Non-alcoholic drinks create lots of buzz

Non-alcoholic drinks create lots of buzz

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With alcohol consumption and spending increases in America, these cities are purchasing the most alcohol.
USA TODAY

The competition for the hippest booze has become much less spirited. 

Non-alcoholic mixed drinks are the hot trend right now, as Americans are increasingly conscious about what they put in their mouths — and not just carbs and sugar. “Mocktails” isn’t a party-pooper portmanteau; eight and half decades after Prohibition ended in the U.S., Americans, especially those at prime drinking age, can’t get enough.

“People want to not be intoxicated but still want to be part of the bar life,” said Boston-based bartender Matthew Garofalo.

Thirteen percent of consumers agree that mocktails are a good alternative to alcoholic drinks, with younger women the target market for mocktails, according to the global market research firm Mintel. Forty-five percent of millennials would give up alcoholic beverages in order to improve their health.

“Consumers don’t want to sacrifice flavor and quality of ingredients,” said Amanda Topper, Mintel’s associate director of foodservice research. “They want to have a great experience, but perhaps without alcohol. We’re seeing a lot more restaurants and bars offering more high-caliber options.”

The data also found that 1 out of 10 people is interested in seeing mocktails in more bars and eateries.

Options aren’t limited to near beer and sparkling grape juice. The Shirley Temple has grown up. Bartenders who normal sling booze are creating recipes with fun names, like Abstinence on the Beach and Nojito. Premium waters, organic fruits and creative garnishes are creating lots of buzz among the non-buzzed as is Seedlip, the British company which makes what it claims is the world’s distilled non-alcoholic spirit, now sold around the globe.

Mocktails are on the menu at Starbucks Reserve Roasteries and juice giant Ocean Spray is in the game with a mocktails product line that includes a cranberry-peach bellini and sangria.

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There have always been people who avoid alcohol, whether due to medical conditions, such as pregnancy and mental illness; religion; drug interactions; designated-driver assignments or even a history of alcohol abuse. But this round of teetotalism comes from society’s embrace of wellness and young people’s perennial search for cool, new ways to party, shifting the focus from sidecars to punchless punches.

“Millennials are playing a role in this,” Topper said. “We know younger customers, iGen or Generation Z, aren’t drinking as much as older generations are. These types of beverages fall in line with their (decreased) likelihood of drinking.”

Some mocktail mixologists and fans dislike the cutesy term, though, opting instead to use “spirit-free” or “no-proof” to describe the drinks.

Regardless of what you call them, these adult-inspired beverages are also raging on the calendar — and not just because people are still in New Year’s resolutions mode. Dry January is the most “in” month since Movember started grizzling men’s upper lips in November. And this Jan. 13-19 is the first ever National Mocktail Week.

Raise your fauxito to Marnie Clark of Kingston, Washington, who dreamed up the week-long salute to non-boozy drinks. This chief operating officer of a commercial construction company has been sober for 16 years. Three years ago, she set out to curate great mocktails online. 

“It’s been frustrating for me. My husband still drinks. When we go out, he gets to partake and my choices are limited,” Clark said. “I had a bad virgin mojito and thought, ‘I can’t believe nobody’s fixed this.'”

Now, glamour shots of these drinks light up social media from the Thai Basil Black Pepper Herbaceous at the Chicago gastropub The Gage to OAK Long Bar + Kitchen in Boston’s Compass Rose, made with coconut water, almond syrup, cranberry juice and cloves, to London bar TwoRuba Canary Wharf’s Canary Island, composed of non-alcoholic gin, lavender syrup, lemon juice, sugar syrup, blackcurrant cordial and egg white.

“If the drink goes out on a tray with a waitress, it does turn heads,” said Garofalo, the bartender who created the Compass Rose.

He explained that he wanted to do a winter-summer mash-up of tastes and garnishes the drink with a handful of cranberries and a sprig of rosemary sitting atop crushed ice to resemble mistletoe. A Compass Rose costs $8, compared to $15 for the average alcoholic cocktail at OAK Long.

“Maybe people were embarrassed or intimidated to ask for mocktails before,” Garofalo said. “Once on the menu, there was an instant boom of orders. Once on the menu, they knew it was OK, it was expected.”

He estimates that the bar serves 25 to 30 Compass Roses — out of as many as 400 traditional drinks on a busy night. 

“Now that there are so many high-quality non-alcoholic options, they don’t feel it’s a trade-off,” Topper said. “It’s still an enjoyable experience, but they want something that’s not going to make them so hungover or not as expensive as a cocktail may be.”

Aurea Lara enjoys mocktails and estimates she has two a night.

“I’m very aware of what I put into my body,” said the 38-year-old Los Angeles actress, who also drinks alcohol. “(It’s) to de-stress instead of going for the booze.”

Lara’s boyfriend is supportive, but sometimes when they go out, he wonders why she doesn’t simply get what he calls a real drink. If it’s a bar with no real mocktail options, she’s happy to direct the bartender to, say, muddle some berries, throw in a bit of mint and then splash sparkling mineral water on top.

“Within the last year, I’m more aware and have made wiser choices while I’m out and about,” Lara said. “As a society, we’re definitely becoming more conscious of our actions and how they impact others, especially with #MeToo. Everyone is looking at one’s self to see if they’re part of the solution or the problem.”

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Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/01/18/mocktails-create-buzz-no-alcohol-cocktails-trend/2477550002/





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