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How Low- And No-Proof Cocktails Are Stirring/Shaking A Drinking Revolution

January 6, 2020 Dave Greteman
Emily Woodbury | St. Louis Public Radio

Getting drunk at dinner is sooo 2010. Some of the area’s most buzz-worthy bars are now focused on drinks that won’t get you buzzed. That includes Elmwood.

At this one-year-old Maplewood hotspot, the roster of booze-free cocktails (called “zero proof”) is just as interesting and complex as that of their liquor-fueled cousins. The restaurant is also serving drinks it calls “low proof,” offering a taste of spirits without condemning you to a raging headache the next morning.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Elmwood beverage director Dave Greteman explained that the restaurant very consciously eschews the term “mocktail.”

“I feel that there’s a sense of trepidation with going out and ordering something without alcohol,” he said. “There’s a worry you’re going to get something that’s just an afterthought. And then as a result, things like ‘mocktails’ become kind of a joke.”

In offering smart, interesting zero-proof compositions, he said, the restaurant wants diners to feel “that they are part of this cocktail culture.”

Greteman also explained how bartenders develop drinks that have the rich mouthfeel of a Manhattan without all the booze. And he discussed how the low- and no-proof options on Elmwood’s menu are changing the dynamic at its bar.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.