Young people in particular are opting to cut out alcohol. A 2022 survey from Drinkaware revealed 19% of 18 to 24 year olds didn't drink at all. But it’s not just Gen Z embracing a sober lifestyle: the non-alcoholic beverages market has rocketed by 506% since 2015. According to a recent article by VICE, alcohol has “lost its cool”.
Booze and pubs go hand in hand, and taking the plunge into the big, wide world of non-alcoholic drinks can feel daunting. But we’ve got you covered. The Morning Advertiser spoke to the UK’s top bartenders on the do’s and don’ts of making a world-class mocktail.
Think theatre advises the Ugly Butterfly’s group bar manager Josh Linfitt. By this, he means bartenders should consider the story behind the serve. The Cornish bar in St Ives, which is part of the award-winning Ugly Butterfly restaurant, has seen a surge in demand for alcohol free options.
Through creating a spectacle, bars can wow customers with the deep level of care behind the drink. For instance, the Ugly Butterfly’s most popular non-alcoholic cocktail is its riff on an Italian Sproppino ‘Homage to Frog’. The drink is poured at the table from a mini ceramic jug into a frozen sorbet frog, made from wasted apple juice from a local supplier and foraged nettles.
Pay attention to texture, says general manager of award-winning cocktail bar Lab 22. Matthew Jones, who heads up the venue in Cardiff, Wales, believes mixologists should spend time working out how to best emulate the sensation of alcohol dissipating on your palate.
For Jones, many alcohol-free brands have missed the mark in mimicking alcohol’s mouthfeel, but chemicals like glycerine and amylases can be toyed with to best create the effect.
Stray from the sweet tooth are words of wisdom from general manager of intimate wine bar Burnt Milk Hotel Mike Bower. Nine times out of 10, mocktails are super sweet, he says, suffering from a blend of whatever juice and syrup is in the fridge.
But, the Liverpool-based manager believes guests are intrigued by more interesting flavours. “Imagine you went on a night out and could only drink a mojito,” he adds. “By the fourth bar, you’re going to be sick of it and want to change things up”.
Henry Colyer, head of marketing at cannabis drinks brand Goodrays, wholeheartedly agrees. “Consumers shouldn’t have to sacrifice sophisticated flavour experiences, functional benefits and high-quality ingredients just because they don’t want to drink alcohol,” he reasons.
Know your CBDs: For centuries, alcohol has dominated the ‘relaxation’ occasion, Colyer continues. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. He suggests adding CBD to non-alcoholic beverages, as this gives consumers an alternative to alcohol that leaves them relaxed but means they can drive home and wake up without a hangover.
Start with quality ingredients, is the top tip from no2low expert & Brimful Drinks cofounder James Morgan. It can be tempting to just opt for the non-alcoholic version of well-known spirit brands, he says, but advises looking further afield to find better options from highly innovative players in the industry.
Keep things fresh, he goes on to say: you should treat non-alc cocktails with just as much respect as you’d treat regular cocktails, and spruce them with fresh garnish like lemon or orange twists.
How to make a Grapefruit Collins
Ingredients: 2 lemons, 2 grapefruits, sugar, soda
- Peel the skin off the grapefruits and lemons.
- Juice the grapefruits to create the base of the drink.
- Cover the fruits in sugar, muddle, then cling film them to create an oleo saccharum and extract the juice from the fruit skin.
- Leave them overnight to create a thick syrup – this is the oleo.
- Add 50ml of grapefruit juice and 25ml of your oleo to a glass.
- Top this with soda.
- Voila – you have a Grapefruit Collins.
Recipe provided by Burnt Milk Hotel general manager Mike Bower
Be scared of salt is advice given by Linfitt, as it can enhance mouthfeel and create a bigger texture. Salt usually comes from alcohol itself and is expected within many cocktails, he adds, so operators need to seek alternative routes for alcohol-free drinks.
Skimp on the glassware, warns Morgan. It’s important to use a good quality glass and it is also key to fill the glass with ice to keep the drink cold. For so long, non-drinking customers have been treated as second class citizens, explains Morgan. He says: “To make them feel welcome, give them a nice drink.”
Design it for kids, continues Morgan, who stresses the cocktail should taste like it’s been made for adults. This can look like adding more bitterness, he advises, which transforms the tipple into a ‘sipping drink’ rather than something to simply quench your thirst.
Forget aesthetics: Trends are shifting away from big, gaudy over-the-top mocktails, according to Jones. He believes guests are beginning to get on board with serves that are “a little bit more minimalistic, a little bit cooler, a little bit subtler and a little bit sexier”.
This is a sentiment echoed by Linfitt, for whom aesthetics are incredibly important. “If your menu designs look great and you have super fancy looking serves for all your other drinks, then why would you not give just as much love into your alcohol-free drinks?” he asks. “They need to be treated with the exact same respect as the rest of the menu.”
Try the product like a bartender, says Jones, as while some products may taste vile neat, they may be surprisingly nice when blended with a mixer or soda. “Think of how you’ll put it in front of a guest,” he adds, “then ideas start to flow”.