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Austin Hennelly adds grated lime to an Amazake Swizzle.
Find nonalcoholic cocktails with flavors and preparations as complex as their alcoholic counterparts at Kato restaurant.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

7 exceptional places to try nonalcoholic cocktails in Los Angeles

After the holidays, like many, we get burned out on the rich comfort foods and sugary drinks that define the season: Come January, a break feels not just necessary but like a welcome refresh.

For anyone who is abstaining from wine, beer or spirits, for any reason, the reset is all the better amid a new era of nonalcoholic cocktails.

We might gravitate to alcohol as a social lubricant and for its ability to play off the flavors on our plates, telling the stories of multigenerational winemakers, expert distillers or maestros of agave. But as the demand for no- and low-alcohol options grows — the industry surpassed $11 billion in market value in 2022, up from $9 billion in 2018 — brands are determined to deliver an equitable experience with dealcoholized wine and booze-free beer, nonalcoholic spirit replacements and ready-to-drink beverages that tout nootropics, or cognitive enhancers, to help you feel good without risking a hangover.

As demand for nonalcoholic options grow, Los Angeles restaurants and bars show there’s no limit to the creativity behind booze-free cocktails, crafting thoughtful recipes that take inspiration from our seasonal bounty.

Jan. 4, 2024

It’s a new frontier for mixologists and chefs who are taking a chemist’s approach to building out their nonalcoholic beverage programs, replacing the unique mouthfeel of alcohol with ingredients like aloe juice or sparkling hops.


Geared toward New Year resolutions, challenges like Dry January, which involves quitting alcohol for the month, and Veganuary, when participants cut out meat, arose as ways for people to rethink their eating and drinking habits following seasonal indulgence and, in some cases, make significant lifestyle shifts. Whatever your motivation may be for tempering your alcohol intake, you’ll find a handful of local bars and restaurants that are creating their zero-proof beverage menus with intention and care, sourcing alcohol-free wines for dialed-in pairings and crafting mocktails with layered flavor profiles.

Some of the city’s most exciting NA programs involve a 10-course pairing with an omakase-style dinner; a modern Chinese tea house that gets creative after dark; and L.A.’s first alcohol-free lounge, which debuted on New Year’s Eve. Here are seven of the best spots to sample the NA trend right now. — Danielle Dorsey

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The hand of an unseen bartender puts marigold petals on top of a cocktail in a glass with ice.
(Jill Connelly / De Los)

Bar Nuda

Alcohol-free bar/lounge $
At Madre in Torrance, Bryant Orozco once pulled bottles of mezcal from among 400 options, pouring tastes in clay copitas and describing their province and flavors. It was among my best drinking experiences in Los Angeles. Now he’s embarked on a different kind of excellence: He’s partnered with Pablo Murillo and Morris Ellis, owners of bottled agua fresca company Aguas Locas, on a roving, Mexican-inspired pop-up called Bar Nuda. Orozco infuses his roster of entirely NA cocktails with native herbs such as chuchupaxtle, also known as osha root and purported to boost the immune system, in a not-too-sweet mix of pineapple, jackfruit, orange blossom and soda water, garnished with marigolds. The project’s motto is “Drink to remember,” and its mission delivers. Bar Nuda has crisscrossed town in the past year, fronting events at De Buena Planta’s locations in Silver Lake and Venice, at Asterid downtown and at Delicious Pizza in West Adams. Check Instagram for its next appearance.
A browned Hokkaido scallop topped with puffed rice and sitting in a green broth in ceramic bowl at Baroo Los Angeles
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)


Downtown L.A. Korean $$$
The original Baroo was one of last decade’s defining Los Angeles restaurants. It operated out of a sparse Hollywood strip mall and essentially doubled as a fermentation lab for Kwang Uh’s experimental cooking. In September Uh and Mina Park, who are married, resurrected and reconceived Baroo as a small, elegant tasting-menu restaurant in the Arts District. Beverage director Jason Lee taps into the restaurant’s founding spirit with a $40 NA pairing framed around fermented beverages, to match with five of Uh’s seven courses. Kombuchas fashioned with seasonal ingredients feature prominently. Skate wing fried in seaweed batter, for example, arrives with gently floral persimmon-leaf kombucha mixed with sparkling cider and quince tea carbonated to boost the drink’s sparkling dimensions.
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A Mandarin Garibaldi non alcoholic cocktail
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)


Downtown L.A. Taiwanese $$$$
Kato’s ambitious, sophisticated beverage program is a key reason why the restaurant ranked No. 1 on the current 101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles guide. The $85 NA pairing with Jon Yao’s ever-changing Taiwanese-inspired tasting menu, curated by bar director Austin Hennelly with contributions from lead bartender Han Suk Cho, is a masterclass in the compelling possibilities. Hennelly syncs some courses with Riesling or Pinot Noir from Germany; the country has been a decades-long leader in technology around dealcoholizing wines while preserving flavor. Grape juices may also be steeped in ingredients like fig leaf and kombu to enhance flavor and body. Other dishes feature cocktails crafted by Hennelly and Cho, two of the nation’s keenest brains for layering texture, seasonality and delicious complexity into spirit-free libations. Their separate list of NA cocktails is easily the most rigorously conceived and flat-out impressive example of such efforts in Southern California. Some incorporate the best alcohol-free mixers on the market, including botanical-forward Riverine by Amass and citrusy Vibrante by Martini & Rossi. Others show the bartenders’ devotion to rigor, such as Hennelly’s tonic water made with bitter melon to extract its naturally occurring quinine. Two seats at the restaurant’s tiny bar remained unreserved each night. If you’re curious to experience the delicious frontlines in NA cocktails, vie for them.
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Zero proof Un-Gin at Solstice in Irvine.
(Sarah Mosqueda / Los Angeles Times)


