Trend Alert: Here’s Where You Can Get Mocktails and Slushies in Honolulu
Drinks for when you don’t wanna get tipsy.
The Miss X at Lucky Belly features bright purple butterfly pea flower syrup, kaffir lime, lime juice and club soda.
Photos: Steve Czerniak
During these hot summer nights, we want to fill our cups with something fun that’s strong on taste so we can keep drinking long into the evening. Enter this year’s trending bevs: mocktails and slushies.
Not everyone wants to —or even can—drink when they go out, but that doesn’t mean they want a soda or water. “People not drinking are looking for something more creative and unique,” says Chandra Lam Lucariello, director of mixology and spirits education for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Hawai‘i. They want something expertly crafted with a balance of flavors, using local ingredients. Mocktails are appearing on more menus now, from 12th Ave Grill to 53 By the Sea. It’s not an accident. Lam Lucariello says clients expect it. “Now when I’m writing menus I’d say 90 percent [of clients] request mocktails as well, using ingredients on hand from regular cocktails to create a different section specifically for mocktails,” she says. “I think in the past it was more of an afterthought. Now it’s definitely given attention.”
SMITH & KINGS’ MANGO MINT REFRESHER COMBINES ORANGE AND LIME JUICE WITH MANGO NECTAR AND FRESH MINT.
At SKY Waikīkī, director of mixology Jen Ackrill says it’s important to give people options, whether they’re not drinking because they’re driving, pregnant, it’s against their religion or they simply aren’t interested. “We just want to make sure that for every single person who walks in the door, there’s a drink for them”—something more exciting than a Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers, she says. One example on the current menu, which changes every six months or so, is the Guava Mule Cooler, with guava, lime, ginger syrup, hibiscus tea and ginger beer. “We probably sell more coolers than any other drink on the menu,” she says, nonalcoholic or otherwise. The Hanauma Bay Breeze, another mocktail, is so popular that rather than measure out each ingredient for every order, Ackrill has premixed a jug of the mango, liliko‘i and pineapple juices proportionately to save time. And the Sour Cherry Punch combines a syrup made with marasca cherries (used to make a liqueur for the Hawaiian Royale cocktail) with lemon and soda. Upstairs at Top of Waikīkī, you can get the Hibiscus Tonic or the Mai Tai Refresher, too.
“People are being so much more thoughtful about drinking alcohol,” Ackrill says. After one or two cocktails, they may not want more alcohol. But if you go up to the bar and order a mocktail, and it has a fancy name and comes in a Collins glass, your friends are none the wiser. This also helps those under 21 get to “enjoy the idea of having a cocktail” without actually indulging but still having a great drink, she says.
“In the industry, it’s not about us, it’s about [the customers],” she says. “I want you to have your drink.”
PAI HONOLULU’S ON THE WAGON MOCKTAIL CHANGES FREQUENTLY. THIS VERSION INCLUDES SODA WATER WITH MANGO AND HABANERO SHRUB.
Gone are the days of ordering a stiff drink during a working lunch, but at many downtown restaurants, you can still get something delicious sans alcohol. At Lucky Belly, the butterfly pea flower syrup used in the Miss X and the hibiscus syrup in the hibiscus lemonade are made in-house. We also really enjoy the Liliko‘i Fizz, with liliko‘i puree, spiced almond syrup, fresh mint and soda, and the Haru Cooler, with cilantro, pink peppercorn, celery cordial, sea salt, lime, soda and jalapeño. Smith & Kings offers an addictive Mango Mint Refresher with mango nectar, orange juice, lime juice and mint.
Pai Honolulu bar lead Kyra Sanders-Brillault’s On the Wagon mocktail changes at her whim, often every few days, as she plays with ingredients she wants to use in cocktails or as new ingredients come into the kitchen. When faced with the challenge of creating something nonalcoholic for the menu, “I was having a difficult time at first. I’m starting to get used to it,” she says, “and now it’s almost easier [than alcoholic drinks] because I don’t have to factor in, well, I want gin, but what kind of gin? It’s easier to work with flavor combinations.” Last time we stopped by, On the Wagon (as opposed to off—get it?) featured house-made lavender syrup, citrus, soda and rosemary. Other iterations have been made with cranberry, sage and basil, and apple and ginger.
General manager Justine Kadokawa Lee says the mocktail began at Pai’s opening party. “My parents don’t drink,” she says, so the restaurant needed to craft something for them. And now, with it on the regular menu, “We sell a lot of mocktails. We had a large party where the girl loves to drink, but she’s pregnant.” She didn’t want to give up the social aspect of drinking, Kadokawa Lee says, so the mocktail was a nice alternative, and on some nights it’s more popular than cocktails. “We want everyone to feel like family,” she says, “happy, comfortable and not forced to act a certain way.”
At his new restaurant, Morimoto Asia Waikīkī, chef Masaharu Morimoto reiterates that sentiment, offering six mocktails along with draft and bottled beer, cocktails, wines, sake, shochu and more. “Whether guests are looking for something sweet or fruity or prefer something spicy or zesty, they will find that we’ve concocted something for everyone to enjoy,” he says. Morimoto and Ryan Cabanting developed the mocktails with as many local ingredients and flavors as possible, including pineapple, liliko‘i, ginger, mint, guava and Hawaiian chili peppers. The restaurant’s ginger beer, used in the Shore Break (along with POG, lime juice, soda and simple syrup) is also brewed from scratch using local fruits.
HUKILAU’S BOMBUCHA KOMBUCHA WITH BOBA.
Morimoto Asia Waikīkī offers a Liliko‘i Slush, with liliko‘i, lychee water, orange juice and simple syrup. Blended drinks are nothing new (RIP Ryan’s frozen li hing margaritas) but more and more restaurants and bars are investing in slushy machines, adding both nonalcoholic and low-booze slushies to their menus. “If it’s blended in a regular blender, you can up the alcohol more,” Lam Lucariello says, “but if you’re using a slushy machine, the alcohol has to be tempered so it can freeze on its own.”
Last spring, Hukilau Honolulu noticed that frosé, or frozen rosé, was trending across the nation, so the restaurant put it on the menu. “We got a little backlash when we stopped,” laughs Sheldon Lo, whom you can often find behind the bar. But now Hukilau’s slushy machine is dedicated to kombucha made by Auntie Puanana, co-owner Kawehi Haug’s mom. She started brewing kombucha a few years ago for her family for health reasons and began selling her Bombucha Kombucha at Hukilau last fall.
“It’s healthier than any other slushy,” Auntie Puanana says, “naturally adding sugar back into it by adding 100 percent fruit juices.” We loved the mango, strawberry and guava kombucha with li hing mui. Lo says it’s popular with kids and people who come from exercising at the nearby 24 Hour Fitness. Other flavors they’ve sold include mango/liliko‘i/POG and pineapple hibiscus. Hukilau Honolulu’s second slushy machine features cold-brew coffee kombucha, which Auntie Puanana says is “friendly to people who haven’t tried kombucha.”
You can also find slushies at Piggy Smalls, Encore Saloon, The Street and Harry’s Hardware Emporium. Harry’s is “a super, super craft cocktail place, where people get dressed up and are spending more money, so you don’t expect a slushy machine, but that kind of makes it even more fun,” Lam Lucariello says. “On the Mainland, people are starting to get away from the super geeky craft cocktails … and bring it back to things being fun again. You still get a quality drink [with a slushy], but it won’t take 20 minutes to get to the table. It’s a fun experience and makes you feel like you’re on vacation.”