APRIL 2019 — “Sober Curious.” Have you encountered the trending term this yet this spring? Beyond Dry January and New Year’s Resolutions, “sober curiosity” is in essence a wellness approach to not drinking alcohol. And at Cindy’s, it’s something we’ve been dedicating a beverage program to long before it became a buzz-worthy catch phrase with a collection of Spiritfree menu items devised by Cindy’s Beverage Manager David Mor.
David sat down with Vox reporter Nicole Fallert to talk about why this is more than a trend in hospitality, and what makes it special at Cindy’s.
This interview originally appeared with Vox on March 26, 2019. Get a taste of David’s conversation with reporter Nicole Fallert , and read the full feature here.
Chicago, a city with a large professional population, has also been a hub of sober curiosity. David Mor, a beverage manager at Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, has created a safe nonalcoholic space by replacing the word “mocktail” on the bar’s menus: “When we created the word ‘spirit-free,’ the thought was sophistication and a thoughtful approach,” he says.
Inspired by botanicals and spices such as cinnamon, Mor challenged Cindy’s bartenders to create drinks inspired by their childhoods. His recipe, “Balenciaga,” was influenced by growing up watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and embracing his queer identity. The bright pink drink contains spiced clementine, Seedlip Spice 94 (a distilled nonalcoholic spirit), pineapple, ginger beer, and lemon with an edible orchid garnish. Cindy’s spirit-free drinks are made to order and cost $12. Given that one ounce of Seedlip costs $1, Mor said the price reflects the quality of ingredients incorporated in the drink. Like an elixir, spirit-free drinks are meant to maintain, rather than dilute, the brain and body’s performance.
“Emotionally, when it has alcohol in it, your mind is not who you are at 100 percent,” Mor said. “I think it’s so important to offer a category of drinking that doesn’t make you feel limited. Garnishes, interesting approaches, and quality ingredients create a feeling of inclusion without pressure.”
Conscious gathering also means new sales. Businesses like Cindy’s, which have alcoholic and nonalcoholic menus, can reach even more patrons with fewer marginal costs. Liquor licenses in Chicago, for example, cost more than $5,000, and in California, a license costs more than $13,000. Purveyors don’t suffer a loss, though, filling the gap of alcoholic sales with spirit-frees containing high-end ingredients. In the case of beer manufacturers, companies like Heineken are selling even more bottles for the same price as their signature brew.