Bars are offering more mocktails and other interesting soft options, reports Mark Ludmon
As a new year approaches, thousands of Britons will be pledging to go dry for January so increasingly bars are turning to non-alcoholic drinks to entice customers even when they are off the booze. For a successful list of mocktails, it is important to put in as much thought as with alcoholic cocktails, points out Michael Stringer of bar and drinks specialist Blackleaf Events. “When it comes to making mocktails, many people become a little lazy, simply adding a few juices together and adding a garnish. I think it is surely about time to think about ways to create some more interesting non-alcoholic drinks using premium products – we should be treating mocktails with the same respect as their boozier cousin.”
Mocktails at Blackleaf’s events use premium products such as Frobishers fruit drinks and Monin syrups for exciting flavours. Michael also recommends adding sparkle to drinks with a SodaStream which he says is a great way to boost the GP in a bar. Working with Frobishers, Blackleaf has come up with recipes such as a Bumbleberry Cinnamon Punch using Frobishers’ Bumbleberry blend of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant juices. This is mixed with fresh orange juice in an ice-filled glass rimmed with cinnamon and sugar, topped up with lemonade and garnished with a slice of orange and cinnamon stick. Frobishers’ sales and marketing director Steve Carter adds: “Simple and effective techniques like ‘perfect serve’ presentation and mocktail mixing of premium drinks can help elevate a product to a higher price point, allowing the operator to achieve larger margins on their investment.”
Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is stressing the importance and profitability of a good non-alcoholic selection not just for the new year but all year round including Christmas. “Soft drinks are often under-represented in pubs in terms of visibility when compared to alcohol, and with 20% of adults now estimated to be teetotal, it’s important to cater to this audience,” explains trade communications manager Amy Burgess. “Mocktails are becoming an increasingly popular non-alcoholic option in pubs and bars as people look for a more indulgent drink – and this is a great opportunity during a traditional party season. In Europe, many consumers are personalising Coca-Cola by adding other ingredients, such as fresh mint, ginger slices or elderflower, to create a unique new drink. This may be something that bar staff could experiment with to add some theatre to their soft drinks offering.”
At Boutique Bar Show this year, distributor 10 Degrees C promoted its 1724 Tonic Water – made with quinine hand-picked at 1,724 metres above sea level on the Peruvian Inca Trail – for mocktail recipes. Ideas include Café With Altitude, made by topping up tonic water and ice with an espresso float – one of the drinks on the menu at Michelin-starred restaurant The Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Other suggestions include fresh grapefruit juice and ice topped with 1724, garnished with a grapefruit twist, and the Inca Temple made with Blossoms Grenadine and Passionfruit syrups over ice topped with 1724.
Tasty ideas for mocktails promoted for Fever-Tree mixers include the Gunner, combining Fever-Tree Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer with Angostura Bitters and lime juice. Alcohol-free twists on the classics include a Virgin Golden Mojito made by muddling mint leaves and sugar, adding apple juice and lime juice and then churning it up before topping up with Fever-Tree Ginger Ale and garnishing with a mint sprig.
Non-alcoholic cocktails come ready made in the Funkin range, with cocktail mixes such as Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri, Woo Woo and Bramble that normally just need alcohol and ice added. For the Christmas period, ideas for Funkin’s Pro syrups and purees include the Office Romance combining Funkin’s Mango Puree, Ginger Syrup and Pure Pour Lemon topped up with lemonade over ice in a long glass.
Products with healthy connotations do well in the new year, points out Graham Carr-Smith, creator of the Qcumber range of cucumber-based soft drinks. “Bars should offer interesting non-alcoholic drinks all year round really but it’s particularly important at the start of the year. In mocktails, the components have to work extra hard to deliver a special taste sensation so Qcumber can really come into its own here.”
As part of this year’s relaunch of Orangina in the UK, perfect serves were developed to take the French soft drink to the next level. As well as the basic serve with a wedge of fresh orange, it is recommended for pouring over ice with an orange twist and fresh thyme or – in a nod to the Mojito – poured over muddled fresh mint, lime juice and sugar in a glass full of ice with a lime wedge garnish. “Whilst Orangina provides the unique taste that consumers are looking for, research shows that 42% of consumers are more likely to order a soft drink if it is presented attractively too,” points out Jamie Nascimento, marketing manager for Orangina at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.
Both in January and all year round, consumers are looking for soft options that are interesting, good quality and offer a point of difference, says Simon Coley who launched Karma Cola, a craft cola made with real coca nut. Like its sister products Gingerella Ginger Ale and Lemony Lemonade, it uses organic and Fairtrade ingredients. “They provide ‘grown-up’ choices for soft drinks and great-tasting mixers for mocktails, allowing bars to expand their offering while fulfilling customer demands at this time of year,” Simon explains. Mocktail ideas include the Karma Drama – a twist on an affogato – made with Karma Cola, a shot of espresso and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Other brands tapping into demand for “grown up” soft drinks include Zeo, which was relaunched in March with five flavours, Peach & Grapefruit, Zesty Lime, Blood Orange & Citrus, Mixed Berry and Cloudy Lemon. This month sees the launch of Seedlip, described as “the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit”, as a serious alternative to alcoholic drinks, retailing at £30 per 70cl bottle. It combines six individually-distilled barks, spices and citrus peels to create a complex blend that is recommended for sipping long with tonic, with a red grapefruit twist, or short with brine as a non-alcoholic Martini.
SHS Drinks has invested in a contemporary redesign of Shloer Celebration Pink Fizz and White Bubbly, its alcohol-free grape juice-based brand, in time for Christmas. “Shloer Celebration enables bartenders to deliver a ‘wow’ factor for customers, and those who don’t drink alcohol don’t have to miss out on the opportunity to toast a special occasion such as the festive season,” explains Amanda Grabham, SHS Drinks’ marketing director for soft drinks.
The Fentimans range, botanically brewed in Northumberland, are marketed as “adult soft drinks”. “We aim to offer the consumer something more to enjoy rather than your run-of-the-mill cola and lemonade,” explains event marketing and PR manager Jaala Pickering. “We have also found that many consumers enjoy drinking our tonics as a soft drink, in particular our herbal tonic.” Ideas for mocktails include the Honeymoon, mixing Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock with apple juice, lime juice and honey. “Our range of soft drinks allow people to still go out and socialise in bars and pubs with a soft drink rather than alcohol,” Jaala adds.
Case study: Mermaid Bar at Wright Brothers (pictured)
Non-alcoholic cocktails are changed seasonally along with the rest of the drinks lists at Wright Brothers seafood restaurants around London, including the Mermaid Bar at its South Kensington site. At time of writing, options include the Pineapple Express, made with pineapple juice, coconut syrup, basil leaves, lemongrass and lime juice, and the Lavender Garden, a mix of strawberry, blood orange, lavender syrup, lemon juice and ginger ale. However, group bars manager Ivan Ruiz said new mocktails were coming for Christmas and more in January. “I’ll be looking to use a few more botanicals and herbs such as ginseng, echinacea and milk thistle,” he added. “The mocktails we offer have the same thinking behind them as the regular cocktails – different flavours to offer a range for everyone. Our Virgin Mary is a life saver in the morning and one of our best sellers – our Wright Brothers spice mix has 12 different ingredients.”