Bar + Bottle Shop – Alcohol = Curiosity. I’ve never been a big fan of the term “mocktail.” It literally seems to make a mockery of all the things I love about a good cocktail. They tend toward overly sweet, cloyingly fruity, or bland and tasteless. More like a drink for a sugar-addicted child rather than a grown-up looking for something to sip and savor. Nothing like the bitter, nuanced, craft cocktails I like to down. The promise of being able to enjoy a good cocktail without good alcohol never entirely comes to fruition. Until now.
Curious? Curiosity is a new zero-proof bottle shop and bar located in the Maven District – near La Barba Coffee Shop. You will not find a single mocktail here. Instead, Raegan Plewe and Erica Bruin, the co-owners who came up with the concept, have put together the perfect selection of crafted beverages minus the alcohol.
Since this concept is unique in the Salt Lake City area, I asked Raegan who was coming into the bar. “It’s a pretty big mix, which I like,” she said. But we really don’t want to appeal only to people who are 100% sober. We want to have it be a place to explore, wherever people are in their lives. But I guess the one trend that I’ve noticed is most people who come in are interested in at least asking the question or considering their well-being and their health. So I think many people are in different parts of that journey at figuring out their relationship with drinking and what that means for their personal health journey.”
When you visit Curiosity, you can pick up takeaway bottles to stock your home bar or sit in the brightly colored space and enjoy a beer, wine, or a well-thought-out cocktail—all minus the alcohol.
A whole bar experience. With zero-proof drinks. For me, half the joy of a great cocktail is the ambiance and enjoying a libation I would never make at home. That’s what you get at Curiosity. The colors reminded me of a SoCal garden patio when I walked in. All greens, pinks, and blues with lots of bright tile, retro pendant lights, and plenty of plants. Oh, and don’t forget the selection of records. For bonus ambiance.
We sat at the salmon-colored, irregular-shaped table right in the middle and skimmed the menu. Raegan was able to answer questions and give suggestions.
“We want to be switching our drinks every season, so we will come up with new ones. We’re trying to find a good balance between spin-offs of classic cocktails that people already know they may miss because they don’t want to drink alcohol anymore. And some that are just really unique, interesting flavors going on,” said Raegan.
I went straight for the Afterall Spritz since I’m a sucker for anything orange and bright. Delivered in the classic spritz fashion, in a wine glass with plenty of ice and an orange slice. It was a little sweet, but I got that satisfying astringent end note, usually delivered by Aperol, from the bay leaf bitters and orange bitters.
My drinking companion went straight for a non-alcoholic Hazy IPA by Athletic Brewing Co. Cold and poured into a glass, it was a refreshing beverage on a warm day. I took a sip—but alcoholic or not, I can’t entirely fall in love with IPAs.
Yes, we could tell that these drinks were alcohol-free. And, no, it didn’t matter. They were clearly well made, and we thoroughly enjoyed them.
The tagline at Curiosity is “same social habits, different ingredients.” And that held true. We got to do some people-watching, some catching up, some sipping, and even enjoyed their crudites board with hummus. The hummus was fresh-made with generous amounts of veggies. A proper bar experience. Next time we return, I will try the chocolate board with a selection of artisanal chocolate, fresh fruit, and honey Crème fraîche.
Our next round, my date, got the Livener Margarita. Made with the margarita staples of lime juice plus tajin on the rim, the Livener Elixir and Dho’s Organic Liqueur showed up as a surprising ruby color but also showed up as delicious.
I got Man-In-A-Hat as my next cocktail because I am a sucker for anything spicy, and I couldn’t resist the sound of the Drupefruit Habanero Shrub. It had a subtle heat that built over time, without ever being too tart or too spicy, like some shrubs. It was my favorite of the night.
I asked Raegan what she’s drinking right now. “I really like the Pony Boy. That one tends to be more bitter, herbal, and it has a hemp-based spirit. So it kind of has a noticeable effect for most people, which is nice. You get a slight euphoric feeling when you drink it, but I like it because it can still be strong and punchy,” she said. “I think that’s one of the most difficult things to replicate without alcohol is something that would be a more traditionally boozy style drink, which is what I would prefer to drink. It’s been really frustrating to try to get a non-alcoholic drink places, and most of the time, it usually just has a lot of juice, sparkling water, or sugar. And I don’t think many people know how to do anything other than that. So I like the Pony Boy because it is very spirit forward.”
Stock your own non-alcoholic bar — The appeal of the bottle shop is being able to purchase a wide variety of the same craft, non-alcoholic spirits. The best part? You can take advantage of their $2 pours to get a taste before you buy a whole bottle. Be sure to check that your favorites are in stock before you head over as they have a rotating selection.
“We’re just looking for interesting tasting beverages [in the bottle shop] that are not overly sweet, not really in the realm of sodas or anything like that, that can take the place of complex alcoholic beverages,” Raegan noted. “So we wanted to have a variety of different products. Some that are more replicating your traditional alcohol tastes. Beer, wine, your whiskey, alternative things like that. But then we also thought it was really important to have some that had herbal qualities and some that were just complex beverages on their own that don’t really have to be compared to anything.”
I have some of the Ghia APÉRITIF in my fridge right now. But Curiosity has flavors in their bottle shop from Ghia I’ve never seen before. Billed as “social tonics,” Ghia beverages remind me of the house-made vermouths that make your way to the table at the end of a meal in Spain. Herby, bold, and sweet. Perfect for sipping rather than shooting.
I’m also a big fan of Monday Spirits. Curiosity carries the entire lineup. The Monday Gin rates at the top of my booze-free bar. It makes for a satisfying Gin and Tonic. I like to keep some on hand for friends that aren’t social drinkers but still enjoy a drink when they come over.
Are you sober-curious? Prefer 0% ABV? Buzz-free? Or merely like to mix up your cocktail routine? We’d love to hear what you think and how you drink.
Curious to visit Curiosity?
- Curiosity Zero Proof Bottle Shop and Bar | Website | Instagram
- 145 E. 900 South, SLC, Phone: 385-259-0193
- Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
- Sunday: 11 a.m. 8 p.m.
- Closed Monday
See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah.
Other stories: SPEND DRY JANUARY SIPPING IN STYLE