Mocktails Are the Real Deal for Drinkers Who Don’t Feel Like Drinking: Q&A With Manhattan Beach Post

Photo Courtesy of Manhattan Beach Post.

Although but a slight drop, in 2015, there was a global decline in alcohol demand — the first decline in more than a decade, so it's no surprise to see guests who aren't buzzing about getting buzzed. But with guests choosing to opt out of alcoholic drinks, how are restaurants catering to these customers who still want to fulfill social obligations without feeling left out on the beverage menu? Say hello to the mocktail.

And there's no "mock" about it. They may be called mocktails, but these drinks are the real deal when it comes to trends in the beverage sector. While dinner and drinks will always be a common joint venture for outings, non-alcoholic drinks are bubbling up, and so are the expectations for booze-free beverages besides a soda, sweet tea, or standard lemonade.

From Foodable Top 25-ranked Los Angeles restaurant Ink., which also ranked as one of our Top 100 Social Restaurant, serving up a virgin Moscow Mule to Foodable Top 25-ranked New York City restaurant Gramercy Tavern stirring up The Cosmonot, we've seen a handful of restaurants mixing things up and making space behind the bar for these booze-less but beautiful concoctions.

Here, get to know the lineup of mocktails at Manhattan Beach Post, a "soulful, highly personal restaurant" by Chef David LeFevre that delights guests in its urban space with funky farm-to-table fare. M.B. Post, aside from its signature handcrafted classic cocktails and seasonal menus, boasts fresh-squeezed juices, housemade syrups, salts, and a variety of artisanal ingredients, flavors, and textures.

Meet the Mocktails

This official first round of mocktails at M.B. Post was in response to frequent guest requests, presumably as a result of "Dry January," a public health campaign that encourages the abstinence from alcohol for the entire month. But even with a lack of alcohol, these drinks do not lack flavor. Curious to see the latest concoctions calling attention on M.B. Post's menu? Meet the mocktails you need to get acquainted with. (Maybe it'll inspire a few sips of your own for your restaurant!)

Spicy Pomegranate: A tart, spicy, and thirst-quenching drink with bright acidity. 

  • pomegranate juice

  • cranberry

  • lime

  • serrano pepper

Coconut Limeade: A bright citrus mocktail rounded by the sweetness of coconut and vanilla. 

  • coconut milk

  • lime

  • vanilla bean

  • kaffir lime

Strawberry Basil Lemonade: Cobbler-style lemonade with strawberry, basil, and black peppercorn purée.

  • fresh strawberry

  • basil

  • housemade lemonade

  • black pepper

Pineapple-Yuzu Collins: A refreshing and effervescent tropical mocktail with Japanese citrus and mint.

  • pineapple juice

  • ginger beer

  • mint

  • yuzu

Q&A With Manager Brendan O'Shea on the Modern Mocktail

Some people were born to be in the restaurant and hospitality business. For bartender-turned-manager Brendan O'Shea, it happens to be quite literally. His mother, Tess O'Shea, who owned and operated restaurants since before he was alive, had to leave on the opening night of her first Arizona restaurant, Presidio Grill, to give birth to him. (Fun fact: the restaurant service and his delivery went pretty smoothly.)

Growing up, his "momma" would pick him up from school and he'd plant himself at the bar to do homework while the staff got ready for incoming diners. With restaurants in his blood and him being in restaurants, it's no shock that he found his calling in this industry. Eventually, he made his way to M.B. Post in 2014.

"I applied as a bartender...but was hired as a barback and told by our director of operations, Jerry Garbus, that I needed to earn the right to pick up a bar spoon," O'Shea explained in a statement.

From there, he excelled, first as a bartender and then as a manager. As someone who is "incredibly happy so long as I'm constantly challenged and given plenty of chances to learn," it only makes sense that he switched his FOH manager hat with his bartender shaker once the challenge of non-alcoholic drinks came about in his guests' requests.

"My hospitality philosophy is actually quite philosophical, but I’ll be brief. It all boils down to welcoming people into your restaurant as you would a guest into your home. The concept is ancient," he said. "In Greek mythology, there were laws governing the treatment of strangers — and even enemies — under one’s roof and violators of the laws were literally punished by the gods. While I’m not particularly worried about thunderbolts, there is an underlying notion with hospitality that you’re ‘paying it forward.'"

1. What pushed you to create a mocktail? Is it more or less challenging that conceptualizing a cocktail?

Brendan O'Shea: We initially decided to add a few mocktails to the menu because we were looking to broaden the scope of our non-alcoholic beverage program at the restaurant and offer more options on the actual menu. Our team spends a ton of time seeking out what we perceive to be quality small-batch spirits, soulful wines, artisanal beers, and we work extremely hard at developing balanced and spirit-forward cocktails.

I believe that this dedication to finding product is important to a successful beverage program, but we realized that we may have been depriving some of our guests a handcrafted drink sans booze. To us, mocktails were the perfect solution because they epitomize a lot of Chef David’s philosophies and are true to our menu: seasonal, handcrafted, and product-driven.

2. Out of the handful for M.B. Post, do you have a favorite? What elements about it do you enjoy the most?

BS: Heading into spring, my favorite is the Pineapple-Yuzu Collins. Its effervescence makes it super refreshing, and the fresh pineapple is complemented beautifully by the addition of yuzu, a bright and very distinct Japanese citrus. 

3. To you, what makes a great drink? What is your creative process behind it?

BS: At the end of the day, the most important part of making a great drink (which can be applied to both “mock” and “cock”) is achieving balance. Our approach is typically to start with a classic archetype and swap out different components until we’ve got something we’re excited about. I also think it’s incredibly important to approach the creative process with another person and an open mind.

There’s a cool quote which has always resonated with me from the bar book "Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails," which says, “Tasting and evaluating by yourself is a bad idea because a monologue will never be productive as a dialogue…and it doesn’t matter whether others are inexperienced tasters or their preferences are wildly different than your own.” Any time I’ve put up a drink that I’m excited about, the first thing I want to do is share it with someone.

4. What are your thoughts on the mocktail trend? How do you see it now and where do you see it going?

BS: I’m digging the mocktail trend and am excited to see what cool new flavor combinations are out there. I figure that if you remove booze from the artistic process, you’re typically going to see longer, more level-headed creative sessions, which should make for some awesome bevvies.

5. Any last thoughts you'd like to share?

BS: Hell yeah! Swing by M.B. Post and check out the new line-up of spring mocktails. I’d also like to encourage our guests to think outside the box. Our chefs seriously hook it up with some amazing products that change seasonally and we’ve got access to a ton cool stuff, a lot of which may not be listed on the menu. We actually enjoy making drinks on the fly, so please don’t be afraid to ask. Some of my favorite drinks of all time have started with,  “Can you make me something with _____?”  and “Hmm, let’s find out...