Sophie Bolich

The Counter Opens at Crossroads Collective

Non-alcoholic bar debuted its myths and fables-inspired menu Feb.1 at Crossroads Collective.

By - Feb 3rd, 2023 12:31 pm
Ryan Castelaz mixes a drink at The Counter. Photo taken January Feb. 2, 2023 by Sophie Bolich.

Ryan Castelaz mixes a drink at Discourse’s downtown cafe. Photo taken Jan. 20 by Sophie Bolich.

Grab a stool at The Counter, and you can sip a cocktail — or two or three — and freely drive home afterwards. That’s because the bar’s drinks, though complex, flavorful and intriguing, contain no alcohol.

The newest addition to Crossroads Collective is named both for its setup, an intimate, four-top banquette nestled within the food hall, 2238 N. Farwell Ave., as well as its mission: to counteract the prevailing belief that non-alcoholic cocktails are inferior to their alcoholic counterparts.

In creating the concept, owner Ryan Castelaz asked himself, “how do we make these drinks feel adult, not just like high-end juices?”

Castelaz, who also owns the experimental Discourse Coffee, found the answer in combining astringent, tannic and botanical ingredients “in ways that create a complex profile,” resulting in a flavorful beverage that doesn’t suffer from the omission of hard liquor.

The Counter’s debut menu, Myths + Fables, features a lineup of beverages inspired by tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk, The Fox and the Grapes and Daedalus and Icarus.

Olivia Molter, director of design for Discourse and The Counter, hand-illustrated the menu, which includes a one-page retelling of each story alongside a list of each cocktail’s components.

The majority of The Counter’s drinks feature Lyre’s non-alcoholic spirits, a London-based company that offers a range of spirits including tequila, whisky, gin, vodka and myriad other flavors at .05% ABV or less.

To the N/A base, The Counter’s bartenders layer additional flavors, selecting from a dizzying array of droppers, vials, powders and sprays, to complete the beverage. According to Castelaz, every detail — from the specially-sourced glassware to a final spritz of atomized orange blossom water — was thoughtfully tailored to each drink.

“We’ve never done a menu with quite so many flourishes,” Castelaz said. “We put a lot of intention behind this one.”

This “narrative drink making,” as Castelaz calls it, is as much about the experience, appearance and backstory of the cocktail as its flavor.

Jack and the Beanstalk, for example, is served in a tall, narrow glass. A wobbling stack of ice cubes is topped with a verdant mixture of Lyre’s apertif dry, sugar snap pea juice, cedar tea, verjus blanc, fennel and tonka bean syrup, lime juice, house herbal tincture and chlorophyll. The lush, bright drink is garnished with green apple foam and a sage leaf.

Another option, Daedalus and Icarus, is fruit-forward and topped with a powdered mango and passion fruit sun and a white chocolate fondant feather.

Pandora’s Box, perhaps the bar’s most theatric beverage, is encased in a wooden box and flooded with Szechuan-laced smoke prior to serving, which swirls and spills over the bar when guests lift the lid to retrieve their drink. The potent, numbing spice infiltrates the beverage, adding hints of spice to every sip.

The bar offers three, five and seven-course tasting menus, as well as a la carte cocktails which can be enjoyed anywhere in the hall. To secure a counter-side stool, reservations are recommended.

The Counter will change its menu with the seasons, unveiling a new beverage lineup every four months. Myths + Fables will be available through May.

The Counter is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

For updates and more information, visit The Counter on Instagram.


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