Perspectives

A Toast to the Rise of Booze-Free Libations

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A Toast to the Rise of Booze-Free Libations

Mocktails are by no means “new” beverages, but what is new now is the level of attention paid to them.

Although a recent article on AP NEWS states that modern Americans are currently drinking just as much as our countrymen did before Prohibition, there is also a parallel, yet opposite movement toward taking a break from alcoholic beverages. It’s this “occasional teetotaler” trend where the new generation of mocktails comes in to play.

The mocktail has come a long way from virgin piña coladas. Bars and restaurants have realized that customers are willing to pay a premium for well-designed, delicious and beautiful-looking drinks they can enjoy shoulder to shoulder with cocktail drinkers.

The nonalcoholic beverage list at Atera, a two Michelin Star restaurant with an immersive sensory dining experience, has been curated with the same attention as their cocktail list. One of their most unique mocktails is the Temperance Pairing Cote de Beet, featuring beet, toasted oak, black currant and thyme oil served in a decanter with a large red wine glass. Another example is their Temperance Pairing “Negroni” featuring a mélange of juniper sap, Peruvian quinine and sultana nectar. Such mocktails are proving that nonalcoholic beverages can be just as flavorful, full-bodied, entertaining and engaging as cocktails when crafted with the same passion.

Along these lines, another trend gaining popularity here in the U.S. is low alcohol-by-volume (ABV) beverages. The growing desire for wellness in a younger group of consumers has helped elevate the sales of these cocktails. These drinks support the increasing move toward moderation, while still allowing guests to enjoy the flavor and social aspects of cocktails. As a result, bartenders are approaching low-alcohol drink craftsmanship the same as they do mocktails—with thoughtful use of ingredients in each recipe. Amaros and aperitifs, along with sherry, vermouth and bitters, are often star ingredients in this category due to their lower alcohol content, yet abundance of flavor and body.

Banzanbar, a high-end cocktail bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, serves drinks such as its 22-Degree Halo, a $20 low ABV cocktail using amontillado sherry, bianco vermouth, mastika (a liqueur seasoned with mastic, a resin with a strong pine or cedar-like flavor), carrot and basil. Is it expensive for a low ABV cocktail? Yes. But the flavor is worth it–especially when you take under consideration its high-quality global ingredients blended in perfect union.

With moderation as a buzz word and movements like “dry January” gaining popular support, the mocktail and its low ABV cousin may be having more than a moment—they may be here to stay. If so, bartenders should make thoughtful craftsmanship of these drinks a menu priority, or expect to miss out on the business of guests who prefer premium flavor instead of a proof.

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