When Annie Balow was pregnant, she was disappointed with the number of nonalcoholic drink options when she would go out to eat.
Balow, who opened downtown restaurant Thai Pop last month with her husband Ryan Balow, made sure to add a few nonalcoholic “mocktails” of their own to their menu.
A month after opening, the volume of lunch business Thai Pop has seen has made the mocktails an important menu item, Ryan Balow said.
“Lunch is so busy and I think people want a few options,” he said.
The mocktail offerings were designed to balance the spicy and savory dishes on the menu, Balow added.
“We’re looking at something that cools down the pallet,” he said.
Most contain fruit juice which is squeezed daily. The ingredients for those and regular cocktails sit in bottles on the restaurant bar.
“We put them up there because we want people to know these are fresh,” Balow said.
Fresh ingredients are a key to creating interesting concoctions that people enjoy sipping, said Josh Kral, beverage designer at Bitter & Pour.
The same syrups and tonics the bar makes from scratch that go into standard cocktails also make it into the nonalcoholic cocktails.
“People don’t really chug our tonics too much,” Kral said. “It’s something you’ll want to sip on."
Many of the cocktails are seasonal or are put together when inspiration strikes and the right ingredient is available.
“I like to use new ingredients I’ve never used before,” Kral said. "When you make as many fresh syrups as we do, it gives you some options."
During the summer, Kral created new tonics when he found taro root at the farmers market in Rochester and another out of plums when they were in season.
The plum tonic itself made a nice drink on the rocks, he said.
Another pleasant surprise was the wood notes picked up by water he used to prime a barrel for aging ingredients. (The wood barrel soaks up the water to seal the vessel so it doesn’t leak when used with other ingredients.)
For one night, that water was an excellent addition to mocktails and cocktails, he said.
The next day, the water was past its prime.
“It was fun to play with for that night,” he said.
The Balows crowd sourced some of their recipes with a backyard party and fresh ingredients on hand. People were invited to mix and match ingredients as they wished.
The couple tweaked the recipes and added fresh garnish for the presentation.
“We really want the drink to look good,” he said.
The Bodhi is named after their daughter who, in a way, inspired the menu of drinks.
“There’s a lot of thought behind this,” Balow said.
While there are three choices on the menu now, Balow said they’ll be adding more.
Kral said demand for the mocktails appeared to peak about a year ago and then saw another jump in demand at the beginning of the year.
“They’re something for people who want a break or for the drivers,” he said.
A downtown Rochester mocktail menu
- Pineapple nojito (house-made pineapple puree, house-made vanilla demerara, syrup, coconut water, fresh mint, locally made Earl Giles, ginger beer)
Bitter & Pour
- Shirley Temple (Mexican Sprite, house grenadine, luxardo cherry, orchid)
- Virgin Ginger (house ginger syrup, lime, soda, candied ginger)
- Zero Expectation (house tonic, blackberry, saffron or lemongrass)
- Strawberry Ginger (house ginger syrup, fresh lime, strawberry puree, soda)
- White Elephant (coconut cream, lime juice, kaffir lime simple syrup)
- Bodhi Breeze (lime juice, Thai basil, coconut sugar, club soda)
- Island Hopper (ginger syrup, passion fruit, lemon, club soda)
- And Don’t Call Me Shirley (fall grenadine, lemon, soda)
- Eiffel 65 (blueberry, lime, bubbles)