Kombucha at Santropol
In a city as vibrant and energetic as Montreal, a Friday night is often celebrated amongst booze, friends and late-night pizza. Lately, however, I’ve been finding myself going out without booze while still “grabbing a drink.” Although I’m not sober myself, some of the people I am closest to are and it’s been eye-opening to see how they navigate the non-alcoholic side of this city’s bars.
It’s far from easy. Bartenders can be confused by the request, and strangers will sometimes aggressively insist they buy you something alcoholic. Despite these missteps, some of my friends have found solace in spots serving up creative mocktails and non-alcoholic options on tap.
I was pretty impressed by the amount of non-alcoholic options Santropol offers. The café features rotating Kombucha on tap, always bubbly, fresh and topped with fresh fruit and a citrus garnish. It rotates flavours depending on popularity and is sourced from an outside company called Chaga. I was able to try their Cucumber Melon Rose topped with lime and pineapple ($3.26). At first I was underwhelmed, but the rose aftertaste and its refreshing quality had a way of encouraging me to finish the whole glass.
It is important to note however that some Kombucha, including the brand offered at Santropol, contain a small percentage of alcohol due to the fermentation process. This point may be moot for some as the percentage is quite low (often below 5 per cent), but it can make a difference. The alcohol percentage can change from one type of Kombucha to the next, so it is always best to look into each brand before consuming it or simply try something else.
Santropol and many other cafés like it offer ginger beer from a company called Reed’s. However, nothing was as shockingly tasty as the spruce beer made by the Quebec-based Marco Sodas. This was by far the best tasting option on the menu and a must-try for someone looking for a great alcohol-free option.
1351 Rachel E.
Well known for its alcoholic creations, I wasn’t sure if le Lab was going to have a great non-alcoholic option, but it was a lovely surprise to try their Open Sesame mocktail. This drink features a distinctive flavour combination and is super refreshing: a smoothie blending basil leaves with tea infusions and citrus. At le Lab, both the alcoholic and alcohol-free drinks are made with the same amount of care and attention to detail. It’s an attribute that can be hard to find in other bustling bar spots in the Plateau. If you’re someone who truly loves to dive into the art of a beautifully crafted and embellished cocktail, that le Lab has to be on your list.
Notre Dame des Quilles
32 Beaubien E.
I could probably go on forever about how much I love this Little Italy spot. NDQ is an LGBTQ-friendly bar hang with bowling and pizza by the slice all night: a queer lady’s dream. It’s super comfy and inviting, especially when considering their non-alcoholic drink section. The menu includes in-house lemonade, but the real treasure is their ginger beer. Served in a tall glass, it’s so biting and packed with ginger that it’ll settle your stomach after the first sip. I found myself wanting to toss out my pint so I could finish off my girlfriend’s glass — it’s that good. This drink is definitely not for the faint of heart, but its spicy and sharp notes make for a truly memorable drinking experience. Add a slice to the mix and you’re in for a pretty good night out for under $10.
What I love most about a good non-alcoholic option is the creativity. There’s nothing worse than a $7 sans alcohol beverage without any pizazz or excitement. These establishments — and others that are slowly joining the trend — recognize the importance of making our sober friends feel comfortable, and of deprioritizing alcohol as a necessity. This inclusive spirit goes well beyond merely tossing a bottled juice at them on a Friday night. ■