This month, Bar Luca unveils its new menu and with it, an excellent selection of non-alcoholic cocktails. The NA bill of fare is the brainchild of general manager Freddy Schwenk, who ran an award-winning beverage program at the local Indian fusion restaurant Chauhan before landing at Luca in January.
Upon arrival, Freddy was charged with reworking the entire bar menu, and he's adding a few surprises to the repertoire. “Instead of cocktails that people already know or can have anywhere, I’m putting more ‘obscure classics' on the menu," he says. “You might find your next favorite cocktail on the list, but it’s one that’s been around for 100 years.”
He's put equal thought into his NA offerings. “There are a lot of people out there — maybe they’re in recovery, maybe they’re pregnant, maybe they just don’t want to drink — who want a quality mocktail," Freddy says. "Most bartenders, when they’re asked for one, look around for whatever juices they have. There’s no thought to it.
“That’s the complete opposite of what you do with (an alcoholic) cocktail, where there’s so much preparation. I’ve done ten different versions of one drink and tweaked it 15 times before I served it, so why wouldn’t I put that much thought into something that’s non-alcoholic? It has the same genetic makeup, just not booze.”
If you didn't know any better, you might swear the four new cocktails on Freddy's menu have alcohol in them. The taste is remarkable. (Hover over the photos of each drink in the slideshow at the bottom of this post for recipes.)
The first is a riff on a Kalimotxo. “In China, in the ’50s or ’60s, it became a thing to mix really nice red wine with Coke. Not cheap shit: really nice reds, that you garnish with an orange or lime peel.” His version uses bottled Mexican Coke and NA red wine, the brand name of which is Fre.
The Nogroni is – you got it – a Negroni sans alcohol, made from red and white wines infused with juniper berry and allspice, with Sanbitter soda standing in for Campari.
Lost in the Supermarket is named for a song by one of Freddy’s favorite bands, The Clash — and it's fitting, considering the drink is more or less a mélange of fresh produce: lemon and carrot juices, fresh ginger syrup, and Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon soda with a wheatgrass garnish.
Finally, there’s Harry’s Banana Farm, named for an iconic dive bar in Lakeworth, Florida — one of Freddy's longtime hangs. Modeled on an Old-Fashioned, the drink consists of non-alcoholic banana cordial and chocolate bitters mixed with cold brew coffee and then carbonated.
The alcohol-free drinks will be off-menu, printed separately from the main bar list. This is to add a bit of ceremony, Freddy says. “If someone asks if we can make a NA cocktail, we want it to feel like they’re getting an exclusive thing. Instead of it making them feel excluded because they’re not drinking, we want it to make them feel special.”
Hover over the photo of each of Luca's four new non-alcoholic cocktails to reveal Freddy's exclusive recipes.