By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jan 17, 2023 at 7:04 PM

If you’ve been following Milwaukee’s swiftly growing coffee scene, you’ve absolutely heard of Discourse, the experiential and experimental “liquid workshop” which got its start in Door County, but laid down its roots in Milwaukee last summer.

And if you’ve been among the many whose taste buds have been tickled by the Discourse team’s inventive creations, you’ll want to take note of their latest project: The Counter Day Bar, an establishment dedicated to zero proof cocktails.

The new venue, which will be located inside Crossroads Collective at 2238 N. Farwell Ave., will take the place of the Discourse Cafe which opened last winter at the East Side food hall and observed its last service at the end of the year.

Slated to make its debut Feb. 1, the new concept will be Milwaukee’s newest nolo bar, a reference to no- or low-proof drinks, joining the ranks of local venues including the new HoneyBee Sage Apothecary & Herbal Beverage Lounge in Halyard Park, which aim to enhance the local cocktail scene with concepts dedicated to zero proof options.

Glassware for The Counter Day Bar
The Counter Bar glassware (Photo: The Counter Day Bar)

What to expect

The name "The Counter Day Bar" brings multiple meanings to the table. Not only will it feature a special counter area which guests can reserve for an immersive experience, but the venue itself will provide a counter to drinking culture itself: a place for any and everyone to gather and feel seen, heard and taken care of, regardless of whether or not they choose to consume alcohol.

Local bartender Zoe Lomenzo, who will manage the new  bar, is currently working alongside Discourse founder, Ryan Castelaz, to develop the unique menu for the venue.

“I’m really excited,” she says. “There’s a whole world of flavors and flavor combinations at our disposal. So, the playground is huge. We’ll be using not only existing products in the market, but also a large number of housemade items including tinctures and essences.”

The goal, notes Castelaz, will be to offer a selection of experimental drinks which push the boundaries of expectation for non-alcoholic cocktails. 

The ambitious debut menu, which is currently in development, will be called Myths and Fables. The theme, which takes inspiration from Aesop's fables and Greco-Roman mythology will capture customers’ imaginations through inventive presentations, unique builds and sensory experiences.

In addition to drinks, which can be ordered and enjoyed anywhere in the East Side food hall, The Counter Day Bar will also feature four counter-side stools which can be reserved for immersive 90-minute experiences during which they will sample a tasting menu of cocktails and learn more about the concept. 

“The counter experience is meant to transport you to another place and engage you with the concept in a more immersive way,” says Castelaz, who notes that their goal is not only to create another venue that offers zero-proof drinks, but to exceed the expectations for anyone who pays a visit.

“We want to have the best cocktail bar in the city,” he says. “And I don’t think the absence of alcohol will prevent us from doing so.”

Get a sneak peek

Guests can get a sneak peek at the concept during a collaborative pop-up coming up on Friday, Jan. 20 from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. at Discourse Downtown, 1020 N. Broadway. The pop-up will feature a selection of zero proof creations including tiki favorites from JC Cunningham of Pufferfish.

Follow The Counter Day Bar on Instagram for additional insights and details.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.