Tahoe’s top mocktails: Explore craft nonalcoholic beverage scene
Special to the Tribune
There’s something to be said about being in Lake Tahoe on a beautiful summer day, spending it with your friends and golfing, shopping, boating, dining or otherwise being on or near the lake. Along with the variety of outdoor activities and casinos, Tahoe has a fantastic bar scene. But what about those people who don’t drink? Don’t worry…here are some spots that supply a great atmosphere as well as craft non-alcoholic drinks that are a bit more sophisticated than sipping on a Roy Rogers or Shirley Temple.
Brooks’ Bar & Deck at Edgewood Tahoe Resort, Stateline
Between The Bistro, Brooks’ Bar & Deck, and its elegant lakeview restaurant, there’s always an energetic, golf-inspired scene around Edgewood Tahoe. Overlooking the Frank Gehry-designed golf course (that’s also home of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship), Brooks’ Bar & Deck is a modern-day gastropub complete with a comfortable bar, tables, and welcoming staff.
At its fully stocked bar with top shelf liquors, Brooks’ also offers a mocktail menu with nonalcoholic drinks including the Cave Rock Cooler ($8-$14) and Dragonfruit Lemonade, a sweet drink made with Monin Dragonfruit Cosmo syrup mixed with lemonade and a splash of soda to create a bubbly effect. The Cave Rock Cooler is the more popular of the two, a craft creation of acai berry, blackberry, ginger beer, and lemon zest.
A little tangy and very refreshing, the bartender (and former local TV personality) Stephanie says that the Cave Rock Cooler is a big hit with nondrinkers coming off the golf course. It almost tastes like it has alcohol in it, and while sipping on the tasty drink, Stephanie shares that when she was a bodybuilder she couldn’t drink and that’s when she started experimenting with mocktails. While we chat, a local golfer and Edgewood regular who also owns an indoor miniature golf course in town also says that The Bistro (within the Edgewood Lodge) also serves a nice mocktail called the White Linen, made with muddled basil, simple syrup, and soda. https://edgewoodtahoe.com/
The Cocktail Corner at the Y, South Lake Tahoe
Located within the shopping center at the Y on the corner of the Highway 50 and Highway 89 intersection in South Lake Tahoe, The Cocktail Corner is managed by the Tahoe AleWorX which is kitty-corner from the restaurant, separated by a nice paver patio and fire pits in-between.
This contemporary Cocktail Corner lounge doesn’t have a specific mocktail menu, but it’s obvious after a few minutes of sitting at the bar that its manager Chante takes pride in all her drinks, alcoholic and not. She has been at the Cocktail Corner for two years and makes two delicious signature mocktails: a cucumber cooler-like drink (made with her own housemade rosemary syrup, cucumber, muddled mint, lime juice, and a little bit of ginger beer) and another fruity drink made with blackberry syrup, orgeat almond syrup, orange juice, and pineapple (which we renamed Chante’s Famous Cocktail). She says it reminds her of the POG juices she used to drink in Hawaii, a popular fruity blend that stands for Pineapple, Orange, and Guava juices.
“I love making mocktails. My best friend has been sober for one-and-a-half years now and I can make her something when she comes in. Most people like refreshing mocktails, like my cucumber cooler, especially pregnant women,” she says. Chante enjoys experimenting with syrups, and ones like her ginger syrup mixed with lemonade have been well received.
Trying her signature housemade nonalcoholic beverages, the Cucumber Cooler is certainly refreshing and not too overpowering in ginger beer or any single herb. Chante’s Famous Cocktail is totally different yet equally as delicious, a tantalizing combination of sweet and savory, topped with dark maraschino cherries and a dried orange slice. And the best part is neither of Chante’s specialties give you a hangover. http://tahoecocktailcorner.com/.
Pioneer Cocktail Club, Tahoe City
If you’re still on a nonalcoholic mission around the lake, the Pioneer Cocktail Club is in the center of Tahoe City across from Commons Beach and is open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Signature cocktails include the Oaxacan Old Fashioned (made with Mal Bien mezcal, chocolate bitters, and an orange twist), hot toddies, and shaken versions like the Air Mail (artisanal rum, lime, honey syrup, bubbles) but they can drum up a fancy nonalcoholic drink as well.
The bar is the focus point of the dimly lit Pioneer Cocktail Club. The bartender/owner of the Pioneer Cocktail Club is behind the bar, portioning out syrups and liquor with one hand, squeezing citrus into the drinks with another, and hand-peeling orange rind garnishes for the top. Ten minutes later, he hands me a light, bubbly drink that’s made of fresh pineapple, ginger reduction, and shaken with mint.
