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Portland Zeroes in on Zero-Proof Drinks

From house made bitters and barrel-aged negronis to artisan distillers with a grain-to-glass approach, Portland has long been a hot bed of cocktail innovation. And these days the city’s bartenders are proving you can skip the booze entirely and still create exceptionally creative drinks.  

At the new Thai barbecue hotspot Eem, the cocktail list is helmed by sober bartender Eric Nelson, and one-third of his popular tiki-inspired drinks are booze-free. Buzzy coffeehouse Either/Or makes infusions like coffee “gin” and cascara “Campari” to make java-centric and alcohol-free takes on classic cocktails. In a similar vein, award-winning bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler recently partnered with Stumptown Coffee to create a seasonal menu of non-alcoholic coffee drinks available at Stumptown cafes nationwide. 

Downtown party bars like Tryst have figured out not everyone wants to get sloshed, offering nearly half a dozen mocktails, including the Aztec Reina with pineapple, ginger and chocolate bitters. While standbys like Oven and ShakerRaven & Rose, and Departure, restaurants with drink programs as strong as their food, offer zero-proof punches and fizzes with the same complex mixology and attention to detail as their spirited counterparts. Even upscale prix-fixe destinations like vegan Farm SpiritBeast, Holdfast and Willow offer mocktail pairings specially crafted for that evening’s menu.  

It’s clear more and more people are opting to go easy on the alcohol, whether they’re in recovery or simply keeping their consumption to a minimum for better health. And Portland, with its culture of inclusivity, community support and accessibility, has embraced this movement with gusto. For many of the city’s bars, it’s both a priority and a badge of honor to create exciting no-alcohol drinks anyone can enjoy.