Whether or not you're attempting a full-on Sober January, there's something to be said for a little booze cutback after the indulgence of December (read: taking tequila shots with your Uncle Steve circa 11 a.m. on Christmas Day).
But scaling back on the hard stuff doesn't mean staying in like a hermit. We've tracked down the top spots for booze-free libations, some of which also happen to have the best real drinks in town, too. You know, to keep in mind for February (or your second round).
① The Interval, Fort Mason
Easily one of the most exciting cocktail bars to come onto the scene in 2014, The Interval has become a destination for thoughtful, history-backed cocktails. But Jennifer Colliau doesn't skimp on the menu's virgin selections. The "Temperate and Teetotaling" section features four mouthwatering, booze-free concoctions: Keep it classic with the Bitter Orange Old Fashioned ($6), featuring Chinotto soda and bitters, or liven things up with a Jamaica Cooler ($7) made with hibiscus tisane, sparkling water and Colliau's own pineapple gum syrup.
② The Devil's Acre, North Beach
North Beach newcomer Devil's Acre has a selection of alcohol-free drinks that rivals the boozy offerings. Nine house-made sodas and 10 "Remedies & Elixers" will keep you satisfied for round after round of health-conscious sipping. We plan on gearing up for cold season with an Immunity Tonic ($2, plus $6 with Aromatic Elixir or Surfeit Water), loaded with elderberry, echinacea and goji berry, and quenching sweet-spicy cravings with the house-made ginger beer ($5).
③ Dosa, Pacific Heights and the Mission
It's tough to say no to Dosa's Spice Route cocktails. But the "Virgin Tales" section of the drinks menu makes your booze break less painful. Try a take on delicious Indian classics like lassi ($5; mango, sweet or salty) or chai ($3.50), or get a taste of summer with the South Indian Monsoon ($6), a blend of muddled citrus, mint and ginger, topped with pomegranate and mango juices.
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④ Rich Table, Hayes Valley
It's hard to improve on a meal at Rich Table, but the nicely tailored selection of house-made "Refreshers" ($6 each) make a wonderful accompaniment to your porcini doughnuts and sardine chips. We're particularly loving the herbaceous grapefruit tarragon soda, a lovely and creative use of winter citrus.
⑤ Millennium, Tenderloin
Given the Millennium team's deft hand with meat-free cuisine, it shouldn't be surprising that the five-drink-strong "Non-Alcoholic Libations" ($7 each) section is just as delicious as the hard stuff. Try the wonderfully simple Sparkling Grape, made with Navarro Gewürztraminer juice and fresh mint, or the unbelievably tasty (and healthy) Raw-Volution, a blend of kombucha, ginger agave and freshly muddled fruits.
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