The Margin: During Dry January, some bars are charging as much as $17 for mocktails

by | Jan 15, 2023 | Stock Market

When diners make their way to Esmé, a Michelin-starred Chicago restaurant known for its fanciful tasting menu, they have the option of pairing their food with an equally fanciful array of cocktails. The drinks range from one called Curried Corn, made with corn stock and an array of spices, to another dubbed Johnny Apple Tea, prepared with a black tea and something billed as “popcorn verjus” — essentially, grape juice flavored with caramelized popcorn.

But there’s one thing you won’t find in any of these: booze. Esmé beverage and operations director Tia Barrett says she is trying to bring the same level of detail and sophistication to her pairing menu of eight nonalcoholic sips — which is a $135 add-on to the restaurant’s $235 tasting menu — as bartenders have done with so-called craft cocktails. She even refuses to refer to the drinks as mocktails, a term commonly used for booze-free offerings. “It discredits the effort that goes into the beverage,” she says. These days, watering holes across the country are trying similar efforts, especially as the bar and restaurant industry looks to woo customers going sans alcohol during the first month of the year, the practice known as Dry January. In 2022, 19% of adults in th …

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