Fresh Non-alcohol in PhiladelphiaAugust 21, 2012 By: Jack Robertiello
True to their name, Philadelphia's Vernick Food & Drink tries to serve exceptional food and creative and delicious drinks, including a seasonal assortment of house-made sodas and non-alcohol cocktails featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and house-steeped syrups.
As Chef/Owner Greg Vernick says, “Our house-made sodas and mocktails are approached with the same thoughtfulness that we put into the preparation of our cocktails, they’re made-to-order using only the freshest ingredients. It’s a great option for guests who may not opt for an alcohol based cocktail, but who still would like a refreshing beverage beyond the typical offerings.”
Mix talked with beverage manager Vincent Stipo about the drinks.
Mix: Non-alcohol options are not often inspired at any sort of restaurant - what inspired you folks to introduce yours?
Vincent Stipo: Opening a new restaurant gives a team the opportunity to share their passions and ideas, and also introduce fresh concepts. The mocktails on our menu is something that we were all excited to do, it’s an outlet for so many who don’t want alcohol to feel comfortable and get excited about our product.
Mix: You have four on the menu now - and those will change, correct? How have they been received?
Stipo: They will most definitely change. Some will change with the season; others will change as we develop new recipes. The program has been received very well. There has been a range of guests that love it for all different reasons. It’s so much more exciting than ordering a soda!
Cumcumber Smash Mocktail and Raspberry and Basil Soda
Mix: Tying your non-alcohol drinks in with local and seasonal makes great sense, especially given your menu - how important is seasonality to your non-alcohol drinks?
Stipo: Seasonality plays a big role in everything we do here, from the flowers at the host stand, to the berries in our pie. Seasonality just makes sense. Taste, quality, price and convenience… local and seasonal is not a trend or gimmick, it’s just smart.
Mix: Is there any overlap with your standard cocktails, or have these all been created with the non-drinker in mind?
Stipo: There is lots of overlap. Syrups, fruits, and purees we use at the bar are tools for all of our mixing. And of course there are many who see the mocktails and instantly say, “Ooh, that would be delicious with some gin.”
Mix: Why do you think more restaurants and cocktail bars aren't using the same level of creativity with non-alcohol drinks?
Stipo: I think the market is much smaller for something like that, and if you want to do it right, it does take thoughtfulness and effort. Every restaurant or bar has a focus or soft spot for something they truly believe in, and that’s what’s fun about visiting different places.
Mix: What is most interesting about running a beverage program in Philadelphia these days?
Stipo: The people you meet. I just moved here from Boston, a city I love, but one of the most exciting things for me was quickly realizing that the industry and its guests here really love to eat and drink, and are willing to learn and try new things. It makes for a great audience.
Mix: What's your favorite drink right now?
Stipo: Mocktails - the cucumber smash is up there. It’s done with muddled lemon, fresh mint, and cucumber water, served over crushed ice. It is so refreshing and is one of those drinks that often takes more time to make than to drink. In cocktails, we have a drink called the CL Smooth, done with El Dorado Three Year Old rum, Cocchi Americano, grapefruit bitters, and Lagavulin Sixteen Year Old Scotch. It is a great summer cocktail with layers of flavor.