I knew there was something wonderful happening in Charleston when I walked into our Garden & Gun holiday party at the Ordinary this year. Why? Because as I handed a bottle of chilled, nonalcoholic sparkling Riesling to the bartender to share with my other non-drinking colleagues, the restaurant’s James Beard Award–winning chef and co-owner Mike Lata strolled over to say: “Isn’t that Leitz great?!”
If you know, you know. And indeed that nonalcoholic Leitz is great. I found out about it through sommelier and wine director Sarah O’Kelley at Charleston’s Edmund’s Oast Exchange. Which just goes to show that a serious nonalcoholic movement afoot in the food and beverage world has finally made its way to Charleston.
I couldn’t be more thrilled—I gave up booze more than two years ago and haven’t looked back. For other folks trying out dry January (and beyond), the choices continue to be more and more delicious. And more popular: New York has welcomed nonalcoholic-focused bottle shops like Boisson, Los Angeles loves No & Low, and this summer Sèchey will debut in Charleston.
For Sèchey founder Emily Heintz, the thrill lies in these discoveries. “We are really excited to be the first stockist of All the Bitter in the Southeast soon,” she says. “It’s a collection of small batch bitters crafted by Michelin-trained sommeliers specifically made for nonalcoholic cocktails.” The most Southern option in the collection is All the Bitter’s New Orleans recipe, inspired by the anise and cherry notes in Peychaud’s.
Heintz also recently added another new favorite that flew off the shelves: Florida’s SipC nonalcoholic wines.
But what about ordering drinks sans alcohol at a restaurant? Heintz has tips for that, too. “I try to avoid the word mocktail in general at a restaurant,” she says. “Instead, I ask if anything on the cocktail menu can be made without alcohol. If not, I look at the menu and see if there is something I can ask for without the booze. A mojito or a margarita with soda water instead of tequila or rum gives you the same amount of flavor.”
Good advice all around. Cheers to that!