A's List: Where to Drink Non-Alcoholic Cocktails with a Scene
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By Audarshia Townsend
Marchesa is absolutely stunning. One of the newest sensations in Chicago’s River North, the multi-level restaurant is inspired by 1920s Paris. You get that sense from the lower-level “cave” that feels like a hidden paradise for those who want to get away from the crowds to the second-floor “apartment” boasting elegant sitting parlors, baby grand piano and cigar patio.
It’s the type of cosmopolitan establishment where you just want to settle into one of the beautiful banquettes and sip a Champagne cocktail. Or a Negroni. Or the particularly potent Vieux Carre of rye, cognac, sweet vermouth and Bénédictine.
But sometimes you don’t want booze, and Marchesa’s bartenders can easily whip up something that’s spirit free. What’s even better is that they will serve it up in one of those sexy coupes usually reserved for a Champagne cocktail or other classic drink. And we love them more for that.
Other places around town to sip spirit-free drinks
Why We Love It. Casual and cheery, the original Beatrix in River North became so popular that it inspired two additional outposts in Fulton Market District and Streeterville. It’s a great place for a late-afternoon meet-up over pastries or snacks.
What to drink. You’re certain to dig offbeat juices that are fresh-squeezed daily. They also change seasonally. Order Power Greens (kale, romaine, celery, pineapple and mint) or Blue Boost (pure blueberry juice, white grape and basil).
Why We Love It. The Tex Mex-inspired eatery in Logan Square is from Land and Sea Dept. (Lost Lake, Milk Room, Parson's Chicken & Fish, etc.), which means celebrated mixologist Paul McGee is behind the beverage program.
What to drink. Two non-alcoholic beverages match the menu of chips and guac, tacos, elote and more: agua fresco (honeydew, mint, lime) and horchata (rice, almond, cinnamon, clove).
Why We Love It. You cannot go wrong with most live-music venues in the Windy City, and M Lounge is no exception. The South Loop jazz lounge serves up the beats nightly. It’s tight and intimate and makes for a great date night experience.
What to drink. Spirit-free Manhattans, Bellinis, mimosas and more are on the menu. There’s also alcohol-free sparkling wine, which is always good on its own.
Why We Love It. The two Michelin-starred darling in the West Loop is unconventional, with a 14-course tasting menu showcasing unique ingredients and pairings.
What to drink. A non-alcoholic pairing created by the much-heralded bartender Julia Momose features creative beverages made to complement the courses. It’s one of the few places in the city on this level to boast such a program.
Why We Love It. An enthusiastic husband-and-wife duo is behind the authentic Venetian fare you’ll find at this Sheridan Station Corridor restaurant. Chef Stefano Roman puts his own spin on classic Italian dishes, from house-made pastas to wood-grilled meats, pizzas and seafood.
What to drink. Get ready for house-made craft sodas based on flavors you request. They’re made with freshly squeezed juices, muddled with herbs and dressed up with the usual cocktail garnishes.
Why We Love It. Live music, dance parties and an open hearth for grilling meats, veggies and more make this spot a favorite in Hyde Park. The bustling establishment is located on two levels, with live music on the top floor and the restaurant on the first.
What to drink. Four mocktails grace the menu, including lemonade with smoked blackberry and ambrosia as well as perfect pear (nectar of pear, lemon, pineapple, saigon, cinnamon).
Why We Love It. The little sister to the award-winning Sepia restaurant is adjacent and offers a more casual, yet stylish vibe. Vegetables get a starring role with Asian and Latin accents, including fried breakfast radishes and smoked sweet potato salad.
What to drink. The most admirable part about Proxi’s non-boozy offerings is that they list the flavor profiles for each of the four drinks, from “fruity, spicy, tart” to “smoky, bitter, effervescent.” The bar team has thoughtfully considered this menu, which perfectly pairs with the cuisine.
See previous A's List columns right here.