Tasty and creative non-alcoholic cocktails can help attract people going dry for January, reports Mark Ludmon
In the coastal village of Aberlady east of Edinburgh, non-alcoholic cocktails have been added to the winter drinks menu at Ducks bar and bistro. Taking them through Christmas to February, the cocktails (pictured above) include not just boozy festive cocktails but the likes of an Aberlady Sunrise, with orange juice, pineapple juice and grenadine, and Passion by the Coast, mixing orange juice, cranberry juice and elderflower. “Mocktails are now a big trend, and promoting healthy, responsible and well-flavoured drinks is key now within the business,” says restaurant and bar manager, Alan Walker. They are even included in the cocktail master classes that Alan is running in the run-up to Christmas.
The opportunities from mocktails are greatest for bars looking to attract people on a January “detox”. Refresco Gerber UK launched the Del Monte Occasions range of cocktail mixers into the on-trade this year, offering a Pineapple Mojito, Mango Margarita, Tomato Spicy Mary and Cranberry Cosmopolitan. Chiefly for mixing with spirits, they can also be served as ready-made mocktails, says commercial director James Logan. “With many consumers often giving up alcohol in January following over-indulgence during the festive season, a mocktail is a great alternative to an alcoholic beverage. It offers something different from the run-of-the-mill soft drinks – a treat to be savoured.”
He advises that bars should promote non-alcoholic options as much as alcoholic cocktails, with displays and promotions. “A mocktail won’t be front of mind to many consumers so needs promoting to encourage impulse purchase. From a licensee’s perspective, mocktails are a high profit line as they provide a great opportunity to premiumise a soft drink sale.”
Not only are charities running “go sober” campaigns at other times of the year but many people are generally looking for interesting soft drinks all year round – even at Christmas. “With non-alcoholic cocktails experiencing enormous growth, the party season is the ideal opportunity for bar operators to shake up their drinks menu and offer something new and exciting for those not wishing to drink alcohol,” says Marja Lawrence, operations manager at Funnybones Foodservice. The company has introduced the Tropics range of Margarita, Mojito and Pina Colada premium cocktail mixes to make it easier for bars to create all kinds of cocktails, which need just ice added – and spirits if going alcoholic. It also launched Tropics Pure Fruit Infusions which are natural premium purees, from banana, strawberry, raspberry and Wild Berry to Lemon Ice, mango, passion fruit, peach and pink guava, which are also recommended for combining with each other.
Tropics and Occasions join the growing choice of cocktail mixes and purees on the market from the likes of Finest Call and Funkin. The Tomato Stall offers juices made from Isle of Wight tomatoes, including the golden Sunshine Juice, that are being used by leading bars for Bloody Mary menus. “The premium juices also appeal to consumers looking for grown-up alcohol-free drinks such as Virgin Marys,” points out Paul Thomas, commercial director for The Tomato Stall.
Fentimans is also part of the wave of premium drinks for grown-ups, with naturally made products including Dandelion & Burdock, Ginger Beer, Rose Lemonade and Mandarin and Seville Orange Jigger. The range is promoted for non-alcoholic cocktails such as a Basil & Mint Collins, made by muddling basil and mint leaves with sugar, shaking it with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup and then double-straining it into a Collins glass over ice, topped with Fentimans Tonic Water and garnished with a mint sprig.
As much effort needs to be put into non-alcoholic cocktails as alcoholic ones, points out Guy Cooper, managing director of Mitchell & Cooper, which supplies bartending kits and equipment. “With juicing having been such a strong trend in 2014, its widespread appeal is set to continue into early 2015 at the very least so using fresh fruit and vegetable juices within alcohol-free beverages will ensure a very trend-led, intriguing menu.” Mitchell & Cooper supplies bars with the versatile Omega Masticating Juicer which uses a low-speed juicing system that retains natural enzymes that allow the juice to last for up to 72 hours. “It’s important for virgin cocktails to look good too – they deserve to be as glamorous as their alcoholic counterparts, particularly when simple soft drinks are often much cheaper,” Guy adds.
A new campaign was launched in November for premium juice brand Frobishers to encourage bars, pubs and clubs to serve more mocktails. As part of the “Unusual Suspects” activity, Frobishers has developed five recipes using ingredients commonly found behind the bar, working with consultancy Blackleaf Events, which are supported by branded menus, recipes cards and profit-making tips. Recipes include a Bumbleberry Cinnamon Punch made with Frobishers Bumbleberry juice, ginger beer and juice of half an orange, garnished with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stirrer in a glass with a sugar and cinnamon-coated rim. “Premium soft drinks may not be the usual suspects when it comes to increasing profits but we believe that Frobishers can improve an operator’s bottom line,” says sales and marketing director Steve Carter.
He recommends eye-catching presentation to make mocktails as appealing as alcoholic drinks and to use the same theatre of shaking, stirring, straining and garnishing. However, Steve warns not to just offer non-alcoholic versions of existing cocktails. “These can be unbalanced and lacking in flavour. Aim to create unique, stand-alone mocktails that can hold their own at the bar.”
Steve believes mocktails should be sold for at least £3 each which, by using simple low-cost ingredients and garnishes, could lift gross profit by over 40% per drink. “Just because a mocktail doesn’t contain alcohol, don’t let that devalue its perception in the eyes of your customer. Mocktails command a higher price point than a soft drink served alone, reflecting the care and attention that has gone into producing it as well as the extra ingredients. Customers expect prices to be lower than alcohol cocktails but still view mocktails as a premium product which can command a premium price point.”
Mocktails can be sold at a much higher price point than traditional soft drinks, often just a pound or two cheaper than an alcoholic cocktail, as consumers are prepared to spend much more for a mix of different fruit purees and juices than they are for a single flavour juice, points out Steve Dingley, European brand manager for Finest Call cocktail mixers and purees. “January is the perfect month to experiment with your drinks list. After the craziness of Christmas, trade is generally slower so it is a great time for your staff to try their hand at mixing cocktails and mocktails. Offering a selection of mocktails is a great way to maximise profits during the leanest month of the year.”
Highland Spring Group is broadening consumption of its Highland Spring sparkling water by promoting ideas for mixing. It is led by a twist on a classic Hugo, combining muddled mint leaves, lime juice and Bottlegreen elderflower cordial, topped with prosecco and Highland Spring sparkling water and garnished with fresh mint and lime wedges. It has also developed mocktail recipes, available at www.highland-spring.com, such as a non-alcoholic Hugo leaving out the prosecco. Others include the Winter Berry Wonderland, with Belvoir Spiced Winter Berries cordial and a squeezed orange wedge over ice, topped with sparkling water and garnished with orange zest and blackberries.
Soft options for Dry January
Simple serves are being promoted to bars for “Dry January” for Finest Call’s premium fruit purees and syrups via its website, www.finestcall.com, such as the Virgin Sunset (pictured), Triple Berry Treat and English Orchard.
Triple Berry Treat
25ml Finest Call Strawberry Puree
25ml Finest Call Raspberry Puree
Garnish with a squeezed lime wedge
50ml Finest Call Strawberry Puree
50ml Lemon juice
50ml Apple juice
25ml Finest Call Passion Fruit Puree
25ml Finest Call Peach Puree
35ml Pineapple juice
35ml Orange juice
Cranberry juice floated on top
A shorter version of this article appeared in the December 2014 print issue of Bar magazine.