My favorite way to welcome house- and dinner guests is to surprise them with cocktail hour or, depending on what time they arrive, a Bloody Mary or mimosa welcome hour. New Orleans is, after all, such a welcoming place, so a welcome reception is one of the best ways to set the tone for the friendliness and hospitality to come. Earlier this year, we had houseguests that are non-drinkers, so instead of champagne, French 75s or some other alcohol-driven drink, I filled a chic little drink bucket with ice and various non-alcoholic and dealcoholized options. As the sober and sober curious movement gains momentum — and folks with the usual reasons for not wanting to drink become more familiar with non-alcoholic options — I have a feeling we are all going to see a lot more people opting for no- and low-ABV options. It’s possible that you’ve seen many of them on restaurant and bar menus around the city or at events. Offering a choice of both things that mimic their spiked counterparts, as well as picks that aren’t trying to be like anything else, is a good way to cover your bases, no matter why someone is abstaining. If you aren’t hiring a bartender, keeping these drinks in a separate drink bin or cooler marked “Non-Alcoholic” is a good way to keep anyone from getting mixed up. 

There are several options from New Orleans entities, as well as selections from national brands that are available locally, so it will be easy for you to stock up without relying on online purchases (unless you just want to). 

Mockly is a woman-owned, New Orleans-based brand blended with fruit juices, herbs and spices. These refreshing sippers are a treat simply poured over ice or you can use them as a base for recipes with zero-proof spirits (or the real stuff for tipplers) such as Seedlip (available at Total Wine & More) and Ritual Zero Proof alternative tequila, gin or whiskey (available at Total Wine as well as Whole Foods) or with a variety of additions, such as soda, fruit or fresh herbs. El Guapo is also a woman-owned, New Orleans-based brand of non-alcoholic bitters and cordials. The Lime Cordial syrup is delightful with ginger ale or, like Mockly, used as an ingredient in either a non-alcoholic or spiked cocktail. It’s available online and at various New Orleans grocery and liquor stores. Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher is sparkling hop water made by Lagunitas Brewing Co. out of Northern California. It is sweet, refreshing and flavorful. I’ve found this in New Orleans at Whole Foods, but it’s widely available in grocery and liquor stores. Sovi has a delightful and dry dealcoholized sparkling rosé and a sparkling white conveniently packaged in single serve cans. It truly tastes like the real thing and is made by a husband-and-wife, wine-lover and sommelier team out of California. (The company makes my favorite dealcoholized red as well.) Get the sparkling rosé or white at New Orleans’ newest wellness and oxygen bar, Dream House Lounge downtown. The lounge has a bottle shop and specializes in “conscious cocktails.” 

The looks of delight on my guests’ faces when I handed them a champagne glass of sparkling rosé that they could enjoy without consequences sent me over the moon. My guest who has been sober for six years mentioned time and again how much she loved being introduced to the concept of mocktails and NA replacement drinks, because it made her feel so much more included in the festivities. 

Melanie Warner Spencer