The Moveable Feast: A Low-to-No-ABV Night on the Town

Story & Photo by Meredith Pakier


Rootwater Kava Bar offers a booze-less buzz at their Jack London bar.

On beyond seltzer and lime!

Bars and restaurants all over are pouring creativity into their low-to-no-alcohol beverage programs to satisfy a growing crowd of abstainer palates. Here’s a short list of places where I’ve gone for lifted spirits without the spirits.

Order the Lambruscno at Tupper & Reed for a nod to Lambrusco, the fizzy Italian red wine that dates back to the Etruscans. The makeover combines a nonalcoholic white “vermouth” with honey, thyme, and sparkling apple-grape juice plus some pineapple gomme, a more viscous cousin of simple syrup that lends a delightfully round texture to booze-free drinks. 2271 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley

Inspired by the post-war Japanese kissa (listening bars that played recorded jazz, a concept newly revived by vinyl audiophiles), Bar Shiru has created a warm, homey, and intimate atmosphere. Negroni lovers will appreciate their Down Tempo, a bitter mix of non-alcoholic “gin,” “vermouth,” and Campari-like “aperitivo” from brands Lyre’s and Giffard. 1611 Telegraph Ave #100, Oakland

If Lion Dance Cafe bottled their Jade Jungle––a verdant blend of aged lime cordial, house-made pandan extract, lime leaf, and coconut water—I would buy it by the case. Its citrusy punch was a welcome palate cleanser between bites of crisp mushroom goreng and spicy laksa from the restaurant’s menu of vegan Teochew-Singaporean-Cal-Italian plates. 380 17th St, Oakland

Feelmore Social Club is the sister business to feminist sex shop Feelmore, and you won’t need alcohol to relax in this lounge that evokes a bygone era. My AF Fashioned channeled the caramelized smoky sweetness of a traditional Old Fashioned thanks to Kentucky 74 nonalcoholic “bourbon.” 1542 Broadway, Oakland

For their twist on the mai tai, Bardo Lounge & Supper Club makes the Good Juju, a combo of fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juice with a rich house-made macadamia nut orgeat and splash of soda. It’s so refreshing and complex that you might not notice or care that the rum is missing. 3343 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland

Curious about kava? Head to Rootwater for a taste of this non-habit-forming extract of a plant native to the South Pacific Islands. My bartender kindly walked me through kava’s history and cultural context, explaining that the plant’s roots are traditionally ground into a fine powder, mixed with water, and consumed for medicinal and religious purposes as well as for the relaxing and euphoric effects. Starchy and bitter, kava “tea” is not typically sipped for the taste, but rather for the mellowing effects that can help facilitate social connections, which is kind of the point of going out for a round, isn’t it? 464 3rd St, Oakland


Meredith Pakier’s column, The Moveable Feast, covers a wide range of food and beverage spots around Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Peruse the whole set of stories here.

When Meredith Pakier is not writing as part of the Market Hall Foods marketing and communications team, she’s hiking with her dog, Nico, and dreaming about starting a garden.