With every New Year comes a long list of resolutions many of us don’t really stick to, but one trend seems to be here to stay: the sober-curious movement is backed by individuals who are trading alcohol for spirit-free cocktails and pursuing a more clear-headed way of going out.
Many sober-curious people are looking to transition to a completely alcohol-free lifestyle but wondering how to now enjoy Chicago’s nightlife without libations. Others are just looking for a cleansing Dry January, a great way to start the new year. While the life-improvement aspect of this movement is trending, some people joining the lifestyle are in recovery from harmful addictions, and all deserve to enjoy a night out without worrying about the consequences tomorrow will bring.
Whatever your reasoning to wade into the cold, and sometimes unpopular, waters of sobriety, these are the best ways to enjoy going out in Chicago without a sip of alcohol.
Kumiko | 630 W Lake St
The spirit-free list of cocktails at Kumiko is incomparable. Julia Momose curated her very own menu of drinks that shy away from the cringy word “mocktail” and, instead, embrace the freedom of having a spirit-free beverage without shame or consequence. She even developed a manifesto to express her seriousness on the subject, constantly championing for more bars to include spirit-free options on their menus. The Pepperberry Tonic, for instance, is made with Tasmanian pepperberry, sansho, angelica root, grapefruit, and fever-tree elderflower tonic, and is described as “aperitvo-red, with a bold, bitter finish.” Take a stab and a sip at Kumiko’s spirit-free menu when you’re going out this weekend.
Lost Lake | 3154 W Diversey Ave
The No Tipple Tiki options at Lost Lake are just as delicious as the rest of their spirited menu, but without the hangover that inevitably follows. The nonalcoholic Mango Mu Mu—a sweet combination of pandan, mango, pineapple, lime, Topo Chico—is the perfect way to feel like you’re kickin’ back on an island somewhere and NOT in this bitter Chicago cold. If you’re more inclined toward dry alcohol, you might like the spirit-free Nobody’s Business, made with lemongrass, lime leaf, coconut water, mint, non- alcoholic aromatic bitters, and nutmeg. Drink up, sober-curious friends! Time for a night out you’ll actually remember.
The Albert | 228 E Ontario St
Hotel EMC2, a luxury spot on the Mag Mile inspired by and designed after Albert Einstein, has a restaurant in the lobby that’s essential to any Chicago bucket list. The Albert doesn’t just have aesthetics going for it, though; the menu boasts a list of five Drivers, all $8, that double as a health kick and a sobering shot. The list includes concoctions of grapefruit, jalapeño, and salt (order Fireside); carrot ginger, and coconut (order Youth Serum); and the one we’re living on ’til spring, cranberry chai spice, lime, and egg white (order Winter Spice Sour).
Young American | 2545 N Kedzie Ave
Choose from three spirit-free cocktails at Young American, designed to be adaptable to a CBD add-on if you’re into that kind of thing. Try #9, the pineapple shrub, orange blossom water, and lemon tonic concoction that will make you forget all about Malibu this Dry January. And, if you’re looking for a little sober-curious pick-me-up this Dry January, Young American also boasts a Restorative Shot, which blends turmeric, ginger, schizandra berry, and electrolyte powder, all ingredients that help boost your immune system.
The Other Side | 93 Berkshire Dr, Crystal Lake
As far as we know, this is the only “sober bar” within the Chicagoland area, and it’s attracting all kinds of interesting people. The Other Side focuses on catering to recovering alcoholics by offering a spirit-free environment where people can socialize through weekly events—like live music, karaoke, open mic nights, comedy, and dancing—and enjoy an array of entertainment from pool and ping pong tables and bag toss sets to darts and video games. The bar even offers a full alcohol treatment program for those who are still struggling with an addiction. It’s worth a trip out to the suburbs if you’re interested in this movement.
Ella Elli | 1349 W Cornelia Ave
Offering two distinctly spirit-free mocktails, Ella Elli boasts the option to still wine and dine your date this Dry January without any actual alcohol. The Blueberry Basil Tea comes with, well, blueberry and basil, amalgamated with green tea syrup, lemon, and ginger beer. The Ginger Turmeric Lemonade combines seedlip garden, lemon, and ginger turmeric syrup. Both are priced at $8 and will feel like a breath of cleansing air as they go down easier than any alcoholic beverage could.
