Hey, nerds, how’d your Dry January go? I made it about a week and a half. Not that I was trying for real for real, just in fits and spurts. For me, it was mostly an exercise in exploring the city’s non-alcoholic drink lists, just to see how we’re doing in that arena! (And secondly an exercise in saving a grip of money.)

Among other spots, my pretend efforts at sobriety brought me to Cheeky & Dry, the stunning new booze-free bottle shop in Phinney, where owners Kirsten and Yura Vracko are selling many dozens of different non-alc spirits and amari and syrups and canned cocktails and sodas and tinctures and bitterses. This place looks like a wine shop from France and carries all kinds of curious elixirs I never knew existed, like yuzu or vanilla-rooibos tea or rose cordial syrup (Portland Syrups), mango/lychee/turmeric soda (Zyn), Turkish tobacco bitters (Fee Brothers), cherry/ginger/maple NA cider (Nowhere), lemon/cucumber/serrano pepper NA spirit (Amethyst), and all four of the Casamara Club botanical sodas, which are nearly impossible to find. Think of the beautiful party you could have after shopping here! There must be a hundred thousand individual items within this store, and the owners let you taste everything in a little cuppity cup. I was like a drunk in a bottle shop. Except. Wait.

Plus Kirstin is so funny and nice, and she hates the word mocktail as much as I do! Possibly more—look what she does to her own books. I think I’ve got her on board to push the word foxtail in its place—that’s a faux cocktail, of course—but we could still use your help. Okay, thanks.

Cheeky & Dry's co-owner Kirsten Vracko hates the word mocktail, too. Meg van Huygen

And speaking of, I was comparably dazzled to learn that Tio Baby’s in Fremont makes their own non-alcoholic spirits in-house! It's one thing to serve a virgin mojito, sure, lots of places do that, but to go through the effort to create your own fake rum? Some next-level shit. Tio Baby’s, with its decadent queso-slathered menu, was already one of the most underrated bars in town, and all the more so when you factor this in. 

My favorite foxtail in my month-long travels, though, was hiding in the depths of the Pike Place Market. Last fall, Lonely Siren Taberna Portuguesa opened in the space freshly vacated by Shama—that weird glass greenhouse on the steps leading from the Gum Wall down to Western. Owned by Brandi Sather with chef Randal Ventura at the helm, who both come to us from Pub 70 just down the street, Lonely Siren is filling Seattle’s empty yawning chasm where all the Portuguese food should be. 

Ventura’s grandmother was from the Azores, a mid-Atlantic archipelago that’s an autonomous region belonging to Portugal, and to honor his Portuguese heritage, his menu features Iberan classics like grilled sardines, salada de polvo (a ceviche of octopus, red onion, red bell peppers, chickpeas, vinegar, and about a gallon of good olive oil), buttery pastéis de bacalhau (light, doughnut-holesque salt cod croquettes), and the iconic bifana, a sandwich made from thin-sliced Ibérico pork with mustard on papo seco rolls baked in house. Less of a Portuguese standard but a banger nonetheless is the batatas bravas: crispy rectangles of stacked, sliced potatoes that have been baked au gratin and then placed in a yin-yang pool of red-peppery bravas sauce and smoked onion soubise. I fucking love these things and they make me think of little books made of potato. Roasted potato notepads.

Roasted potato notepads. Meg van Huygen

The cocktails are just as impressive. For the yes-alcoholic drinks, I always go for the porto tónico, a low-ABV mix of ruby port and tonic served in a giant glass goblet, then all dressed up with a crown of fresh herbs and flowers like it’s Midsommar. I like to set it down with a klunk, as a king would do. But just as kingly with a little extra kitsch is the refreshing no-booze Tiki-Bucha, with pineapple kombucha, muddled mint, lime, almond milk, and orgeat. It’s shaken and served over ice in a glass tiki head, a fun whimsy that it feels like non-drinkers don’t get to experience often. It is empirically very exciting to be served a drink that is shaped like a mythological guy’s head, and I think everyone deserves this thrill, not just lushes like me. I’m personally always in a better mood when I get to drink out of someone’s head.

Normally, this is the part of the column where I take apart all the different elements of the cocktail and tell you their history and which country they’re from and which esoteric flaves they bring to the whole picture, but you know all these dudes. The lime juice is from limes. The mint is mint that’s been bashed up. The almond milk is from the store. The orgeat is BF Reynolds in the fabulous retro bottle, which you know from every mai tai, and it bros down easy with the almond milk since they both comprise almonds and sugar. The booch is from Brew Dr. Kombucha, and they make a ton of fun ‘n’ fancy flavors, like vanilla/oak and rosemary/mint/sage/green tea. I don’t love kombucha, but I went out and got a bottle after trying the Tiki-Bucha, and…this little foxtail is making me come around on the stuff. All of these ingredients together is just such a slay. 

Even if you’re not into the Tik-Bucha, non-drinkers are in good shape at the Lonely Siren: There are three or four other craft foxtails on the list, all delicious, with new ones being added from time to time. And they also carry the zero-proof Excelsior cherry cider from Schilling with the little spaceperson on it, which I didn’t even notice was non-alc until I was about halfway through. God, it’s so good. Cherry things always are.

Fantastic food and drinks aside, the Lonely Siren is a unique creature in turbocapitalist Seattle: a bar-resto in the primest possible tourist spot, but it’s keeping it real with a simple but sexy date-night menu, surprisingly affordable prices, and that unpretentious living-room quality you find in bars in Actual Portugal. No one’s in a rush to hustle you out and pimp your table to the next group; in fact, that chilled-out energy encourages you to linger and sample more bits and bobs from the menu, and that's by design. It’s nice to see, especially in Pike Place. They don’t have to do this. They do it because they like having you in there—whether you’re drinking foxtails or cocktails, or you’re just there to snack on some sexy potato books.

It was an educational January, and I learned a ton about where to go in this city when I don’t feel like drinking! Which does sometimes happen! Lucky for us, Seattle’s got plenty of lovely options, with more popping up all the time. If you’d like to hear more about all the exquisite NA beverage options in Seattle and beyond, listen to the Seattle Restaurant Podcast’s 1st-anniversary episode from January 22nd—the episode is all about nonalcoholic beverages and was recorded at Cheeky & Dry Bottle Shop! I’m also in there around 43:50, saying more or less what I’ve said in this story, if you feel like resting your eyeballs and listening to me say it instead.