The Art of the Mocktail: Your Guide to the Coolest Non-Alcoholic Beverages in Michigan
While Michigan is well known for craft beer, hard cider, distilled spirits and stunning wine trails, our non-alcoholic beverage industry is picking up steam with more unique choices than ever before.
So for those looking for a tasty option that doesn’t include alcohol, read on to learn more about Michigan’s mocktails, including some of our favorites.
The Art of the Mocktail
Michigan’s craft cocktail scene has been booming for the last decade, but more recently, the cocktail’s non-alcoholic (N/A) sibling—the “mocktail”—has been taking its turn in the spotlight. There is more to the art of alcohol-free libations than simply omitting the alcohol, however.
Bartenders at Selden Standard, a chef-driven modern American restaurant in Detroit’s midtown neighborhood, mix up two non-alcoholic cocktails: the bittersweet and ginger-tinged Beautiful Genius, and the cucumber-mint-citrus Instant Karma. Selden also offers N/A beer, hopped water and amaro-inspired “leisure soda” from Detroit-based Casamar Club.
“It’s actually harder to create a well-balanced, non-alcoholic cocktail than it is to make a traditional one using alcohol,” says Paul Fradeneck, general manager of Selden Standard.
Having been in the beverage industry for more than 10 years, including six spent as the bar manager at Hazel Park’s Mabel Gray, Fradeneck says mixing mocktails is a challenge, because they lack alcohol’s mouth-feel and hint of bitterness. “You have to get creative and look at your pantry and kitchen ingredients in new ways.”
One way to mimic alcohol’s distinctive notes is with non-alcoholic spirits or tea blends. Ima Izakaya in Detroit serves a drink called the Gorilla Monsoon, made with jasmine tea syrup, lime juice, coconut cream and pineapple juice. The Corktown location of the popular Japanese noodle shop offers a whole slate of low-ABV cocktails and non-alcoholic mocktails with fun names like Rhinestone Cowboy and Cookie Chips.
Now that you know a little more about what makes for a flavorful, non-alcoholic refreshment, here’s a sampling of the most sippable mocktails and alcohol-free beverages around the state.
Detroit & the Suburbs
The brewers at Eastern Market Brewing Co., which includes a tap-room in its namesake neighborhood, as well as the Ferndale Project on Livernois and Lincoln Tap in Royal Oak, have lately been expanding their non-alcoholic lineup. Look for bright citrus flavors in their N/A grapefruit and tangerine sour beers, which are available on E.M.B. Co.’s menus as well as in stores.
Berkley Coffee + Oak Park Dry is part coffee house and part alcohol-free bar. Not only do they serve 20 distinct mocktails—including the Piquant Peach, a twist on the classic martini—they also have three N/A beers on draft, more than 60 in bottles and cans, 12 N/A wines and dozens of N/A spirits. You can sip and savor in their lounge or take something home to whip up your own inspired potions.
Castalia at Sfumata, an experimental craft cocktail bar in Detroit, focuses on “the harmony between flavor and fragrance.” Their stand-out mocktail is called Shun the Light, made with cold brew coffee, raw sugar, fig, barley and more.
Detroit’s Bar Pigalle showcases the award-winning, non-alcoholic whisky Spiritless Kentucky 74 in four of their six mocktails.
The Bellflower Restaurant in Ypsilanti offers up a “Teetotaler” drink list, with mocktails that include the Dancing Goat Rootbeer Float.
The Loving Touch in Ferndale has gone beyond just offering mocktails by hosting entire alcohol-free events on some of the biggest bar nights of the year. The bar and music venue threw “sober dance parties” on the night before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2022, and hosted a sober Super Bowl Party in 2023.
General manager Jesse Shepherd-Bates says WabCo. (which runs the Loving Touch, the Emory, outdoor bar Port and hosts the DIY Street Fair and Pig & Whisky festivals) will be throwing another sober night-before-Thanksgiving party, as well as “plenty more,” including events co-hosted by The Phoenix, a sober active community organization.
River St. Joe is located off the beaten path in Buchanan, along the St. Joseph River. The brewery and taproom serve up non-alcoholic “farm fizzes,” which are handcrafted sodas made with ingredients grown on their certified organic farmstead.
Found in the Communitea Wellness building in Grand Rapids, Lotus Brew Coffee / Dry Bar features a selection of mocktails in addition to a large coffee and tea selection. They also host weekly events such as tarot card readings and a queer writer’s social hour.
Alt City Beverage Company in Grand Rapids is a smoothie bar, coffee house, dry bar and retail shop. Their zero-proof cocktail menu features a French 75, Moscow Fuel and Strawberry Aloe Cooler.
Hit the tiki bar in the middle of the city by visiting Max’s South Seas Hideaway in downtown Grand Rapids. Max’s “Zero Proof” menu offers nine different tropical N/A drinks, which may even come with a mini umbrella to boot.
“Up North” (The Northern Lower Peninsula)
Short’s Brewing Company recently introduced a lemon-lime hop water called Thirst Mutilator. And whether you’re enjoying a soft pretzel at their pub in Bellaire, visiting their tap room in Elk Rapids or just shopping in your local supermarket, it’s nice to have a non-alcoholic option amid the vast selection of Short’s beers.
Italian favorite Trattoria Stella in Traverse City promises to keep at least four, non-alcoholic “cocktail-style, shaken and composed beverages” on their menu at any given time. Staples include the Colibri and Macau Mule, but seasonal specials include more whimsical creations like the “You’re A Wizard Harry,” a purplish concoction featuring butterfly pea flower tea.
Cafe Santé in Boyne City is a classic, European-style bistro whose non-alcoholic cocktail options include the Lemoncocco, the Virgin Mary and the No-jito.
Northwest Michigan’s wineries are some of the best in the country and must-stop when you’re in the region—but you don’t have to drink the wine to enjoy yourself. Wineries, including Mari Vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula, offer non-alcoholic options so you can still explore the property, take in the views and have a nice time with a drink in your hand.
The Upper Peninsula
Of the Water is a quaint little store in Calumet with a focus on “healthy lifestyle foods and beverages.” You can pick up just about anything non-alcoholic from their vast stock of N/A beer, wine, bourbon, whisky, tequila and more.
Located just across the street from Lake Superior and the famous Ore Dock, Marquette’s Iron Bay Restaurant & Drinkery has seen the growing demand for non-alcoholic cocktail options and keeps up with a variety of flavorful mocktails.
About the Author: Liz Hill has more than 10 years of experience writing for top Michigan publications to go along with her career as a copywriter in Metro Detroit.