When I was expecting my first child in 2018 and hadn’t yet announced my pregnancy, fate played a cruel trick on me: It inspired my coworkers to host a holiday happy hour at TikiCat.
TikiCat (rest in peace, you beautiful oasis of rum) had some of the best drinks in the city, including one that featured actual fire and a bouquet of crazy straws for your group. You know what doesn’t go well with fire and a punchbowl of liquor? A developing fetus. But I was determined to have a fun time while also not clueing my work pals into my “condition.” I snuck off to the bar and made the bartender my co-conspirator. He delivered the most beautiful, alcohol-free, piña colada. I clinked glasses with my coworkers, relaxed on a couch with a yummy beverage, and everyone remained in the dark about my pregnancy. I didn’t even miss the rum!
While you may have your reasons for not imbibing in a good drink (pregnancy, sobriety, religious beliefs, lingering hangover because you’re thirty now…), you still might want to tag along to happy hour with your friends. Whatever your motive, I have good news for you: You can cancel your club soda order.
There are plenty of memorable, non-alcoholic drinks throughout Kansas City and fun beverages you can make at home, too.
Servaes Brewing Company — Shawnee
While kid friendly isn’t usually the term you usually associate with breweries, KC has a few “hoppy places” to take the whole family.
We like Cinder Block Brewery, the Boulevard Beer Hall, and our latest fave, Servaes Brewing Company—the only woman (and mom!) owned and operated brewery in KC. We dropped in one weekday and were cheerily greeted by rainbow-colored tap handles in the small taproom. Several tables had excited patrons checking a list of beers against a flight of drinks in front of them. But Servaes offers more than just beer. Colorful cans of Aaron’s Craft Soda (masterminded by the brewer’s young son) are stocked next to to-go packs of IPAs, draft root beer is on tap, and they will even graciously offer a free juice box to your kiddo.
While my husband was there for the fruit-inspired sours, I ordered a pint of draft root beer and a tiny snifter of the soda for our kid to try. The icing on the cake—or, in this case, the cheese on the pizza—was that Old Shawnee Pizza, one of our favorite spots for a slice, delivered straight to the brewery. Pizza and (root) beer? I can think of worse ways to spend an evening.
Ça Va — Westport
When I was pregnant with my first child and didn’t value things like bedtime so much, I met up with a couple friends at the atmospheric Ça Va for drinks and snacks. They both politely turned down the extensive wine list in an act of solidarity for their pregnant buddy. (So thoughtful. Maybe one day, I’ll return the favor… Maybe.) We ordered a cheese board and had a perfectly good time chatting over cheddar, but the champagne bubbles popping at the table next to us were more than a little distracting. That’s when we noticed the sans alcohol options on the drink menu. Ça Va offers two specially made mocktails, but we all ordered the “Hold the Bubs,” a mixture of lavender honey, lemon, and sparkling carbonation. It was pretty, it was bubbly, and it was the perfect thing for girls’ night. I’m not sure a drink has ever made me feel fancier.
Hand in Glove — Downtown Lee’s Summit
When I first sat at the bar inside Hand in Glove, I was sure I’d leave disappointed. With columns of spirits rising to the ceiling on a drugstore-styled shelf, gleaming barware, a sepia stack of house-made syrups, and even a cloche for smoking drinks, I thought anything but a craft cocktail would leave me bummed. But with Baby #2 on the way, alcoholic drinks are off the table for me. I decided to take advantage of my caffeine allowance and ordered a Burnt Sugar Latte off Hand in Glove’s menu of coffee options. My husband opted for a Smoked Vanilla, a cocktail he had ordered previously at The W (the speakeasy above Hand in Glove) and loved.
I know coffee isn’t what springs to mind when you think of alternatives to alcohol, but I got to sit at a trendy bar with my husband and share a drink (for five minutes, before I had to snap on a to-go lid and chase my toddler out the door). And dang, that drink was good. Think church lady, homemade ice cream social, but liquified in a cup with coffee. Seriously, go order it now. Take a picture, tag it #valeriemytastebudsthankyou, and then dream about that coffee forever… or at least until your next trip to Lee’s Summit.
Ritual Zero Proof — Your Home Bar
Facebook apparently tracks my ovulation cycle and love of margaritas (spooky) because it floated me an ad for Ritual Zero Proof tequila one night. I can absolutely go 40 weeks without a marg. But when there’s a very convincing tequila-alternative on the market, why would I? Curious, I ordered a bottle to my front door for a backyard happy hour I was planning on attending the next week. It arrived in 2 days (like Prime for all you pregnant Patrón-lovers).
When I first uncorked the bottle to smell it, I had to hurriedly jam the lid back on so I could make sure this was actually alcohol-free tequila. I don’t know how they did it, but I’m telling you, it was a convincing alternative. In fact, I had to cut myself off after just one drink. It turns out that shaking together one-part pandemic-sheltered extrovert and one-part alcohol-free margaritas results in an interesting placebo effect. A word of caution: If you’re in recovery for a substance abuse disorder, make sure you assess your own comfort level with trying something this close to the real thing. It’s the fool’s gold of the tequila world.
“No Way Rosé” from Drinking For Two — Your Patio/Couch/Bathtub
While it’s certainly marketed toward those of us who are pregnant, the book Drinking for Two: Nutritious Mocktail for the Mom-To-Be is more than just an expecting mother’s recipe for refreshment. If you abstain from drinking for wellness reasons, you’ll love the health-focused drinks that the authors (a registered dietician and an academic researcher) put together for this fun book. If you’re not convinced, you can get a sneak peek of what’s inside by trying out the “No Way Rosé” recipe shared for free on the book’s Amazon page. By mixing white grape juice with your favorite red fruit juice, then adding coconut water, seltzer, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice, you have a delicious and healthy drink. Why would I ever go back to Two Buck Chuck? (OK, I’m still planning on going back, but hey—I’ve got options!)
Going without alcohol for a month, a pregnancy, or your whole life doesn’t have to mean you are doomed to boring happy hours and sparkling water. After all, we’re living in the age of alcohol-free tequila. If that’s not worth a toast, I don’t know what is!