This Vancouver bar takes the art of not drinking to new heights

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You’re taking one for the team and being the designated driver. You’re on medication that doesn’t mix with booze. You’re trying a sober month. You’re trying a sober life. You’re pregnant. You just don’t feel like drinking alcohol.

A hydrosol at Market (Photo by Leila Kwok)

There are a myriad of reasons why you’d find yourself at a bar but not imbibing, but that doesn’t mean you’re relegated to the juice and pop category. Besides, why you aren’t drinking is none of anyone’s business anyhow–but it helps if you can still work the room with a glass of something in your hand that isn’t obviously a Diet Coke.

These days, savvy bar folk are mixing up sophisticated sippers that are absolutely zero proof, and in Vancouver at Market by Jean-Georges at the Shangri-La Hotel, they are taking the art of not drinking to elegant new heights.

Bering Tea (Photo by Leila Kwok)

Market’s new bar manager, Gianluigi Bosco is leading the way with his selection of spirit-free creations and botanical waters, anchored largely on something called hydrosols. Hydrosols are waters distilled with botanicals–think of orange flower water, for example, or the process of making gin that involves the introduction of botanical elements into the distilling process. In the case of hydrosols, however, we’re just talking water, no booze.

There are three hydrosols on the menu at Market you can order and enjoy on their own: Spiced (Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Rose & Peppermint); Botanical (Melissa, Lemon Verbena, Rosemary, Sage, Peppermint, Lavender); and Refreshing (Mint, Melissa, Lemon Verbena). The drinks tease the palate with gentle flavours and aromas on their own, but then they make their way into several of the composed spirit-free cocktails available as well, which offer abstainers something a bit more exciting. (The hydrosols also are being infused into bottles of wine and boozy drinks, but, of course, that’s another story.)

Lamiaceae (Photo by Leila Kwok)

In addition to Oddity Kombucha and a turmeric infused warm Golden Milk, Market’s alcohol-free offerings include a tea-based Bering Tea, which employs the earthy-sweet notes of birch syrup with carbonated oolong tea from local vendor )5 and the brightly acidic lift of yuzu. There’s the juicy Lamiaceae and Purple Tree, which are based, respectively, on fresh carrot and beet juices with sweet, herbal and hydrosol boosts. And the Ginger & Buckthorn Fizz riffs on the classic combo of lime and ginger with the addition of sea buckthorn.

Bosco, a former flair bartender (think Tom Cruise in Cocktail), comes to Market after over 15 years in the bar biz spent in seven countries. With non-alcoholic drinks rising in popularity of late, he was eager to give them a bigger space on the menu at Market, which already makes use of top quality local products and house-made ingredients.

The focus on local and handmade even extends to the labour Bosco and the staff put in making the syrups, infusions, and even the meticulously hand-carved ice cubes that take not drinking–at least not the hard stuff–to the next level at Market.

Market by Jean-Georges is located at the Shangri-La Hotel at 1115 Alberni St in Vancouver.

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Lindsay is the Managing Editor of Vancouver Is Awesome. A fifth generation Vancouverite, she was previously the Food Editor of Daily Hive, Senior Editor of Vancity Buzz, and Editor-in-Chief of LAist.com. Lindsay grew up in Vancouver and Toronto, then spent over 20 years in Los Angeles, where ahe earned her Masters in English, attended culinary school, and was an English professor. Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancouverisawesome.com