Australia's Best Non-Alc Drinks in Bars Right Now
Words by Jane Ryan
Australia’s best bars re-opening in Sydney and Melbourne, and firm dates for borders to reopen across the country, giving us access to Brisbane and Adelaide, is the news every cocktail lover in the country was waiting for. But if you're taking a night, a week, 9 months or much longer off the booze - here's where to head and what to order.
Mocktail, non-alc, booze-free - you can't deny this category of cocktails is a million miles away from where it was even five years ago. Thank goodness for bartenders taking a serious deep-dive into ingredients that can add balance, texture and acidity to these drinks and to brands like Lyre's for creating products that can bring the complexity of booze to a non-alc drink.
What we're loving the most from this huge upskilling in the category is how each bar is truly bringing it's own style to the drinks so anyone choosing a booze-free moment, night or life style can still experience the talent behind Australia's bars. Take the drinks offered by Maybe Mae or Bar Liberty - they sit very naturally alongside the bars' other offerings in depth of flavour and complexity. Then again a venue like Justin Lane has an equally thought-out drink but which fits its faster-paced outdoor setting.
Here's our top picks for all your non-alc cocktails this summer:
Melbourne: Bar Liberty
Lyre’s Strawberry Spritz
The team at Bar Liberty, under the cocktail genius of Nick Tesar who looks after everything mixed and shaken there, combine Lyre’s Aperitif Rosso, verjus, apple cider vinegar, mint stem syrup, strawberry and curry leaf in a big vac bag which infuses together for a good three days in the fridge. It's then strained and bottled, ready to go. Order one and the team will serve topped with soda over a large chunk of ice for a bright, refreshing non-alc cocktail.
There is nothing Bar Liberty cannot perfect - from late night Cacio e Pepe to an ever-evolving and inspired wine list and to this, a perfect non-alc serve.
Melbourne: Poodle Bar & Bistro
The Real Deal
Although offering a short and sweet cocktail list, Poodle haven't neglected those looking for a booze-free experience and added a verdant non-alc drink to this menu. Poodle do things elegantly and well, their style is best summed up as old-hotel classics given a modern makeover.
The Real Deal combines green tea with Lyre’s Gin, pineapple and cucumber. Pair with snacks such as oysters, anchovies in olive oil or spanner crab and taramasalata vol-au-vent.
Adelaide: Maybe Mae
Southward Spirit & Green Light
One of Australia's brightest lights in the cocktail world sits on Adelaide's Peel Street where incredible flavours, sourced from around the country, come to play. Everything is done with seasonality and sustainability in mind, and that includes their non-alcoholic options, so there's no fear of missing out on the very special way these drinks are thought of, made and served.
We couldn't pick between these two to highlight so have included both. Firstly, for those looking for a 'strong + stirred' experience, there's the Southward Spirit made with green apple, mace, cascara, wattle, dandelion root, Lyre Dark Cane ‘Spirit’ and verjuice.
Shaken and served up, Green Light uses sencha green tea, pineapple, jasmine, and both Lyre's White Cane ‘Spirit’ and Lyre's ‘Absinthe’.
Burleigh Heads: Justin Lane
Beach views, sun-drenched rooftop and homemade sourdough pizzas - it's easy to see how this venue is so loved by Burleigh locals. As the team at Justin Lane say, this non-alc drink is designed as if the classic Italian spritz were to find itself the designated driver. It uses Lyre's Italian Aperitif, blood orange soda, rhubarb, peychuads, basil and lime.
Sydney: The Boathouse Rose Bay
Chamomile Iced Tea
The Boathouse is where we want to be - by the water, under a stripped umbrella dining on seafood and sipping drinks. Rose Bay has a special place in our heart for two reasons - the first is it's very accessible, this isn't a train, ferry and bus commute. The second is it's a venue that offers a little bit of everything, you can enjoy inside or outside, even takeaway, there's a relaxed cafe and more stylish restaurant and it flows seamlessly from day to night. So of course they've got the non-alc thing as perfected as their wine list and boozier cocktails.
We love the simple mix of cold chamomile tea, Lyre’s Amaretti, honey and lemon. A sophisticated and sober sipper, perfect for boat watching if ever there was one.
Sydney: One Penny Red
Lyre's Rosa Negroni & Lyre's Lynchburg Lemonade
Located in Summer Hill's old post office, One Penny Red has become a staple in the Inner West's dining scene, one which is all about great food and an abundance of good company. It's the type of venue that Melbournites and Londoners would love, in the best way possible. There's no water view or Instagram background, just hyper-tasty things done well.
Vernon's Bar upstairs (where the mail sorting was once done) is where we like to enjoy these alc-free twists on classics. Opt for a Lyre's Rosa Negroni with Lyre's Italian Spritiz, Lyre's Aperitif Rosso and Lyre's Dry London Spirit or their Lynchburg Lemonade with both Lyre's American Malt and Orange Sec, and lemonade and lime .