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Vibe Log

The Rise of the Non-Alcoholic Pairing Menu

Carefully crafted zero-proof pairings at fine-dining restaurants around the world are proving to offer much more than a substitute for wine

Written by Jaclyn DeGiorgio - August 15, 2022

Non-alcoholic programs have come a long way since abstainers were confined to a performative juice tucked below the booze. Over the last decade, chefs and restaurateurs worldwide have developed non-alcoholic drinks specifically for pairing with tasting menus. Yet these juices, distillates, infusions, extractions, and kombuchas are not merely a substitute for wine—they draw on a commitment to hospitality and enhance the meal.

“Spirit-free pairings can heighten the experience in a way typical wine pairings don’t,” says Julia Momosé, a bartender, mixologist, author, and owner of Kumiko dining bar in Chicago, which has an extensive menu of non-alcoholic mixed drinks. “Unlike wines, ‘spiritfrees’ are created specifically for that dish.” Momosé coined the term “spiritfree” in a 2017 manifesto denouncing the word “mocktail,” a designation she believes diminishes the care that goes into non-alcoholic drink development.

Shortly after opening his now two-star Michelin Oriole, also in Chicago, chef Noah Sandoval enlisted Momosé to craft spirit-free pairings for his tasting menu, adding traction to a growing worldwide practice. “A lot of folks want that pairing experience, but are not looking to drink nine glasses of wine,” Momosé explains. “There’s always been a desire for non-wine options, and it was about time.”


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