The portmanteau “mocktail” is aptly suited for nonalcoholic cocktails because, oftentimes, it’s hard to take them seriously.
Dry libations are a slow trend to catch on, possibly because in their very essence, mocktails are trying to be something they simply aren’t. As bars and restaurants attempt to cater to those who choose not to imbibe, the result is usually a sugary concoction of bar mixers that feels like an afterthought despite its leafy garnish.
“Ask any craft cocktail bartender what’s hardest to do: It’s nonalcoholic drinks … and vodka,” says Jay Sanders, owner of the Shawnee-based wine and cocktail bar Wild Child (11022 Johnson Dr., Shawnee).
Set to open in June, the bar plans to take mocktails just as seriously as its boozy drinks, if not more. But the mission of serving quality mocktails doesn’t come without a learning curve. While there are plenty of n/a spirits to choose from, Sanders and his team decided to make their own to be more cost effective and also, maybe, better quality.
Extruding alcohol from spirits is a process that involves advanced techniques of distilling and macerating, which leaves the spirits unrecognizable in alcohol content yet maintains the familiar taste. Shrubs, vinegars, seasonings and spices are common ingredients used to replicate the texture, finish and burn found in the classics.
Wild Child’s Juniper Dill and Kiwi mocktail was the first mocktail that I have ever thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a blend of macerated kiwi syrup, lime juice, house gin distillate and aquafaba. All the complexities found in my favorite cocktails—the mouthfeel, the balance of flavors, the subtle bite—were there. The bright-green seed-studded kiwi garnish didn’t hurt either.