If you need more proof of the no-proof beverage trend, a new industry group called the Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association (ANBA) formed last year to represent nonalcoholic adult beverage manufacturers. There’s also the flurry of nonalcoholic spirits, beer and wine that have entered the market in recent time.
Bars and restaurants have also embraced the no-proof movement. Hyatt Hotels Corp. launched its Zero Proof, Zero Judgment beverage program in August 2021. The initiative, which Hyatt expanded to more of its U.S. hotel brands this past December, enables restaurant and bar teams at participating properties to deliver creative nonalcoholic cocktails.
Omni Hotels & Resorts’ Flavor Origins craft cocktail menu includes no-proof options that incorporate Seedlip, one of the original nonalcoholic “spirit” products. For example, the Dry Cranberry Spritzer is made with Seedlip Grove 42, Monin Cranberry, lime juice, orange bitters and Q grapefruit soda. The Apple Spice Sour uses Seedlip Spice 94, Barmalade Apple Pear, Monin cinnamon, lemon juice and Angostura bitters.
Interest in spirit-free sips and other no-proof libations tends to heat up at the start of the year, when consumers participate in “Dry January,” or otherwise resolve to focus on health and wellness after the holiday decadence. In fact, 35% of consumers surveyed participated in “Dry January,” according to On-Premise research from CGA, up from 21% in 2019. Of those intending to abstain from alcohol, 74% claimed to have succeeded.
Just because consumers didn’t drinking in January doesn’t mean they stayed home, however. Nearly 80% of consumers participating in Dry January still visited bars and restaurants. Considering many were still concerned about Covid and frustrated with the pandemic restrictions, that number could have been even higher.
CGA data also suggests that more guests are trading up from complimentary water or no beverage at all to a nonalcoholic category. So it’s important to offer spirit-free alternatives that won’t dampen their experience, particularly since abstaining from alcohol is extending beyond Drynuary or Sober October for many consumers.
Inventive Nonalcoholic Offerings
Bar Julian in Hyatt’s Thompson Savannah hotel boasts an inclusive cocktail menu with several nonalcoholic drinks. Beverage Director Chelsea DeMark aims to create zero-proof cocktails that appeal to everyone, from kids and pregnant women to those looking to explore an alcohol-free lifestyle.
“At Bar Julian, we utilize our signature fresh-pressed juices and bespoke syrups to make playful, colorful and intriguing zero-proof beverages,” says DeMark. She is fond of Ritual Zero Proof’s “tequila” variation, which she uses in The Lowcountry drink, along with yellow bell pepper, lemon, honey and basil.
Ritual’s no-proof tequila “is spicy and peppery and has a great rich texture,” she notes. “That paired with zesty yellow bell pepper juice, lemon and honey makes a bright and thirst-quenching nonalcoholic drink that goes above and beyond your standard virgin Mojito.”
At Dirty Habit, a cocktail bar in the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Washington D.C., bartender Ashtyn Harris created a new spirit-free cocktail menu for 2022. The mocktails are packed with herbs and fresh fruits. They include the Berry Spicy, with blackberries, lime juice, simple syrup and jalapeno water, and the Secret Garden, which incorporates Seedlip Garden 108, basil-simple syrup, lemon juice and celery bitters.
Moon Rabbit, a modern Vietnamese restaurant on The Wharf in Washington, D.C., in January unveiled a nonalcoholic cocktail menu. The spirit-free sips, priced $11 each, are based on traditional cocktails, and honor Chef Kevin Tien’s unique Southern and Vietnamese roots. For instance, the Look What You Made Me Do, named after the Taylor Swift reputation song, is made with coconut milk and jasmine tea syrup, topped with a dried citrus wheel. The No-groni Spritz uses a bittersweet cordial made in-house with tea, herbs, spices and a touch of sweetness, along with Seedlip Grove and Fever Tree aromatic tonic. It combines elements of a traditional Negroni, as well as a lighter Italian-style Spritz.
Mixing It Up
When creating nonalcoholic cocktails, “I focus on balance and providing the guest with a cocktail experience, albeit, zero-proof,” says Mariena Mercer Boarini, resort mixologist at the Wynn Las Vegas. “Many times when you order a mocktail, you receive a sugary glass of mixed juices, and I wanted to ensure the guest has an elevated luxury experience in a glass.”
For example, she says, “the Ava at Overlook Lounge at Wynn is a playful nonalcoholic take on the Aperol Spritz.” It incorporates Lyre’s Italian Orange zero-proof spirit, Fever-Tree ginger beer, soda, a pink grapefruit slice and passion fruit pearls.
“Mocktails are a great way to stay creative while using authentic, quality ingredients,” says Mark Moulton, beverage director at Laurel Brasserie & Bar in Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel. “Offerings like these help us to be as inclusive as possible and create a space and environment that welcomes everyone.”
Laurel’s alcohol-free cocktails, $8 each, include Spiced Ginger-Lime Fizz, with hibiscus tea, lemon and sugar, and the Cosnopolitan, with the nonalcoholic spirit Seedlip Grove, cranberry, lime and sugar. One of Moulton’s favorite zero-proof libations is The Eastside, made with Seedlip Spice, fresh cucumber, mint and lime.
Amara at Paraiso restaurant in Miami in August 2021 introduced a Designated Drivers Mocktail Program featuring no-ABV cocktails made with Lyre’s nonalcoholic spirits. The mocktails, priced at $12 and can be served up or on the rocks, include the No-Proof Bulletproof, with Lyre’s American Malt, cherry-rosemary and lemon; Easy Rider with Lyre’s Italian Orange aperitif, grapefruit and lime; and Fancy Free, with Lyre’s Dark Cane, orgeat, pineapple, orange and lime.
No matter the reason a guest abstains from drinking alcohol, inclusivity is key. With Bar Julian’s zero-proof selections, “you can order something that looks like a proper drink and can avoid that ‘elephant in the room’ topic altogether, if you choose,” DeMark says.
One of Bar Julian’s winter mocktails was called Elf in the Room, made with Ritual Zero Proof Gin, spiced cranberry syrup, lemon juice and grapefruit soda. The cocktail’s playful name makes light of the sometimes-awkward “I’m not drinking tonight” conversation, DeMark notes.
Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers magazine, our on-premise sister publication. Contact her at email@example.com, and read her recent piece, The 2022 Wine Growth Brands Awards — Recognizing Top Brands.