Inauguration of a non-alcoholic, alcohol-free maritime bar and cafe in Pawcatuck

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PAWCATUCK – It appeared cocktails were being served on Thursday afternoon at a new bar at 37 South Broad Street.

Except the drinks were mocktails – which aren’t just “virgin” alcoholic drinks anymore – they’re made with zero-degree alcohol.

“It’s our chocolate and almond suitable for all ages, called White Knuckle. There’s the Lyre amaretti, which is just amazing flavor. It’s made with real cocoa milk and macadamia oats,” said Keith Cowley, bartender and owner of Maritime Mocktail Bar and Cafe, as he poured the libation into a glass.

Cowley, a non-drinker who has 20 years of experience as a bartender, has created a menu of mocktails with “selected ingredients”.

“This one’s called the Hydrographer,” Cowley said, putting down another glass. “There’s a bit of jalapeno in there, so there’s going to be a bit of heat in the back, but it’s very nice.”

Cowley mixed the drink using Ritual Tequila Alternative – a zero-proof substitute that’s part of a new genre of non-alcoholic ‘liquors’. The brand also makes zero-proof gin, rum and whiskey.

Poggy Bay Breeze at Maritime Mocktail Bar and Cafe

A third round included Cowley’s Poggy Bay Breeze, made with Damrak – a company that makes real gin and started with an alcohol-free version called VirGin – as well as pineapple, pomegranate and lime.

“The name comes from Poggy Bay, a very small bay off Stonington Point. Poggy is slang for porgy, which is slang for scup, which was once abundant,” he said.

Cowley said traditional alcohol started with experimenting with infusions made with different herbs over a period of time, and non-alcoholic versions follow a similar path.

“They start with complex herbal infusions and try to replicate the same flavor you’d expect from a whiskey, gin, tequila or vodka, but without the effects of alcohol” , did he declare. “We are able to mix some of the same kinds of drinks, so part of the menu is based on classics.

But it’s a relatively new world, he says.

“New in the sense that there are companies that make these products and there are bars that only exist on the non-alcoholic menu. It’s really only in big cities like Denver, Seattle and New York, but you’re starting to see mocktails popping up in other bars,” he said.

Cowley said selected ingredients in mocktails often have positive effects.

“All ingredients are selected for quality. Some of our ingredients even have active effects, like adaptogens,” he said. “There are some things in nature that naturally have modifying abilities — like kava kava, which can calm and relax you – but being able to combine them in these drinks, you’re not just drinking it as a replacement, you’re still getting a positive effect from imbibing a curated mocktail.

Maritime Mocktail Bar and Cafe, located at 37 South Broad St., Pawcatuck

Angela Bujnevicie, who is Cowley’s business partner, owned the RISE Nutrition juice bar, which previously occupied the space and served organic and non-GMO shakes and juices.

“When I was running the juice bar, there was interest in having non-alcoholic alternatives,” Bujnevicie said.

Mocktails are part of the “curious sober” movement – people who avoid alcohol for personal or health reasons – which Bujnevicie has described as “the sober conscious mind”.

“I come from health coaching and a lot of biohacking, where people are looking to perform better. And so alcohol is just not part of something they’re interested in,” Bujnevicie said. “From that perspective of meet more very health-conscious people saying, ‘I’m quitting the booze, I don’t like how I feel.'”

She said she posted a request in late March looking for a sober bar partner, and when Cowley responded, it all clicked.

“It didn’t take long to find Keith. He had the vision, the creativity and the desire to make it happen,” she said. “We’re the perfect match with Keith being a non-drinker but with 20 years of experience as a bartender.”

Cowley is known for his work as a wild food gatherer and as curator of the Living Sharks Museum in Westerly.

He said the new venture brings together his locavorism and his love of the ocean.

“Every ingredient in mocktails is vegan,” he said. “And with those ingredients, you don’t want to swallow it all at once.”

Libations also include elixirs, wine, and handcrafted “shots.” Light food options include curried prawns and wild mushroom toast, as well as several desserts.

Maritime Mocktail is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5-9pm, with live music on Saturday evenings.

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