The problem with Cheeky and Dry, the new nonalcoholic bottle shop on Phinney Ridge, is that it’s difficult to describe what it sells. “Nonalcoholic beverages,” is a annoying term that, taken literally, could mean anything from milk to orange soda. Cheeky and Dry is a “bottle shop” in that it sells alcohol-free versions of beer, wine, spirits, and bitters but it also sells beverages that are uncategorizable: sparkling tea, CBD-infused seltzer, bottles of liquids that taste intensely herbal or are described as “blends of botanicals and adaptogens.” When you walk in the entrance on Phinney Avenue near 62nd Street, you’re confronted with a single room of bottles and cans you likely don’t recognize unless you’ve spent time working behind a bar that specializes in mocktails.
Opened this month by Kirstin and Yura Vracko, Cheeky and Dry sells beverages to the growing number of people who want sophisticated drinks but don’t want to get drunk, either because they’re capital-S sober or they simply don’t want alcohol that day. The Vrackos joined that category in May, when Yura went into rehab.
“Drinking had become part of who we were,” Kirstin says. “Our whole schedule was, get done with work and go to the bar and have a drink and come home and have dinner, and that was it. Trying to still keep some of that but also be sober was not as easy, so we were looking for alternatives.”
They ordered a lot of nonalcoholic beverages online, but it was tough to find things they actually liked. Kirstin had always wanted to own a shop, and had worked in sales and marketing her whole career, including a stint at Southern Wine and Spirits as a distributor, and decided there was a hole in the marketplace.
And Yura was apparently happy to go along. “I think I gave you like five days from the time you got out of rehab to pounce and say, ‘I want to open a nonalcoholic bottle shop!’” Kirstin jokes to him.
Part of the shop is devoted to “functional” beverages, the name for the type of NA drinks that claim to chill you out or give you a mental boost due to nootropics, adaptogenics, or CBD. Some of these pack the same type of intense flavor as liquor, and even have some of the burn or bite characteristic of booze — companies often add chile to their products to simulate that burn.
The advantage to coming into Cheeky and Dry rather than ordering some of these bottles online is that you can taste the different NA spirits to find ones you like, whether that’s the ginger-heavy Tennyson or the cucumber-and-floral Lacewing from Tilden. You can also learn about the finer points of NA beverages, for instance that when you take out the alcohol from wine or whiskey you lose not just flavor but mouthfeel — which is why NA whiskey without a mixer is “awful,” says Kirsten, and why a lot of NA wines aren’t very good. (The wine selection at Cheeky and Dry is fairly small for that reason.)
One thing you won’t find here is perhaps the most well-known NA brand, Athletic Brewing’s beers. “We’re a speciality shop,” Kirstin explains. “Stuff that you find in grocery stores you won’t find here. We’re curated, and Yura and I both decided that we’re going to sell products that we both really like.”
Cheeky and Dry is located at 6120 Phinney Avenue on Phinney Ridge and is open from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.