The pandemic has caused a shift in drinking habits, as it has for many people. More and more, I found myself gravitating toward non-alcoholic tapas, which allowed me to grab a few fancy drinks after my work day from home, without a headache. The growing category of spirits and non-alcoholic drinks has made it easy to cut back on booze, for whatever reason — my fridge is full of cans of Ghia, Kin Euphorics, and vegan soda. However, there is still a dearth of bars that offer compelling non-alcoholic options for people who want to enjoy a drink outside the comfort of their own home.
Hecate, East Village’s new “elixir lounge,” is New York City’s first discreet dive bar. It has all the hallmarks of a good dive: eclectic vintage accents, tattooed patrons, and a straightforward drink menu. However, the menu is completely alcohol-free – all cocktails, which include classics like piña coladas and jalapeño margs as well as more unusual elixirs, feature non-alcoholic spirits, sodas, and hors d’oeuvres. There is also coffee, “witch tea” and a great selection of NA beer.
“The impetus to open a discreet pub came from owning a traditional pub,” founder/owner Abi Iman said in a statement. Iman, who has worked in bars for 30 years, wanted to create a joyful community space for people looking for an alternative to bars.
I attended the grand opening on Thursday, and the venue was decorated for a spooky season with skull and balloon art. I ordered the Amalfi Spritz, a bittersweet delight of a drink made with Lyre’s Italian spritz and non-alcoholic Lyre classics, served in a gorgeous glass. I also sampled Empress, a shaken blend of Clean Co apple vodka, Garden Seedlip, Franklin & Sons pineapple soda, and a drizzle of pineapple juice. Despite the specialty ingredients—no good vodka or gin, here—all cocktails cost just $12, which seems fitting for an Alphabet City dive bar.
Hecate is joined by a wave of sober bars and new bottle shops opening across the country serving sober and energetic customers. Not too far from me, in Greenpoint, has been a slightly more upscale bar called Getaway that has been serving excellent mixed drinks made with non-alcoholic ingredients (plus shrubs) in a stylish and comfortable setting since 2019. I expect to see more of these concepts in the next few years.
“The concept behind Hekate is the same as any great bar – fun events, interesting people, great music, relaxed atmosphere – but no smell,” said Iman. A place that anyone can enjoy.