An ‘alcohol-free bar’ sounds like an oxymoron. And the only dry bars Dubai denizens are familiar with are blow-dry bars. NoLo, the groundbreaking new non-alcoholic bar – Dubai’s first ever, by the way – is putting those misconceptions to rest one sober cocktail at a time since its soft opening earlier this month.
Tucked away on the 24th floor at Dusit Thani, NoLo occupies the sophisticated space that was earlier known as Another Bar. Hidden behind a stodgy black door through an alley next to the kitchens, NoLo retains Another Bar’s concealed location, elegant old-world oriental décor, dizzying Downtown Dubai views, and smooth jazz playlist. What’s been replaced though is its boozy soul. But not a single sip of craft cocktails on the menu let slip that there’s 0% alcohol in them.
But isn’t that just a mocktail?
We had that same question, but when NoLo’s bartender extraordinaire Dinesh juggles mixers and flips bottles to deftly pour you a Highball, you’ll be shaken. And stirred by questions about how exactly on earth is a boozy-tasting cocktail a zero-proof drink?!
The difference between the run-off-the-mill mocktails and NoLo’s cocktails is the presence of spirits – the thing that makes alcohol alcohol. However, NoLo has joined forces with a brand called Lyre that’s mastered the art of removing the intoxicating elements of alcohol but mimics the exact flavour and mouthfeel.
So, your tastebuds are tricked into thinking you’re nursing an actual Old Fashioned because of the bitter undertaste of whiskey, what you’re actually tasting is non-alcoholic malt made of wholesome botanical infusions, nuts, seeds and spices.
Connoisseurs of fine whiskeys might sniff at this new-fangled take on the bourbon-based classic but hear us out. Take a deep whiff of the tipple and you’ll be swayed. Not because it’ll get you tipsy, but because the smoked honey syrup, alcohol-free aromatic bitters recreates the same depth and silky feel of the OG drink.
Hangover-free Happy Hours
Are people in Dubai thirsty for a dry bar? If the city’s penchant for vegan and healthy cafes is any yardstick, then yes, a dry bar is a fascinating respite from hangovers and Happy Hour outings that feel anything but joyous the next day. NoLo’s launch is part of Dusit Thani Dubai’s larger campaign to transform itself into a healthy sanctuary.
Since January 2022, the hotel has switched to being a dry property, drawing the shutters down on longstanding drinking institutions such as the Nippon Bottle Company and introducing fresh concepts like NoLo – the name itself is a portmanteau of ‘No alcohol’ and ‘Low worries’. It can also mean ‘low calories’ if you’ve been watching your diet.
Social drinking, the folks behind NoLo believe, can be just as social without the giggle juice. And in that spirit (pardon the pun), the bar has stocked up on board games so patrons can pull up chairs, strike up a conversation with like-minded strangers AND remember the whole thing next day.
Mindful drinkers and teetotallers in the friend groups won’t have to settle for sugary juices, flavoured seltzers to make it to the glass-clinking boomerang. And if you’re a teen or a young adult below the drinking age, this is a fantastic, law-abiding way to enjoy the sophisticated luxury of a bar at a budget-friendly price tag.
Creative drinks and food
In the trifecta of ingredients that make a good bar are great ambiance, scrummy bar bites and innovative drinks. Another Bar’s vintage bones with its wrought-iron chandeliers, a grand piano, deep velvet chairs and retro decor elements like an old-timey rotary phone sees that the first box is checked.
Snacks are sorted from neighbouring restaurant 24th Street’s kitchen. Delicacies such as sushi, wagu beef sliders, shrimp tacos and award-winning desserts such as the ‘Tree-ra-misu’, an edible potted plant made of – you guessed it – tiramisu and fluffy Japanese cheesecake are served up fresh at your table.
When it comes to innovative drinks, NoLo does more than switching real alcohol with faux liquor. Signature cocktails have been thought out and lovingly crafted by the in-house mixologists and served with equal amounts of flair. Highlights are the gin-based Lavender Bees Knees Royale, Spice Date Espresso Martini, and a curry-leaves infused Deli Sour. It’s a peculiar combo, but it works.
That’s a sentiment that also sums up NoLo. A non-alcoholic bar sounds bonkers in theory, but in practice it all clicks. For the first time ever, you’ll find yourself leaving a bar feeling high yet dry.