Food & Drink

Where to Find Great Non-Alcoholic Cocktails Around Baltimore

These local bars, restaurants, and shops offer spirit-free programs well beyond Dry January.

Time magazine reports that 15 percent of adults participated in Dry January in 2023. In Baltimore, there are plenty of bars and restaurants with options for those who are choosing to sever ties with booze through January 31. (More on that later.) But for many of them, catering to customers who don’t drink alcohol is year-round work. 

“More and more people are embracing a sober lifestyle, whether it be for a week, a month, or a year,” says chef Ashish Alfred, who owns Duck Duck Goose, Osteria Pirata, and Anchor Bar in Fells Point. “As somebody who has a bit of a background in sobriety, I thought it was really important to make those people feel included and not like an afterthought.” 

Alfred’s restaurants have built a reputation for their alcohol-free beverage programs, along with spots like Topside in Mt. Vernon and Dutch Courage in Old Goucher. For her part, Baltimore Bartenders’ Guild president Amie Ward—known as The Healthtender for her work to promote wellness within the hospitality industry—says that she has seen drastic improvements to the zero-proof drinks offered in the area in recent years.

Just try not to label them “mocktails,” she points out. For many who don’t drink, Ward explains that the phrase can be received as a mockery of their sobriety. Plus, crafting alcohol-free beverages calls for much more than just combining fruit juices. 

“It definitely requires you to think a little bit outside the box,” says Ward, explaining that bartenders are meticulous when lessening (or amplifying) alcohol-like flavors. For example, capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, gives agave products like mezcal that burning feeling. Whereas “vodka should be odorless, colorless, and tasteless, so you wouldn’t need a base spirit to make an [alcohol-free] cosmo,” Ward explains. She’s partial to non-alcoholic spirits such as Seedlip, which contains distilled botanicals. “It really requires you to play with it to know what makes it taste right.” 

Throughout the years, the craftsmanship and care she’s seen from bartenders in Baltimore has stuck with Ward. Her hope is that, as non-alcoholic drink options expand, so does the push for inclusivity.

“Saying that something is non-alcoholic can just be a part of the description on a menu,” Ward says. “It doesn’t have to go into its own separate space.”

To that end, Ward says that reevaluating alcohol consumption shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable or isolating. “It’s always a great idea to take a little stock in yourself,” she says. “Try to figure out whether this is a relationship that suits you. Is it one that needs to be tapered off? Is it one that needs to be eliminated altogether? Giving yourself an opportunity to explore the world without alcohol in your system is a very good thing to do.”

Alfred agrees, adding that the process isn’t always cut and dry. And that’s okay.

“Norms are being broken every day,” he says. “What sobriety means to you—whether it’s for yourself or your family, you’re pregnant, you’re religious, you’re making a better life choice for yourself. Whatever your reason is, however you want to get there—that’s what works for you.”

The stigma that accompanies sobriety—for bartenders and customers—still frustrates Ward. “But we are seeing the barriers break down a lot, which I am incredibly grateful for.”

Below, check out our list of bars, restaurants, and shops around town that are prioritizing spirit-free sips year round:

Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey Bar: This Hampden barbecue haven is loyal to whiskey, but that doesn’t mean staff won’t mix a spontaneous zero-proof cocktail. Blue Pit’s alcohol menu incorporates signage to show that a drink can be served spirit-free or low ABV at any time. 1601 Union Ave.

The Bluebird Cocktail Room: A number of the cocktails at Hampden’s literary-themed bar and whiskey pub are made without alcohol. Among them are the spicy Manhattan-style “Maltese Falcon,” bubbly cucumber and lavender-infused “Laughing at Funerals,” and a classic Old Fashioned. 3600 Hickory Ave. 

Clavel: This Remington restaurant might be best known for its tacos and queso fundido, but you can also count on alcohol-free drinks like the “Suero,” made with lemon, Topo Chico, and a pinch of sea salt. 225 W. 23rd St. 

Duck Duck Goose: Alfred and his team have crafted several options including a Seedlip-based lemonade and limeade. Also worth mentioning: the spirit-free sangria, which fuses flavors of blood orange and citrus with the spice of ginger beer. 814 S. Broadway and one other location. 

