Non-Alcoholic Drinks Are Cool

Sodas, mocktails and teas in Eugene

Alcohol is expensive, and putting its detrimental health effects aside, sometimes you just need a refreshing drink — one that won’t impair your driving abilities. Whether you’re meeting someone on a first date or just want to sip on something different, ask for an alternative like a house-made soda or a tea selection at your favorite bar or restaurant.

Without sounding preachy, remember that long-term alcohol use or even one night of binge drinking can lead to health problems, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol damages the heart and can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias — even on a single occasion.

Rye (444 E. 3rd Avenue), a cocktail bar and restaurant, makes sodas, syrups and shrubs in house. Shrubs are “fruit, herbs — like rhubarb, thyme and strawberries, vinegar and sugar,” says Rye bartender Derek Lianos. After the ingredients for shrubs are mixed together, Lianos says, he shakes them once a day for 10 days, and they produce a “beautiful concentration. The steps are simplistic; they’ve been around for 150 years.”

A mix of Rye’s strawberry rhubarb shrubs with soda water and a lemon had a crisp flavor that was even more refreshing when served with a lemon. The homemade pomegranate soda was fruity and not too sweet.

The menu at Izakaya Meiji Company (345 Van Buren Street), the Whiteaker’s rustic “Japanese tavern” with a vast whiskey selection, lists juices, sodas and the Straight Shooter — a non-alcoholic cocktail made with Granny Smith, cranberry, lemon, caramel, anise, nutmeg and soda.

If you want to avoid the bar scene altogether but want to stay out late, you might prefer tea and kombucha at Townsend’s Eugene Tea House (41 W. Broadway), which offers 100-plus teas that you can order hot or cold and serves bubble tea and kombucha on tap. It’s a cozy spot, and it’s open until 10 pm every day

The Rabbit Hole (240 E. 17th Avenue) is another bubble tea spot. The tea and espresso bar serves Taiwanese bubble tea as well as loose leaf teas and is open until 10 pm as well.

Try asking a server at your favorite restaurant to mix up a fun cocktail without the alcohol. Lianos says this sometimes amounts to just serving lemonade, but because Rye makes their own syrups and sodas, customers won’t get any of those pre-made drink mixes with too much sugar.