July 2nd, 2024

Mocktails Deliver All the Flavor Without the Buzz

A long bar made out of a single flat slab of wood. Baskets of citrus fruit are on one side, and classes full of striped paper straws and stirring spoons are at the end of the bar. A mural of mushrooms and greenery are on the wall and plants hang from the ceiling.
Belly up to the bar or sit outside at a handful of picnic tables at Conservatory Bar.

If you didn’t know by now, mocktails are having a moment. And while McMinnville may be known as a wine town, there are a surprising number of non-alcoholic offerings available at many of our favorite local spots. 

Gone are the days where the only non-alcoholic beverage options are soda, coffee, tea, or water. Now, more restaurants and bars are putting effort into creating unique, thoughtfully made beverages that don’t taste like they’re missing anything. On a recent mocktail quest around town, these were the standouts. 

Conservatory Bar (830 SE 1st St) offers lovingly crafted mocktails made with intentional ingredients, housemade syrups, and garnishes from the owner’s garden. All mocktails are $8. For an additional $5, you can add Wilderton Lustre non-alcoholic spirits to your drink, but I found the drinks perfect without. 

With five unique drinks on the mocktail menu, there’s something for every flavor profile–from the classic Bloody Mary to more modern concoctions like the Avant Garden with raspberry-rosehip jam, rhubarb bitters, orange, lemon, rosewater and a hibiscus sugar rim. Order the Business as Yuzual for a refreshing and cucumber-forward drink with yuzu, mint, lime, jasmine water, and tonic.

The Get it Girl is pleasantly bitter and tart and I found it to be the most cocktail-like of any of the drinks I sampled on my mocktail adventure. This is a drink you’ll want to sip slowly to enjoy the complex flavors. No mere sparkling fruit juice passing for a fancy drink here. This is an elevated beverage of guava, pineapple, lime, and chipotle bitters with a biting tajin rim. 

A person makes a cocktail at a warmly lit bar.  The lighting is eclectic and mismatched. The bar is made of copper.
Cool off with your mocktail in the Cellar Bar at McMenamins on weekends. Photo courtesy of McMenamins Hotel Oregon.

The mocktail options at Hotel Oregon (310 NE Evans St) include the Tea-tini ($6) which is light, lemony, and pleasantly bitter. It’s served up in a martini glass with a touch of sugar.

There’s also the Grapefruit Pom Nom Paloma ($7) made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit, sparkling seltzer, grenadine, and honey. This is just about the perfect summer drink, packed with ice in a pint glass and served with a grapefruit twist.

It is nightfall.  A large barn has a sign that says Grain Station Brew Works.  There is string cafe lighting strung around an outdoor courtyard.
Grab a picnic table out front and enjoy the rustic charm of the Granary District. Photo by Daniel Hurst.

Grain Station Brewery & Brewpub (4130, 755 NE Alpine Ave #200) is known for its burgers, salads, sandwiches, and pizza. Aside from serving their own full roster of beer options, they have a full bar and wine menu. 

Their non-alcoholic options are refreshing fruit blends priced moderately at $7.50 a pop. The Sparkling Blackberry and Lemon is a delicate beverage, served tall with lemon and lime slices. The Strawberry Basil Spritzer is significantly more flavorful and sweet, but still refreshing. The basil cuts the sweetness to a just-right note. Grain Station also offers a Prickly Pear and Ginger Beer mocktail made with lime. 

Other notable mocktail offerings in town are Humble Spirit’s (411 NE 3rd St) Strawberry Shrub and “G & T” (grapefruit and tonic) for $12. As well as the $12 N/A Sparkling Riesling from HiFi Wine Bar (711 NE 3rd St).

A woman with long brown hair smiles.

Erin Hall (she/her) is a reader, writer, bookseller, and vegan nacho enthusiast. She’s the author of the Detective Molly Malone series, which begins with her debut novel, Dear Sylvia, Love Jane. Erin has a Master of Arts in writing and publishing through Portland State University’s Ooligan Press (2008). She serves on the board of Gather Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Humanities Programs Advisory Committee, and is an active member of The Oregon Historical Society and Willamette Writers. Erin has taught fiction and memoir writing classes in the Yamhill Valley and always wants to know what books you’re reading. She lives and writes on ancestral Kalapuya land.