Irvine New American $$$
The trouble with most mocktails is they very rarely are a convincing dupe. At Solstice Seasonal Kitchen & Bar in Irvine, the solution is aloe juice. Besides anti-inflammatory properties and electrolytes, the juice made from the aloe vera plant has a viscosity that creates the mouthfeel of liquor. It stands up to house-made shrubs, syrups and freshly squeezed fruit juices, making it the base of Solstice’s thoughtful zero-proof beverage menu. Bar manager Hunter Patterson said creating NA counterparts to the craft cocktail menu is about inclusion.

The menu changes every three months, or every equinox or solstice. On the winter menu, the Un-Gin is a spirit-free take on a gimlet with fresh lime juice and aloe juice, but the addition of a house-made pine syrup nails the complex botanical taste of gin. Other new additions include Un-Vodka 2.2, which uses tart kumquat syrup, mint, lime and saffron for a pleasingly acidic drink, and the Un-Tiki, which leans more warm spice than tropical, with a house-made horchata mix topped with a cinnamon espresso foam.

The Un-Tequila 1 is the only unchanging drink on the NA cocktail list. It starts with a hibiscus tea brewed with sage and a hint of jalapeño, house-made grenadine and lime juice, and is finished with sage and dried hibiscus that gives you everything you would expect from a good hibiscus margarita, except the headache.
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Stay Zero-Proof Lounge in Chinatown.
(Betty Hallock / Los Angeles Times)

Stay Zero Proof

Chinatown Alcohol-free bar/lounge $
Having just debuted on New Year’s Eve, Stay is the long-brewing partnership of art director Stacey Litoff-Mann and actor Summer Joy Phoenix (the youngest sibling of River and Joaquin) on L.A.’s first standalone alcohol-free bar. The pair renovated a space in Chinatown’s Central Plaza, which recently housed Realm gift store and, in the 1970s and ’80s, was a banquet hall that hosted legendary punk club Hong Kong Cafe. Litoff-Mann and Phoenix have brought on cocktail royalty to bring their vision to life: Derek Brown once operated the Columbia Room and Passenger in Washington, D.C., a pair of businesses serving wizardly drinks that helped lead the American cocktail renaissance at the turn of the millennium. More recently Brown has been focusing on low- and no-alcohol beverages; in 2022 he wrote a book on the subject called “Mindful Mixology.” Expect Stay’s drink menu to reflect signature imaginings that combine fresh juices and bitters with his recipes for tinctures and spice-infused syrups.
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An assortment of dishes including truffle-braised pork rice and an umami-themed snack board.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Steep LA

Downtown L.A. Teahouse $$
Lydia Lin and Samuel Wang opened their handsome tea shop in Chinatown’s Mandarin Plaza in September 2019. After the world turned upside-down less than six months later, they began an evening pop-up series in the center’s courtyard serving snacks and cocktails. They called it Steep After Dark, or S.A.D., a nod to the times and a playful jab at happy hour. The pandemic-era project found a dedicated audience, and S.A.D. became a permanent part of Steep. The menu always includes several NA cocktails based around the shop’s concise selection of high-quality teas. Hoping to avoid caffeine at night? Look for a concoction like the East Wind No. 2, an herbal blend with two types of chrysanthemum brightened with cucumber and lime and given earthy roundness with sesame. Note that Steep has temporarily closed for a brief renovation — a dedicated tea cocktail bar is among the additions in the works — and aims to reopen by the end of January.
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A trio of mocktails from the Wolves cocktail bar
(Danielle Dorsey / Los Angeles Times)

The Wolves

Downtown L.A. French Cocktails $$
Tucked next to the historic Alexandria Hotel, the Wolves is a cocktail den that feels fit for Jay Gatsby with stained glass ceilings and Belle Epoque-style that whisks you far away from downtown L.A. Here, mocktails are treated with the same reverence that’s demonstrated in daring libations such as Skin Deep with vodka, gin, black garlic, olive brine, salmon skin, a vermouth blend and an absinthe rinse.

While all three NA options were delicious, the Garden Variety felt the most like a cocktail replacement. I’ll admit I was skeptical when I saw the ingredient list: cucumber, mint, lime and serrano peppers, sure, but garlic and pickled onion? The aroma of cooked, almost buttery garlic wafted over the table, seeming to underline my concerns. But somehow it all worked, with the alliums adding a slight minerality and bitterness to replicate the missing booze. The other NA options, a strawberry and pistachio concoction aptly titled Pistachiberry, and Asparagurt with juiced asparagus and fennel bulb, Greek yogurt and lime, were good, if a bit reminiscent of fresh-pressed juice. It’s also worth noting that the mocktails here are appropriately priced at $8 apiece. Aside from creative and classic cocktails, the menu from chef Laurent Quenioux fits the setting with French-inspired bites like black mussels and frites, escargots, smoked duck wings and ratatouille.
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