options for good non-alcoholic drinks. Another option is a Virgin Mary.
posted by JJ86 at 1:08 PM on November 9, 2006

Unsweetened ice tea is generally what I drink. In these situations. A flavor enhancer.
posted by muddgirl at 1:10 PM on November 9, 2006

Best answer: Seltzer water with Torani syrup.

Around here the higher end restaurants often have varietal grape juices, which I love, but they aren't for everyone and are often too sweet. We're close to wine country, though. I don't know how common they are elsewhere.

Virgin Mojitos are just mint/lime sodas and they're good. Mint, sugar, lime juice and seltzer water.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:34 PM on November 9, 2006

When I don't feel like booze I usually go for unsweetened iced tea or sparkling water, possibly with lime.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2006

Any sort of fruit nectar and soda water would be very tasy and refreshing.
Flavored iced teas, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2006

I really like ginger ale with a splash of lime juice. It's not overbearing when paired with good foods.

I have not had any luck finding a good non-alc wine. Probably because of what dirtynumbangelboy said.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:57 PM on November 9, 2006

I used to think I invented this, but I've run into at least one other person who drinks it:

tonic and grenadine. It's just good. Bitter & sweet.

Be aware that you don't want too much grenadine - but you're likely to get whatever combination the bartender thinks seems OK, which usually is fine. Also, the grenadine tends to sink to the bottom, so stir a little and maybe notice how low/high your straw is in the drink (if you use a straw).

You probably know this, but tonic water is fizzy and bitter. I think that old-fashioned formulations were no good for pregnant women because they contained quinine; not sure about now.
posted by amtho at 3:18 PM on November 9, 2006

My mom always gets tonic water and lime.
posted by Lazlo Hollyfeld at 3:22 PM on November 9, 2006

Best answer: Depending on how high end the restaurants really are, you may be able to have a nonalcoholic beverage pairing arranged for you. See this article for examples (or possibly just for ideas of what to order at other places). If the restaurant is fancy enough to have a dedicated Sommelier on the floor, it's probably wortwhile to engage him/her about what your choices are.
posted by rorycberger at 3:52 PM on November 9, 2006

I can't drink right now either, and pretty much all I drink at restaurants is mineral water (pellegrino, etc). At bars I drink iced tea.
posted by echo0720 at 4:06 PM on November 9, 2006

Response by poster: Loved that article rorycberger. Eating at The French Laundry is high on my list of things to do, I'm glad that they cater to non-wine drinkers without being snobbish about it.

And thanks to everyone who has found lots of cool choices on their local menus. I'll play around with the options, and also keep some of these in mind when I (someday) open my own restaurant.
posted by saffry at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2006

San Pellegrino makes a Limonata which is like fizzy lemonade. It probably contains as much sugar as any other soda, but it has enough lemon juice in it that it doesn't taste like it does.

Even better, but harder to find, is bitter lemon with quinine. The bitterness gives it a kind of marmalade-y citrus rind flavor which is all sorts of awesome if you happen to dig that. You might be able to get a similar result with tonic water & lemon juice.
posted by juv3nal at 10:19 AM on November 10, 2006

Perrier with Rose's Lime is el bombo
posted by jasondigitized at 10:28 AM on November 10, 2006

Glad you liked the article. It's good that there are restaurants who remember that they are in the customer service industry and not the shovel-high-margin-products-down-the-customer's-throat industry. I'd actually think that the way someone like you (an enthusiastic foodie who happens to be a non-drinker) gets treated would be a pretty good barometer of the customer service, attitude, and overall quality of a restaurant.
posted by rorycberger at 2:53 PM on November 10, 2006

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