Dutch Courage: While Brendan Dorr and Eric Fooy’s Old Goucher bar focuses on gin, it continues to impress with non-alcoholic options, as well. Menu highlights include the “N.A. Groni,” made with a botanical “gin” syrup, orange oil, orange bitters, and jasmine-flavored Tortuga kombucha. See also: the sweet “Sweater Weather,” which features dark chocolate, cream, orange bitters, and torched marshmallow. 229 N. Charles St. 

The Food Market: With locations in Hampden and Columbia, this comfort food haven has a vast zero-proof menu. Try the famous “Gucci Lemonade,” containing elements of blueberry, fresh mint, and vibrant lemongrass. Or keep things fresh and fuss-free with a cocktail blending grapefruit juice, agave nectar, Sprite, and thyme. 1017 W 36th St. 

Guinness Open Gate Brewery: Though known for its Irish-inspired brews, some might not know that this Halethorpe taproom offers a mean low-ABV beer. Stop by to grab a glass (or four-pack) of Guinness 0—which was made to feature all of the smooth and bitter notes of a classic Guinness draft, without the alcohol. 5001 Washington Blvd, Halethorpe.

Hopscotch Bottle Shop: Billed as the first non-alcoholic bottle shop in the state, this new Fells Point spot is not only a retail destination, but also a community hub for tastings, classes, and events educating those who are sober-curious or “sober-serious,” as proprietor Darryl Collins refers to his customers who are committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle. Collins is passionate about curating his selection, which includes well-known brands in the NA landscape such as Ceria Brewing, Kin Euphorics, The Mindful Drinking Co., and Uncool. 520 S. Caroline St. 

Modern World: There is so much to explore at this bright NA bottle shop, which recently debuted on the Avenue in Hampden. Owner Laurie Hefner stocks her shelves with a range of spirit-free (containing no more than 0.5 percent ABV) beverages, plus other goodies perfect for entertaining at home. Hefner prides her shop on being an approachable place for patrons to be able to discuss their tastes and find bottles that work best for them. Swing by to browse beautifully packaged options from the likes of Forage Kombucha, Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Co., and Prima Pavé. 1006 W. 36th St. 

Osteria Pirata: Pair the Italian-inspired pasta dishes at this Fells Point eatery with refreshing sips that will still transport your tastebuds to Europe, even though they don’t contain alcohol. Try the bubbly “Berry Bellini,” or the NA “Amalfi Spritz,” which combines Seedlip with passionfruit and soda. 1640 Thames St. 

Prima Dopo: This buzzy Fells Point cocktail house has some solid NA options. Check out the “My Cousin Dill,” a green-colored libation featuring Seedlip, lemon, dill, and cooling cucumber puree. There’s also the “Le Moxie” mixing spicy Seedlip, strawberry puree, lemon, agave, rosemary, and ginger ale. 1724 Thames St. 

Sally O’s: At chef Jesse Sandlin’s cozy corner eatery in Highlandtown, spirit-free concoctions are plentiful. Look to the establishment for sips including “Sun Tropics,” with island-hailing fruit flavors, agave, and a squeeze of lime. There’s also a non-alcoholic beer on offer, in the form of Athletic Brewing Company’s “Free Wave” Hazy IPA. 3531 Gough St.

Topside: The rooftop bar above Hotel Revival in Mount Vernon has been making booze-free waves for years with its Zero Proof, Zero Judgement program, which ensures that those in search of low or zero-percent ABV drinks have just as many options as those who drink alcohol. Innovative recipes include the “Hummingbird,” a cocktail toting spirit-free blood orange bitters, Hibiscus Rooibos tea, and tang from lemon juice. There’s also the spicy “Yellow Balloons” (cinnamon-infused ginger turmeric tea, pineapple shrub, and grapefruit bitters), as well as a non-alcoholic canned mango margarita from local brand NOPE and NA beer and wine options. 101 W. Monument St.

Waverly Brewing: While this neighborhood taproom is versed in craft beer, you can also stop by to enjoy something fizzy and fruity—without any booze. Choose from a variety of bottled Mocktails drink blends, which are mixed with sparkling apple cider. 1625 Union Ave.