Zero proof: Here are 3 great spots for tasty mocktails in the Bay Area

Zero proof: Here are 3 great spots for tasty mocktails in the Bay Area

It’s a new year, and maybe you overdid the holiday booze. Or maybe you’re just looking to start the year off chasing wellness goals like “hydrating more” and “drinking less.” Whatever brings you to pursue the stretch of sobriety that is Dry January, it’s never been easier to get great, adult-tasting drinks without the hangover. We’re in a new mocktail era.

Sales of non-alcoholic spirits rose 88% between 2021 and 2022 according to Nielsen IQ, a market research firm. The Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association, an industry marketing association, says it is taking a more inclusive approach to its alcohol-free alternatives this year, inviting people to consider a “dry-ish” January, if they’re not ready to go full teetotaler. They’re encouraging people to focus more on discovering new non-alcoholic drinks rather than depriving themselves of boozy beverages.

With that flexible approach in mind, here are three spots around the Bay offering mocktails good enough to help you forget they’re booze-free — alongside delightful cocktail selections  — so that everybody in your party can enjoy a tasty drink at the alcohol level they prefer.

Copita Tequileria y Comida, San Jose

Snazzily holding down a busy corner in San Jose’s Willow Glen, Copita Tequileria y Comida began luring patrons with a variety of charms last October. The modern Mexican food — that’s the comida portion of the menu — is sensational, from the ceviches to tacos filled with everything from battered cauliflower ($12 for two tacos) to fried calamari ($13). And the tequileria half of the name hardly needs translating.

The My “POM” Paloma is one of a number of tasty mocktails available at Copita Tequileria y Comida in San Jose’s Willow Glen area. (Jim Harrington, staff) 

But for an establishment that waves the tequila banner so proudly, Copita also offers a pretty terrific menu of mocktails including five zero-proof concoctions. The best place to enjoy them — with a view — is on the rooftop patio.

The mocktail: Our top pick is the My “POM” Paloma ($10), which delivers a complex, tart blend of grapefruit and pomegranate juices, local honey and Fever Tree grapefruit seltzer. It’s a beauty.

The real deal: The tequileria menu tempts with a range of tequila and mezcal cocktails, including a classic Copita margarita ($14), but other options include a Correo Mayor ($15), with Gustoso Mexican rum, lime, honey and bitters.

The right bite: There are several small plate options, such as Mexican truffle empanadas ($15). But Copita does mole so well, we split a trio of enchiladas en mole Oaxaqueno ($21), covered in a wonderfully rich, nutty mole sauce. It’s generously sized, and one order comfortably served two people.

Details: Opens at 11:30 a.m. daily at 1098 Lincoln Ave. in San Jose;

Ninth Life, Oakland

Ninth Life is a bar that opened in Oakland in late 2023 that serves a variety of craft cocktails inspired by popular culture from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. (John Metcalfe/Bay Area News Group) 

Entering Ninth Life is like taking a trip to the bottom of the ocean and discovering a funky throwback discotheque. The tiny space, which opened near downtown Oakland in late 2023, pulses with body-grooving tunes and is lit mysteriously with color-shifting chandeliers and silently crackling plasma balls. Many of the cocktails have music and pop-culture names: There’s a Purple Rain with Chilean Pisco and green pepper-infused red-wine syrup, and a Sparkle Motion (named after the fictional “Donnie Darko” dance group) with gin, hibiscus-ginger liqueur and something vaguely called “sparkles.”

Co-owner and beverage director Daniel Paez, who’s connected with Oakland’s buzzy Lowbar and Good Luck Gato, makes some pretty fascinating drinks — mock and not. Most of the syrups, shrubs and juices are generated in-house, whether that be a passion fruit-ancho chile elixir or the Toasted Swisher Sweet Aroma (made by swirling a gas-station cigar briefly in liquid). There are always fascinating new bottles popping up too, whether it be a rhubarb-forward amaro or a small-batch gin named in honor of dockworkers and distilled in Oakland.

The mocktail: The peach-colored Sup’ Doc ($8) – a nod to Bugs Bunny’s love of carrots – arrives in a short cocktail glass with diamond-clear ice and a sprig of mint. The base is a carrot-pineapple-habanero shrub inspired by one of Paez’s chef friend’s hot sauces — mixed with orange, lemon, ginger beer and optional bitters. The initial sip delivers flavors that are earthy, tart, sweet and tropical with a bracing zing, thanks to the strong ginger beer. And the pleasant chile burn lasts just long enough to remind you to order another.

Ninth Life is a bar that opened in Oakland in late 2023 that serves a variety of craft cocktails, including this Sup’ Doc mocktail with carrot-pineapple-habanero shrub, ginger beer and mint. (John Metcalfe/Bay Area News Group) 

The real deal: The cocktail menu is an homage to American culture in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, including an El Duderino for “Big Lebowski” fans. It’s made with Australian whisky, reposado infused with coffee beans and vanilla, oat milk and horchata syrup, and it’ll have you abiding in no time ($15).

The right bite: There’s no kitchen at Ninth Life but you can wander next door to Good Luck Gato, owned by the same people. It’s a Spaghetti Western-themed, Mexican-Japanese cantina with dishes like uni elote with cotija cheese and tapatio ($12), a loaded baked potato with carnitas and tonkatsu sauce ($12) and a Choco Taco with vanilla gelato and black sesame ($12).

Details: Open from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at 1911 San Pablo Ave., Oakland;

Protégé, Palo Alto

This Michelin-starred restaurant, which was started by two French Laundry alums in 2018, is not exactly a newcomer to the local food and drink scene. But its 26-page drink menu,and posh, er, “upscale casual” ambience mean that expectations are high the moment you walk through the doors. And luckily, the mocktails do not disappoint. For non-drinkers, there are four signature mocktails on the menu, plus a nonalcoholic beer, Lagunitas’ IPNA ($12), and a sparkling grape juice, Leitz’s EinsZweiZero Riesling ($12).

The mocktail: The cleverly-named and vibrant pink-orange NA-Groni ($16) is served over a clear ice cube, topped with a delicate dried orange slice. Made with a non-alcoholic apéritif, charred grapefruit and tonic, the drink carries the complex anise, citrus and bitter notes of a boozy negroni without the alcohol. The elegant and refreshing Ikuyo Highball ($17) is a bright green concoction made with matcha, lemon and oleo saccharum, a sweet, citrusy oil.

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The real deal: It’s hard to go wrong with Protege’s cocktails, but the Goose on the Loose ($24) is a particularly fun choice. It’s made with vodka, coconut, gooseberry, lemon and a Greek yogurt wash and garnished with a yogurt-dipped gooseberry.

The right bite: Yes, there’s a seven-course tasting menu ($225), but for folks looking to spend a little less, there are a few tempting bites and small plates available — Parker House rolls, for example, with cultured butter from Cambria’s Stepladder Creamery ($10,  and a Dungeness crab and golden Osetra caviar plate ($35) served with yuzu sabayon.

Details: Open 5 to 9:15 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 250 California Ave. in Palo Alto;

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