Jan 20, 2023 - Things to Do

Crafting nonalcoholic cocktails

Oak Steakhouse in Nashville. Photo: Courtesy of Oak Steakhouse

Kala Ellis spends her days in pursuit of flavor.

  • As beverage director at Oak Steakhouse downtown, she uses syrups and juices to make the drinks she serves sing — with or without alcohol.

Driving the news: Ellis tells Axios that Dry January and the growing popularity of alcohol-free cocktails are energizing trends that allow her to meet and serve more customers.

  • She plans to continue expanding her zero-proof offerings. Her mission is to craft them with the same care and sophistication she'd bring to any other beverage.

What she's saying: "You can create some incredible flavor profiles with zero-proof spirits and with different techniques for blending juices and syrups."

State of play: Ellis says demand for elevated zero-proof options has grown rapidly during her years working as a bartender. She says bars would be smart to stock zero-proof brands like Ritual to create a welcoming environment for all customers.

  • "This is something that people want, and we want to meet them where they're at — whether it's for Dry January or just … any day of the week."
  • "We see, especially as we improve our list, they are moneymakers. I really think that bars should lean into them."

🔥 Hot tip: The key to a good cocktail, regardless of the alcoholic content, is balance. Ellis says ginger syrup is an excellent go-to for rounding out zero-proof drinks with a punch of heat. A tiny dash of habanero can hit the same mark.

  • "It doesn't have to be a spicy cocktail, but just that little bit of heat creates a more advanced experience," she says.

Here's Ellis' recipe for a nonalcoholic cocktail made with mint and zero-proof gin.

Menta Limón Ingredients:

1 ounce Ritual’s zero-proof gin.

1 ounce mint syrup.

1 ounce lemon juice.

The first step is to make the mint syrup:

  • Make simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water). Pour it into a quart container, while leaving about a fourth of the container empty for the mint.
  • Take two large bundles of mint, twist up, and add mint leaves to simple syrup. Stir in and let rest overnight in the fridge.
  • Strain and refrigerate.


  1. Hard shake ingredients.
  2. Add cobbled ice and a splash of soda.
  3. Pour into a Collins glass and garnish with expressed mint sprigs.

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