Phaedra Achor is a lot like the Monarch butterflies that adorn the labels of her award-winning FloraLuna cocktail bitters and syrups — always ready for a beautiful transformation.
A former massage therapist with a culinary bent, Achor started out blending extracts of barks, roots and botanicals in her spare time to create cocktail bitters. She launched Monarch Bitters in 2017, and then rebranded a couple of years later as FloraLuna. In 2019, she opened FloraLuna Apothecary & Trading Co. in downtown Petaluma as a retail showcase for her elixirs, adding botanical teas and other natural products to the lineup.
Now, Achor has reinvented the shop as The Apothecary by FloraLuna, Sonoma County’s first alcohol-free cocktail lounge.
Tucked between Vine & Barrel Wines and Ethical Clothing on Kentucky Street, the diminutive, jewel-box space has a cozy, speakeasy feel — minus the bathtub gin. The Apothecary seats just 18 guests, including small lounge areas on the sidewalk and in the adjoining hallway.
For Achor, launching a zero-proof bar in wine-soaked Sonoma County was a risky undertaking — but one whose time had come.
“I had a sense of the sober-curious movement coming out of the pandemic, and a lot of people in their 20s are choosing to not have alcohol in their lives,” she said. “There’s definitely been a shift in consciousness, so I thought I could create a little niche in Petaluma. My mixers show just as beautifully in nonalcoholic cocktails as they do in spirited ones.”
Achor also received a push from mandated pandemic shutdowns, which hobbled the initial momentum of her newly opened apothecary.
The shop managed to hang on through the reopening phase, she says, but it never quite bounced back. A few months ago, she took stock of her business and realized that another shift was in order. With FloraLuna cocktail bitters and syrups in distribution across the state, it was time to pivot to a concept that would showcase and support her core products.
Once the idea of a nonalcoholic cocktail lounge took root, Achor went all in on the concept and began developing recipes. Though she had experience creating craft cocktails with alcoholic spirits, this was her first foray into alcohol-free drinks.
“It’s a very different approach,” she explained. “Nonalcoholic spirits don’t have the same density and mouthfeel, so there were a lot of holes to fill.” Fortunately, the richness and complexity of her elixirs did the trick, adding flavor and dimension to the drinks.
Achor arrived at eight cocktails for The Apothecary’s opening menu, including No Strings Attached — a blend of alcohol-free mezcal, tonic syrup, lemon coriander shrub, jalapeño and smoked bitters — and Midnight Mantra, made with nonalcoholic bourbon, cardamom clove syrup, coffee banana cordial and coffee cocoa peppercorn bitters. All selections are priced at $12.
Along with sipping cocktails in the lounge, shoppers can purchase drinks-to-go in glass jars, along with FloraLuna elixirs, shrubs and zero-proof spirits to mix into cocktails at home. Stay tuned for branded cocktail kits, complete with recipes.
Open 4-8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays. 122 Kentucky St., 707-387-6766, floralunaapothecary.com.
Written by Tina Caputo