Fat Rice | 2957 W Diversey Ave
Whether you’re headed to Fat Rice for some killer Southeastern Asian grub or decide to descend into The Ladies’ Room for a more intimate setting, you can order one of two spirit-free cocktails on the menu: So Fresh, So Clean is made with jalapeño, lime, and elderflower tonic, while This Sick Beet is a mix of beet ginger shrub, lemon, and soda. Both are sublime.
Read More: 8 Best Restaurants Near You in Waukegan, IL
Flora Fauna | 11 W Illinois St
The Build-Your-Own Cocktail Adventure at Flora Fauna will make the sober-curious flock this year. While you can choose an alcoholic base, you can also skip that step altogether and get to the flavors. Discover the sweetness of the banana mango turmeric or opt for a more balanced taste in the raspberry cucumber aloe. The menu also offers salted guava, tangerine grapefruit campari, and pineapple passionfruit habanero, which means there’s something for everyone trying the spirit-free lifestyle at Flora Fauna.
Galit | 2429 N Lincoln Ave
A Middle Eastern mainstay in Lincoln Park, Galit already boasts quite the cocktail menu without the spirit-free options. Add these nonalcoholic options into the mix and you’ve got yourself a perfect pairing with any of their main dishes. Our personal favorite is On the Back Burner, a unique blend of apple cider, fenugreek, and ginger, but there’s also the lemon, mint, and fizzy yuzu option (L.P. Limonana) for anyone looking to feel refreshed and ready for the day.
Roanoke | 135 W Madison St
As much as Julia Momose doesn’t like the word “mocktails,” they run wild and free here at Roanoke, where the sober-curious can order from a list almost as extensive as their libations menu. Our top picks include the Coconut Butterfly Dragon, made with blueberries, lime, coconut water, and butterfly pea syrup, and The Workshops, a blend of blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, lemon, and soda. If those don’t suit your fancy, check out the rest of your menu; we swear there won’t be any disappointment.
Everest | 425 South Financial Place
One of the most elegant restaurants in Chicago, placed high above the city on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, has a menu full of extravagant and delectable cocktails. But among the cocktails is a zero-proof option for those looking to make Dry January an extended lifestyle. The Alsace Spritz Mocktail is crafted with House-made Harvest syrup created by steeping Alsace Harvest Tea and cane sugar, topped off with fresh citrus and club soda.
Ema | 74 W Illinois St
Mediterranean mainstay Ema has a few zero-proof mocktail options for you to taste this Dry January and carry into the new year, all for $7. The Guilt Free Vacation comes with pineapple, kiwi, ginger, and soda, and the Archipelago Punch blends grapefruit, strawberry, lemon, and soda. If you’re into something a little dryer, the I. C. B. I. N. G. is made with ritual gin alternative, pineapple-serrano, and cordial lime.
Hub 51 | 51 W Hubbard St
This American restaurant in River North is serving up some pretty affordable alcohol-free drinks this year, with a list of three for $5.95 each. The Clean Green cleanses your body with cucumber, ginger, and LaCroix curate, while the Refresh-Mint takes on a fruity flavoring with raspberry and house-squeezed juices. The Pure Passion blends LaCroix sparkling with passion fruit and agave, the perfect blend between sweet and purifying.
Summer House Santa Monica | 1954 N Halsted St
There are so many alcohol-free options at Summer House Santa Monica that you can dine comfortably without ever craving their cocktails. The Pineapple Kickpineapple has orange and jalapeno; the Post-Water-Melone (we see what you did there) takes on watermelon, lemon, and mint; the Zippity Doo Dahgrapefruit is made with pomegranate and ginger beer; the Coup’d Up Capresetomato mixes water, basil, and lemon; the Strawberry Fieldsstrawberry blends sage and lavender; and a brand-new concoction, the Rise & Shine, is made with matcha, celery juice, lime, and agave.
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