Portland’s first ‘zero-proof’ cocktail bar Suckerpunch opens summer pop-up space

PORTLAND, Oregon (KGW) — A lot of people just experimented with “Dry January,” not drinking alcohol for a month to see how they feel. Others are always on a journey of sobriety. Couple that with a growing market of non-alcoholic spirits and spritzes, mixers and bitters, and we welcome Portland’s first no-booze bar that just opened.

Southeast 10th and Belmont is known as the Goat Blocks. What was once a field, home to a herd of goats, is now a grocery store, shops, apartments — and the new SP sign outside stands for Suckerpunch, Portland’s first zero-proof cocktail bar.

“We want this to be a comfortable space for those folks in recovery to come in and enjoy themselves,” said owner Andy McMillan, who is sober himself. “There’s a growing movement of people who are sober-curious. As we all have, in the past two years, been thinking more about physical and mental health, they’ve just decided they don’t want to drink as much or at all. Or there’s those people who just don’t want to have a drink right now, or tonight.”

Credit: Nina Mehlhaf/KGW
The temporary pop-up space for Suckerpunch, in the upper courtyard of The Goat Blocks at SE Belmont and 10th. The views overlook the city to downtown.

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The movement is growing so much, other zero-proof cocktail bars have already opened in cities like Austin, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

People grew so curious about Suckerpunch’s opening throughout the pandemic, their mailing list for updates on the venture grew to 30,000 names long.

The converted gym space in upper courtyard of the Goat Blocks is just for a summer pop-up, to test out drinks, snacks and service style for a brick and mortar to come later this year.

“It’s actually harder to make drinks without alcohol because you’re not relying on any flavor profile that people are familiar with,” bartender Molly Furst said. She went sober in the pandemic after ten years of working in bars, where she says the culture lends itself to drinking too much. She saw people struggle with alcoholism and actually die from it. She switched to becoming a barista, but this Suckerpunch concept she said is perfect to use her skills and be creative.

Credit: Nina Mehlhaf/KGW
The first three zero-proof cocktails Suckerpunch will be serving and looking for feedback on.

Furst and McMillan came up with three cocktails to start off the pop-up:

“Straight from the Fire”: Roasted corn brewed into a tea, smoked maple syrup, bitters, sage and orange served over a giant cube of ice.

The colorful Tiki-style drink “Island Time”: Yuzu, lime juice, galangal, and turmeric vinegar, with a bright red soda made by San Pellegrino called Sanbitter poured over tableside.

And the seriously delicious dessert drink served up, “Thank You For Being A Friend”: Lord Bergamot tea, dates, lemon, nutmeg and aquafaba.

“All of our drinks here are just as considerate, and rich and complex and interesting as drinks you would get in any other cocktail bar in town,” McMillan said.

Credit: Nina Mehlhaf/KGW

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