Portland is the epicenter of substitutions. ”Hold the gluten, hold the meat, and hold the nuts” could be our city motto. Now, add “hold the booze” to that list, thanks to a rising alcohol-free cocktail movement.
Aided by the proliferation of local syrups, sodas, and other flavor enhancers, nearly any cocktail bar worth its shakers can craft you a well-balanced, spirits-free drink on the spot if you just speak up and ask.
Many restaurant bars offer interesting house sodas that twinkle over rocks: Lincoln’s flavor haul includes tarragon fennel kumquat and pomegranate habanero lemon. Try Fish Sauce’s One Bird soda, a blend of pickled kumquat, pickled juice, and cane, as well as the nostril-flaring house Coconut Water Gingerale at Luc Lac. Over at Bit House Saloon, staffers particularly love a challenge. Order a “Temperance Tail” and specify “bold and adventurous” or “light and refreshing,” and watch ‘em whirl into action like Chopped contestants with a toolbox of cardamom bitters, blood-orange marmalade, and pepper tinctures.