I've been conducting an experiment to see what my options would be at Milwaukee bars and restaurants if I decided not to consume alcohol.
Funny, in a state where we are so focused on designated driving, there don't seem to be a whole heck of a lot of options.
Sure, soda is aplenty. You can get a soda, lemonade, usually coffee, tea or any juice that typically plays a role in a mixed drink (grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, OJ -- you get to picture).
Many places seem to be pretty good about having some sort of non-alcoholic beer; be it an O'Douls, Clausthaler or Kaliber to get you through the evening without feeling like you have to sip a Shirley Temple. Although usually you'll only get one option, and you may have to blow the dust from the bottle before drinking it.
It's much easier at Mexican restaurants or brunch places as it's pretty simple to make a virgin margarita or Bloody Mary.
Recently, I lucked out at a tiny new bistro where I was able to get a glass of really lovely non-alcoholic sparkling cider, but that was my only success after more than three dozen attempt to get a glass of non-alcoholic wine at local bars and restaurants.
I would have even been happy with a glass of Fre, the just-palatable version we carried when I tended bar a decade ago, but nope; nothing, though one kind host at a Third Ward venue suggested I run to the wine shop across the street and bring a bottle of NA wine back, which they'd allow me to drink for a $15 corkage fee.
Since corkage fees are illegal in Wisconsin and $15 seemed a hefty price to pay for a buzz kill, I wasn't all that disappointed that the store didn't have any non-alcoholic product, either. Instead, I settled for some juice concoction the bartender served in a martini glass.
This is likely the result of lack of demand for NA products, but nonetheless disappointing.
If someone's going to be the DD, they should at least have a fun array of product to keep them occupied while their friends drink up.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.