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“Worry Not: Pop-Up Series Celebrates the Artistry of Alcohol-Free Cocktails in Portland”

by Kaia

Over the past decade, Portland’s landscape of nonalcoholic beverages has undergone a profound transformation. What was once a rarity—finding a mocktail on a menu—is now increasingly commonplace. Oregon boasts its own zero-proof spirits and breweries, while vintners have begun crafting nonalcoholic wines using locally grown grapes.

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Despite this progress, not all nonalcoholic (NA) offerings are created equal, notes Cliff Seminerio, a bartender at Canard. Since abstaining from alcohol last April, Seminerio has encountered a dearth of options, even in today’s evolving scene. “What I see on menus is maybe one nonalcoholic drink, or a bartender’s choice nonalcoholic drink,” he observes. “You’ll ask a bartender to make you a drink and they’ll make a face.”

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In response to this gap, Seminerio sought to showcase the creativity and allure of alcohol-free cocktails, especially when paired with exceptional cuisine. Thus, in the summer of 2023, he launched the Worry Not event series—a pop-up dedicated to nonalcoholic cocktails complemented by Portland’s culinary delights. Crafting his own NA components and collaborating with local zero-proof spirit producers like Wilderton, Seminerio aims to offer thoughtfully crafted drinks that transcend the need for alcohol.

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However, Worry Not isn’t solely about catering to the sober community; it’s about inclusivity, welcoming all patrons to savor phenomenal food and drink, irrespective of their drinking preferences. “None of the drinks have alcohol, they’ll never have alcohol, but anyone can enjoy this,” asserts Seminerio.

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Initially conceived as a “not so boozy” brunch pop-up at Cooper’s Hall Northeast, Worry Not has evolved to feature renowned chefs like Kevin Jones, formerly of Bar Casa Vale and now at Moonshot. The upcoming pop-up on April 28th promises a Southern-themed extravaganza, with delectable offerings such as buttermilk-brined fried chicken, mac and cheese, and braised greens, accompanied by Seminerio’s inventive concoctions.

With each event, Seminerio empowers the participating chefs to unleash their creativity, while also designing cocktails tailored to complement the menu. For instance, one drink features Wilderton’s Earthen spirit infused with Dr. Pepper, burdock root, anise seeds, and caramelized sugar—a playful nod to the classic Alabama Slammer cocktail.

Seminerio’s dedication to crafting exceptional NA beverages extends beyond the pop-up realm. Currently developing a nonalcoholic beverage list for Heavenly Creatures and planning nonalcoholic cocktail classes at Kitchen Culture, he envisions a future where nonalcoholic options hold equal prominence alongside their alcoholic counterparts on menus citywide.

Worry Not’s next installment promises an afternoon of culinary delights and innovative libations on August 28th at CH Northeast, inviting Portlanders to indulge in the artistry of alcohol-free cocktails without compromise.

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