Imitation of Life

A lot of the available non-child, non-alcoholic beverages in the US are alcohol-free versions of boozy beverages.

Non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic wine, and such.

I am ambivalent about most.

First, as a non-drinker, I don’t super want to be reminded of what I am missing in alcoholic beverages when I drink a non-alcoholic beverage.

With every non-alcoholic wine I’ve ever tried, about all I’ve ever thought is, “Wow, this is a suckier version of wine, without the alcohol. I’d rather drink grape juice.”

Likewise, with non-alcoholic beer, while some are actually pretty OK, the point of drinking non-alcoholic beer is sort of lost on me.

As my friend Camper English once said about the non-alcoholic beverages at a certain tiki bar, all the calories and none of the buzz.

I guess part of it is, imitations always fall short.

The best non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic beverages ever get is “OK”.

They’re never “great” beverages.

And to get back to my issues with a specific example, I like sparkling tonic water with a squeezed lime wedge, but mostly drinking them reminds me that I miss the Gin and Tonics I used to drink. And frankly, a tonic and lime is just a pale imitation of a Gin and Tonic.

So that’s not SUPER ideal. For a lot of reasons.

So, I propose some rules for non-alcoholic beverages:

First, and foremost, they must be tasty on their own merits. They should be great drinks without alcohol.

Second, please leave off reminding me of alcoholic beverages with pale imitations.

Third, they should not be over rich. My main rule for adult beverages is they should be “more-ish”.

You should get to the bottom of your drink and say, “That was tasty! Maybe I’ll have another!”

Not, “That was kind of tasty to start, but I could barely finish it by the time I got to the bottom, and now I don’t feel like drinking anything else. Or even eating my dinner.”

Nut Nog

The other night Mrs. Flannestad and I were visiting Old Bus Tavern and bartender Rachel Leiderman was excited to have us try something she was working on, a spiced nut milk.

We tried it and were blown away. Both Mrs. Flannestad and I were of the opinion, “Why would you drink gross, gloppy, egg nog, when you could instead drink delicious spicy nut milk?”

So I sent Rachel a note a couple days later and asked her to let me come in and watch her make it. Rachel got her starting place from a recipe on Bon Appetit: Basic Nut Milk and added some tweaks inspired by local Nut Milk Purveyors Living Apothecary.

Rachel is still working on the process and deciding whether she will make it for the bar menu, but stop by and ask her for it. If she doesn’t have Nut Milk made, she can always make something else tasty, alcoholic or not.

NUT NOG
(Since “Spiced Nut Milk” sounds like something you squeeze out of a grumpy old walnut tree, so I am making an executive decision to call this beverage “Nut Nog”. Get it?)

INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Nuts (Rachel used a blend of almonds, pecans, and pumpkin seeds)

4 tsp Agave Nectar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2 TBSP Rolled Oats
3 dates, chopped
2 TBSP Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
2 TBSP Fresh Tumeric, peeled and chopped (wear rubber gloves when cleaning and chopping, will stain your hands.)
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp Cloves, ground
1 tsp Allspice, ground
4 Cups Hot Water

Equipment: Blender (preferably Vitamix or similar), Fine Strainer, Nut Bag.

METHOD:
Step 1. Soak Your Nuts.
Cover the nuts with water by 2 inches and leave to soak overnight. Drain nuts and rinse.
Step 2. Grind Your Nuts.
Add nuts and remaining dry ingredients to bowl of blender (preferably high powered, as in VitaMix or similar). Begin grinding ingredients and pour in hot water as you go. When you can no longer see nut pieces, stop grinding.
Step 3. Squeeze Your Nuts.
Pour mixture through fine strainer, and press to extract as much liquid as possible. Remove nut and spice solids and compost or feed to your livestock (Mmmm, tasty, spiced ham!). If you don’t mind it a bit gritty, you can stop here. Otherwise, line strainer with nut milk bag and strain liquid again. Allow to drain, this will take a while. Squeeze solids nut milk bag to extract as much liquid as possible.
Step 4. Enjoy Your Nut Nog.
Serve warm or cold, garnished with freshly grated nutmeg. Makes about 3 cups. Refrigerated, it will keep for several days.

Old Bus Tavern 09.09.2016

For my first field trip under the aegis of “The Reluctant Teetotaler”, I decided to pitch myself a softball.

Old Bus Tavern is a local brewpub myself and my wife frequent regularly. Recently Rachel Leiderman, who I worked with for several years on the Savoy Cocktail Book nights at Alembic Bar, started working there. She knows I haven’t been drinking, and is quite non-drinker friendly.

Old Bus Tavern is an unusual “Brewpub” in that the food is a bit more on the modern side, rather than the usual burger and fries brewpub fare. They are also one of the restaurants taking advantage of California’s “Type 75” license. If you have an onsite, small volume brewery, this license allows you to also sell hard liquor based cocktails, at a fraction of the cost of a regular “Type 47” license, which are very hard to come by in San Francisco.

One of our favorite newer restaurants in the city, it’s a fun place with good food, good beer, and good cocktails. A little expensive, maybe, but what can you do, we live in San Francisco, where it is nearly impossible to even get a decent lunch for under $10.

0% ABV at Old Bus
0% ABV at Old Bus

Old Bus has a section of the menu devoted to their “O% ABV” drinks. They usually have a seasonal soda.

Honey, Champagne Vinegar, Citrus, Soda.
Honey, Champagne Vinegar, Citrus, Soda.

In this case, their most recent soda has honey, Citrus, Champagne Vinegar, and soda water. It is quite refreshing, tart, and not too sweet. Dig the basil leaf garnish.

Ginger Juice, Citrus, Walnut Bitters.
Ginger Juice, Citrus, Walnut Bitters.

Rachel also made me something she’s been enthusiastic about since a friend turned her on to the “Thad Vogler Method for Ginger Juice”. That is, you take an equal amount by weight of sugar, ginger, and water. Either run it through a juicer or just puree it in a food processor and put it through a china cap. This drink was pretty basic, a fair amount of the ginger juice, some citrus juice, and a few dashes of Fee’s Walnut bitters on top. The Walnut bitters and ginger were an unexpectedly good combination.

Rachel also pulled out a bottle of a German non-alcoholic aperitif she recently discovered. It bears the unfortunate name of “Riemerol” (named after its creator Mr Riemerschid and I presume Aperol), it is a non-alcoholic Orange and Quinine based bitter. She made a drink with Riemerol, Citrus, and Soda water. Pretty tasty, a slightly bitter orange soda.

If you’re in Bernal Heights, Old Bus is not only the place to go for food, beer, and cocktails, but also for non-alcoholic drinks.