Cheri Hammons Mixes The Non Fashioned. Photo by Todd Cooper.

The Magic of Non-Alcoholic Mixology

High Street Tonics, Eugene’s non-alcoholic bar and bottle shop, invites you out for a sober night on the town

Cheri Hammons was 8 years old when she made her first magic potion. She pulled the recipe from her favorite book, Freckle Juice by Judy Blume, and toiled away in the kitchen. She fell in love with mixing things together, Hammons says, and as she aged she looked into more medicinal combinations. Now, 36 years later, Hammons brews the tonics and bitters that she serves at her non-alcoholic bar.

Hammons created High Street Tonics in 2021 during her first Dry January after the start of the pandemic, she says. She missed the taste of a fun drink so she began experimenting with mixers.

“People were re-examining their drinking and coping mechanisms and whatnot,” Hammons says. “But for me it was more of a flavor thing.”

Hammons was already exploring herbs that supported the nervous system in teas and tonics, but she soon realized that she could create a subtle calming effect without the addition of alcohol, she says.

“I didn’t start with cocktails or mixology or anything like that until I got sick of alcohol,” Hammons says. “Because when I was a drinker, I was drinking for a reason.”

That reason, Hammons says, was to get drunk, not to enjoy the taste of the drink in her hand. Currently, Hammons falls into a “gray area” where she drinks on occasion — sometimes to come up with sober alternatives — but she prefers non-alcoholic beverages.

“We’re not trying to convince anyone to be sober,” Hammons says. “We’re just trying to show people that there’s another way to socialize and provide a space for that where you could go out with friends and still drive home.”

The non-alcoholic beverages that Hammons creates are far more than your Shirley Temple or your sugar-loaded mocktail. Instead, every one of Hammons’ beverages is poured with a non-alcoholic liquor, a tonic, some bitters and a mixer.

“We’ve moved way beyond juice, syrups and soda,” Hammons says. “And [High Street Tonics] is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Unthinkable Non Fashioned. Photo by Todd Cooper.

While some of High Street Tonics’ menu is meant to mimic an alcoholic beverage, such as its Unthinkable Non Fashioned, others were created as something entirely new. Hammons and her husband, Ian, are constantly experimenting with new drinks, she says, and only the best make it onto the menu.

Hammons says that the process is culinary as they test different flavors and combinations.

“It’s a science,” Hammons says. “Especially when you can add in different things that support your body in so many different ways.”

To showcase the effort and knowledge that goes into mixing a non-alcoholic cocktail, Hammons whips up a Rose Quartz, a drink of her own creation.

Hammons begins with 2 oz. of a tequila replacement, which is a spirit made from the same plant materials as tequila, she says. By using the same herbs and adding capsaicin, a chili pepper extract, to emulate the burn, distillers have created a remarkably similar flavor to tequila, Hammons says. 

Rose Quartz. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Hammons then adds a half ounce of High Street Tonics’ Mellow Rose Tonic and two drops of High Street Tonics’ Reset Bitters, both of which were brewed with nervous system-supporting herbs, and both feature rose petals, hibiscus and rose hips. While the bitters are alcohol-based, the amount of alcohol within is “equivalent to a ripe banana,” Hammons says. She keeps a glycerin-based, non-alcoholic alternative in stock for those who want to avoid it all together.

Hammons pours a can of Bitter Love Cranberry Gentian seltzer into the glass, stirs the concoction and garnishes it with an orange slice. 

Watching Hammons work is like watching a potion be brewed, and the drink itself tastes equally magical. High Street Tonics changes its menu seasonally, and it will be debuting its updated spring menu, including the Rose Quartz, this week.

High Street Tonics is located at 267 W. 8th Ave. It is open from 12 to 6 pm Wednesday and Thursday, 12 to 9 pm Friday and Saturday, and 11 am to 4 pm Sunday. All drinks are $10.