Less is more: Funkin’s first Innovation Lab

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Funkin’s first Innovation Lab explored the nuances of low- and no-ABV cocktails

The idea of having no alcohol in what should be an alcoholic drink – take alcohol-free beers for example – isn’t new. But in the cocktail world, this concept is beginning to take off and has become a “hot” topic in recent months.

Funkin’s first Innovation Lab, which focused on low- and no-ABV cocktails, was suitably timed, taking place after London Cocktail Week and the Bar Convent Berlin show where these drinks created a buzz. The bartender programme welcomed two cocktail industry heavyweights, Alistair Kelsey of Mr Lyan Studios and scent technician Ericka Duffy, to give participants an exclusive, first-hand experience.

Funkin’s managing director Andrew King cited that 40% of cocktail drinkers will choose to not drink on a night out or for a portion of a night out, according to recent CGA data. That’s a significant number not to ignore, and the Innovation Lab served as a vehicle to shine some light on this segment of the cocktail category.

Funkin Innovation Lab explored the nuances of non-alcoholic cocktails. Throughout the day, attendees enjoyed three signature Funkin serves created by Funkin’s Innovation Champion, Aisté Valiukaité (pictured below), one of which featured Funkin’s latest purée, Apricot.

Funkin Aiste

“A well-conceived and balanced beverage is not beholden to an ABV,” says Ericka. “If someone is not imbibing alcohol, they should be able to enjoy a splendidly conceived beverage, considered with the same principles that apply to cocktail making.”

One of Ericka’s three cocktails was a milk punch that was pre-batched. It featured Funkin Pro William Pear Purée, Funkin Pro Rhubarb Syrup, Funkin Pro Smoked Syrup, Funkin Pro Ginger Syrup, Funkin Pro Spiced Syrup and a series of other ingredients to make her Autumn Milk Punch. The drink was balanced and tasty, garnished with Nutella powder that turned to liquid in your mouth.

“Alcohol helps carry flavours, but the same effort that goes into making a delicious cocktail can go into making a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail,” says Alistair (pictured below). “It’s important to provide customers who are not drinking with an equally enticing cocktail experience.”

Funkin Alistair

He demonstrated this with a take on an espresso martini using only four ingredients: Funkin Pro Beetroot Shrub, Funkin Pro Agave Syrup, Sandows cold brew concentrate and tonic water.
Alistair’s Dark Beets cocktail delivered as an alcohol-free Espresso Martini.

At the heart of the discussion was a flavour map* that outlines how food flavours and alcohol correlate with one another, aiding Ericka to mimic the flavour of alcohol by using different ingredients. She explained that consumers who aren’t drinking don’t always want a sweet drink like a cola or juice. They often want something dry, earthy or bitter, similar flavours that could be found in beer, wine or champagne.

Ericka (pictured below) demonstrated that by using Funkin Pro White Peach Purée and a flavoured kombucha, bartenders can replicate a classic Bellini without the alcohol and still deliver a similar flavour profile.

Naturally, the debate on what to call these types of drinks was discussed, as the industry has yet to adopt one name: non-alcoholic, no-ABV, zero-proof, mocktails, boozeless? The jury is still out.

Funkin Ericka Duffy

*Yong-Yeol Ahn, Sebastian Ahnert, James P Bagrow, and A-L Barabási “Flavor network and the principles of food pairing”, Scientific Reports 1, 196 (2011)

Dark Beets by Alistair Kelsey
50ml Sandows cold brew concentrate
15ml Funkin Pro Beetroot Shrub
20ml Funkin Pro Agave Syrup
35ml Tonic water
Add the first three ingredients to a shaker and shake hard over ice. Add tonic to a cocktail coupe and then fine strain the other ingredients from the cocktail shaker over the top. Garnish with dehydrated beetroot powder

Dark Beets Funkin

Originally published in the November 2017 print edition of Bar magazine.

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