Pioneer Cocktail Club Owner Brian Nelson explains that in the summer he also makes a blackberry shrub (blackberries, champagne vinegar, and sugar boiled into a syrup) that is nice for non-drinkers, along with a version made with grapefruit juice, shrub, lemon, and Tahoe tap water. “We CO2 charge our own tanks, so the drinks come out really fresh and bubbly,” Nelson adds.
This summer, the Pioneer Cocktail Club plans to have events outdoors with special drinks, tapas, a tiki bar, and plans to offer a watermelon juice-based mocktail. It also has its own canning machine, allowing a patron to take their favorite cocktail or mocktail to go. Just be sure to watch your bill… the Pioneer Cocktail Club’s mocktails are a bit pricier than the other bars because they automatically add a twenty percent gratuity. https://pioneertahoe.com/
Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge, West Shore/Tahoe City
Since you’re still sober enough to drive, keep driving around the lake along the West Shore and stop at Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge for another thirst-quenching mocktail. Summer began early at Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge, as the restaurant is bustling with activity at 6 p.m., on a Saturday evening in April as energetic bartenders make all kinds of unique beverages for thirsty patrons.
It’s also one of the only restaurants on the North Shore that has a non-alcoholic drink menu and is literally right on the water, providing boat captains and sober drivers alike a nice alternative when bar hopping on the lake.
Sunnyside has three main mocktails on its menu including the First Breeze (lemonade, strawberry puree, blueberries), the Cucumber Soda (muddled cucumber, organic agave, soda, lime), and a new lavender lemonade (fresh, locally made organic lavender syrup and organic lemonade topped with a sprig of lavender) that was just added to the menu. The bartenders also make a mean virgin Mai Tai’s, mojitos, and pina coladas without the alcohol of course.
“We sell tons of First Breezes,” the bartender Fritz says. He has worked at Sunnyside for 10 years and he and the other friendly server Sean work well together behind the bar, serving guests quickly and efficiently while enjoying the gorgeous panoramic view of Lake Tahoe. Fritz also explains that Sunnyside also serves an entire line of Athletic Brewing Company nonalcoholic beers, one of the most popular being the Upside Dawn zero-percent alcohol golden ale.
“I listened to a whole podcast on the company; it’s a complicated, interesting process about how they brew it,” Fritz says. “In the past, a lot of nonalcoholic beers didn’t taste that good because all they did was take the alcohol out, but now nonalcoholic beers are one of the fastest growing markets in the beverage business,” he explains. “And now [Athletic Brewing Co.] brews nonalcoholic beers on both coasts.”
As he talks, Sean hands me a virgin Mai Tai as well as a Cucumber Soda. The Cucumber Soda is light and bubbly while the virgin Mai Tai is equally refreshing, the healthy mix of sweet POG juice conjuring up feelings of having toes in the sand. It is the perfect summertime drink; invigorating and topped with a lime slice, pineapple wedge, and mini umbrella. http://www.sunnysidelodge.com
Other Notable Mentions
Beach Bums Bar & Grill at Round Hill Pines Beach Resort (Zephyr Cove): If you plan to spend the day at the beach, Round Hill Pines Resort in Zephyr Cove offers all kinds of lake activities right there on the water as well as a snack shack, bar, and grill to keep you hydrated and happy while on your vacation. It’s known for its Pain Killer- an alcoholic cocktail made of pineapple, coconut, a variety of rums, and other secret ingredients- as well as a mocktail menu with special fruity Yellow Jacket and Strawberry Oasis nonalcoholic drinks on it. http://www.roundhillpinesresort.com.
Jimmy’s Restaurant at The Landing (South Lake Tahoe): As one of the premier places to get married or have a romantic getaway steps away from the sandy beaches of Tahoe, The Landing provides a chic and cozy restaurant, spa, and high-end accommodations. Jimmy’s Restaurant within The Landing prides itself on its flavorful, locally sourced California cuisine that goes well with its signature Landing Martini, but one of its mocktails such as the Bijou Breeze, Cherry-Mint Limeade, or Snowy Coconut pairs nicely with a locally sourced freshly made meal as well. http://www.thelandingtahoe.com
Coffeebar (Truckee): Even though Coffeebar is more known for its delectable espresso drinks, it sells beer, wine, and other amazing beverages as well. For a tantalizing drinkable seasonal treat, try its new Saturday Morning Cartoons (crafted with housemade Tahoe Sunshine tea syrup, espresso, milk, and Dorinda’s chocolate sauce) or the caffeine-free Pretty in Pink that is a nice cold blend of hibiscus tea, agave, and lime…a perfect thing to have in hand while basking in the sun. https://www.coffeebar.com/
Editor’s note: This story appears in the 2022 summer edition of Tahoe magazine.
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