It shouldn’t be too sweet. In fact, let it be dry, astringent, bitter or tannic. Give it an element of complexity and surprise, a touch of the exotic or mysterious. Bring on the bubbles, in the optimum size. Keep it fresh, local and organic.
Oh, and no alcohol, please.
Just because you are a designated driver, an expectant mother, a straight-edge teetotaler or merely in the mood for a refreshing, distinctive, hangover-free beverage, you aren’t precluded from having a palate just as demanding as your wine- or booze-imbibing counterparts.
But finding a truly satisfying, sophisticated nonalcoholic drink with which to slake your adult taste buds can be a challenge. If the classic fountain soda or sparkling water options are beginning to bore you, take comfort: There are a growing number of virgin concoctions on tap around the county that, while technically nonalcoholic, are nothing short of intoxicating.
CUP O’ CULTURE
Kreuzberg Café in SLO is cool with a capital K. And it’s not just because of its quintessential hipster vibe or the Alice-in-Wonderland décor of upside-down lamp-chandeliers, artfully askew mirrors and ironic authorly portraits. It’s because of the kombucha.
Kreuzberg (as well as Bliss and Roxeanne’s cafés and MindBody in SLO) is helping kick off the local version of the kombucha revolution currently rocking the nation by serving up full pint glasses of the Japanese-derived, probiotic, fermented tea beverage, brewed locally by Komplete Kombucha.
Komplete co-owners Jake Pritzlaff and Molly Hemler (their third partner, Mike Durighello, was out of the country) recently offered us a private tasting of their craft, cultured concoction, explaining that kombucha has been brewed for centuries as a digestive aid, immune support, detoxifier and mental clarity enhancer but is now seeing a surge of growth in the mainstream. A seeming panacea to many of its proponents, the effervescent elixir’s booming popularity can be explained by its diverse uses: as a healthy alternative to beer or coffee, a safe option for nursing mothers or, says Pritzlaff, a cure for indigestion or hangovers.
Nevertheless, he says, “A lot of people still don’t know what it is.”
Komplete set out to change that about twoand- a-half years ago, starting its first brew in Durighello’s garage with little more than a bit of a friend’s “mother”—the slippery, amorphous live culture (or SCOBY, symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) that does its magic to brewed tea, and that Pritzlaff says feels a little like “dolphin skin”—and “just lots of love,” says Hemler with the serene sincerity of a yoga teacher (her other profession) and a smile.
Now housed in an 800-gallon-per-month brewery and retail space on South Higuera in SLO, and made with teas from local Secret Garden Organic Herb Shop, all-organic ingredients and the same original mother, Komplete provides a growing lineup of flavors. Current brews include the aromatic Hibiscus Rose, the invigorating Ginger Sarsaparilla, the earthy and relaxing Kava-Kava, the light and bright Citrus Ginger and the Original Black Tea flavor, each with less than .5% alcohol.
Slightly less pungent, acidic or aggressive than some bottled kombuchas you can find in grocery stores, Komplete’s brand of the cool, refreshing, fizzy tea beverage is approachable for newcomers to the kombucha scene, while still complex and crisp enough to stand beside a hoppy IPA or brut rosé at the bar. Komplete has plans to offer tastings and growler refills from their brewery in the near future; find out more at Facebook.com/KompleteKombucha.
Get your (virgin) fix at one of these locations, or share your own finds with us at Facebook.com/ EdibleSLO.
PISMO BREWING COMPANY brews its own craft root beer alongside its alcoholic brown, blond and red ale brothers at 355 Pomeroy Ave. in Pismo Beach; 805.295.6200.
J. LOHR VINEYARDS & WINES leads the industry of de-alcoholized wines with its award-winning Ariel brand. Try the Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay—made primarily from the same grapes as its regular wines—at the tasting room. 6169 Airport Rd., Paso Robles; 805.239.8900.
PITHY LITTLE WINE COMPANY, with its line of artisan sodas for the discerning drinker, is moving out of its downtown Paso Robles location on the corner of Pine and 13th streets. Buy a bottle of the limited-edition commemorative 125th Anniversary Paso Robles Ginger Ale while you can, or shop the full line of sodas online at PithyWine.com.
SCOUT COFFEE COMPANY shakes up the coffee house menu with sodas and sparkling teas made on site with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Their Strawberry Lemon Soda combines fresh strawberries, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar, while the Strawberry Hibiscus or Green Pear Sparkling Teas consist of fruit, tea concentrate and sparkling water (no sugar added). 1130 Garden St., San Luis Obispo; 805.439.2175.
LUNA RED: True, you can order “mocktails” or virgin versions of cocktails at any bar, but Luna Red makes it easier and more welcoming for non-imbibers with a menu of exotic and tantalizing Virgin House Sodas like Cucumber Lavender (muddled cucumber, lavender water, simple syrup); Watermelon Mint (watermelon juice, fresh mint, simple syrup) and Strawberry Basil (house-made strawberry purée, fresh basil, simple syrup). 1023 Chorro St., San Luis Obispo; 805.540.5243.