Portland, Oregon’s first-ever zero-proof bar and bottle shop set in the mixed-use Goat Blocks building in the Buckman neighborhood.
I repeat: zero-proof, non-alcoholic, booze-free.
Suckerpunch started as a pop-up* event before getting “sucker-punched” by the pandemic, then pivoting into mocktail kit shipments (packed with preferred non-alcoholic spirits and mixers) for folks to sip soberly at home. The second COVID-19 restrictions lifted; the in-person experience resumed—moving from “pop-up” to (semi-) permanent status.
*Food for thought: Pop-ups refer to culinary concepts or events that are separated from a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant or mobile food cart. They play a large part of the foodie scene in Portland: Many businesses that started as pop-ups became some of the city’s top establishments, i.e. Indonesian standby Gado Gado. (via Eater PDX)
The team continues to work out kinks today (kudos to customer comment cards) as they “remain open-minded” to the non-alc [N/A] category “for the people,” mentions owner Andy McMillan. Suckerpunch not only attracts sober-curious guests through artful alc-free options… but recovering ones (that fill 30-percent of capacity during service hours). “It is a safe space for those to share their journeys,” McMillan adds. In fact, the experimental space features a cubical center bar for guests to circle and converse for that “community feel” while expert bartenders shake, stir, and swirl euphoric cocktails.
As a “pioneer to the N/A experience,” McMillan describes, Suckerpunch prioritizes healthy zero-proof offerings with an emphasis on top-quality ingredients of the Pacific Northwest, such as Seattle’s herbal (and harmless) spirit, The Pathfinder and Hood River’s Wilderton distillate, “rooted” by ﬂavor (not alcohol).
A novel ingredient: imagination, poured differently per drink. There is “something new to each drink,” McMillan states. “No riffs on real cocktails.”
Inventive alcohol-free cocktails include:
- Everything Else Has Failed: a beaming blend of verjus – the juice of unripened wine grapes (vert jus is French for “green juice”) – green celery sap, tart citrus oleo “with lemon-lime acidity,” and tonic; capped with a celery stalk. “Unabashedly sunny. Ridiculously refreshing,” per menu description.
- I’m OK To Go: a “punch of brightness” balancing warm Wilderton Earthen, Smith Tea’s golden turmeric tea, zesty ginger root, in-house honeycomb cordial, and rich red beet juice; pistachio and dill oils atop the tulip glass.
- Ritual Howl: a ‘lil’ spicy, ‘lil’ sweet treat with The Pathfinder Hemp & Root elixir, smoldering habañero peppers, dashes of El Guapo Love Potion #9 Bitters, and fizzy mandarin-flavored soda – “notes of anise, honey, and burnt orange swirl around a refreshingly herbaceous center.”
- One Cent Magenta: a smokescreen of fiery Three Spirit Livener (powered by guayusa, Schisandra, and energizing plants), juicy black cherry, sun-dried blackberry, tarragon, smoked salt, velvety cacao, and house-made lapsang mist for spritzing.
Boozeless beers come from Athletic Brewing Co., including the sessionable ‘Run Wild’ IPA (combining five Northwest hops) and crushable, classic ‘Upside Dawn’ golden ale. As for dealcoholized wine, there is sparkling Töst “tea” and award-winning Joyus who blindly fooled folks at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Regarding bites, an à la carte menu is available with various bar snacks and sweets from Portland purveyors like Cultured Kindness’ vegan ‘choke dip and crackers and Lauretta Jean’s handmade pie served with Kate’s hand-whipped ice cream.
All in all, the sober-conscious charge led by McMillan will drive liquid creativity and overall wellness down the west coast within the coming months (and years). The “social” setting is shifting to more inclusivity—shattering preconceived notions of “enjoying a drink.”