When Marvel Bar, the Minneapolis cocktail lounge, reopened earlier this month after a winter break, something was missing behind the bar: the alcohol.

Top-shelf liquors were replaced with an elaborate installation of dried flowers. A counter that once held 192 bottles of whiskey is now a bookshelf featuring, among other titles, Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” a pocket guide to herbs, and an illustrated volume on cats that live in distilleries.

The whiskey? It’s still there, just tucked out of sight.

These days, Marvel Bar doesn’t look much like a bar at all, in the traditional sense, anyway. Yet its bartenders are still shaking and stirring some of the most mouthwatering cocktails in town, minus one crucial ingredient.

As more Americans cut down on alcohol consumption, Twin Cities cocktail menus are evolving to meet demands for more than a simple seltzer and lime. “Mindful drinking” and “sober curious” movements, Dry January and Sober October are just some of the buzzwords — without the buzz — that reflect a surge of bar and restaurant consumers who want a drink, without drinking.

Marvel Bar’s dramatic new look is part of a four-month “exploration” into nonalcoholic cocktails, a program it’s calling “Dry” that includes classes and panel discussions, in addition to a new drink menu. (Traditional alcoholic cocktails are still available, but they’re downplayed.)

Meanwhile, customers at P.S. Steak can get a nonalcoholic negroni that mixes verjus (nonfermented wine grape juice) with a bitter soda. Travail’s Uffda pop-up has a list of “church basement punches” that riff on different colors of Kool-Aid. And Demi offers a multicourse “temperance pairing” of alcohol-free beverages with dinner.

“The best bars exist to make people feel welcomed,” said Nathaniel Smith, bar director for Travail Collective. “I don’t see why every cocktail bar in town wouldn’t have a section of their menu dedicated to a large percentage of the population.” (Read more…)