Sarah Crowl doesn't want you to call it a mocktail. They're zero-proof cocktails, says the Coltivare bar manager, and they're better and more nuanced than you might expect.
"The whole idea and stigma behind a 'mocktail' in the industry is a negative one; people don't take it seriously," says Crowl. "Also, treating it like a cocktail and caring about it isn't a thing that bars and restaurants necessarily don't subscribe to, so we thought about just the way we would go through the creative process of any cocktail."
The zero-proof cocktails she helped developed at Coltivare are a hit among all kids of customers, including pregnant women, people limiting their alcohol intake, and those who just don't want to have booze. But beyond that, it's just refreshing to see a cocktail menu that includes carefully-crafted drinks that don't have alcohol. It's especially meaningful to someone who'd rather not drink under a particularly stressful or anxious time.
Which brings us to WellWeek, the now annual (and now two-week-long) event produced by nonprofit I'll Have What She's Having, which advocates for and promotes issues surrounding women in the hospitality industry. WellWeek is an opportunity for people to talk about mental health, whether in the kitchen, front of house, or bar, or outside of restaurants and in everyday life.
For WellWeek this year, participating restaurants and bars have been asked to create zero-proof cocktails to serve over the two-week period. They can make their own or use recipes created by Crowl (they include a cherry limeade, melon tonic, tea and ginger beer drink, and a cantaloupe non-rita). $1 from every zero-proof drink sold will benefit the National Alliance on Mental Health-Greater Houston, Mental Health of America-Greater Houston, and the Southern Smoke Foundation. (As an alternative to a cocktail, an establishment can make a dessert or designate a menu item for WellWeek purposes.)
Crowl hopes that by putting more zero-proof cocktails on menus across the city, customers see them as viable options when dining. The message: When you're out, and maybe you're not feeling so great, don't ever feel like you have to drink alcohol.
"You feel the pressure to drink or you're not part of the group, so that's all part of it. And the statistics [regarding Americans who have mental health issues] are so great," says Crowl. "So, these [cocktails] are all ways to maybe ease the process and be more open about it."
Participating restaurants, bars, and eateries include Camerata, Hugo's, Indianola, Kolache Shoppe, Nancy's Hustle, UB Preserv and more. WellWeek runs Sunday, Sept. 29 through Oct. 12. For a full list of participants and more information, visit wellweek.org.