As the January “detox” season starts, Mark Ludmon looks at the rise of non-alcoholic cocktails
Manchester’s cocktail scene is booming, and even non-alcoholic cocktails are sharing in the love. At Mr Cooper’s House & Garden at Manchester’s Midland Hotel, bar manager Tim Laferla says they sell a “surprisingly” lot of them. Just as much thought has gone into the mocktails as the main cocktail list, matching the quality of the food from the restaurant’s chef, Simon Rogan. Examples include the Pink Ivy, which combines pomegranate juice, lime, Japanese green tea and rose lemonade, served with pomegranate seeds and an edible flower. “Non-alcoholic cocktails do well as we are a family-friendly restaurant and they appeal to guests such as pregnant women,” Tim adds.
While Mr Cooper’s offers a seasonally changing list of mocktails all year round, the concept comes into its own in January when increasing numbers of people follow the excesses of Christmas and New Year with a month of “detox”. “Mocktails are a great way to keep the party going throughout Christmas and well into the new year,” says James Coston (pictured), UK brand ambassador for Monin syrups. “They’re particularly good to have on the menu during January for any customers who are keeping off the booze to get a healthy start to the year.”
Monin promotes its syrups as an easy way to create non-alcoholic cocktails when combined with standard ingredients such as soda water, lemonade, fresh fruit juice and ice. “The trick is to give your mocktails the same ‘wow’ factor that you would give an alcoholic cocktail, so pay attention to garnishes and glassware, as well as colour and flavour,” James adds. “For example, if you offer champagne or wine cocktails, try serving a virgin version using Monin Elderflower syrup, soda water and apple juice, served in a champagne flute and garnished with a fresh raspberry.”
However, he points out that bars do not have to wait until January. “Don’t forget the designated drivers, dieters and teetotallers at Christmas and New Year. Just because they are abstaining from alcohol does not mean they have to miss out on attractive and tasty drinks. Good-quality ‘mocktails’, well presented, can work just as hard for GP as alcoholic drinks.”
A range of mocktail recipes have been developed for fruit juice brand Frobishers for bars, supported by training and support to make them as profitable as possible. “Simple and effective techniques like ‘perfect serve’ presentation can help elevate a product to a higher price point, allowing the operator to achieve larger margins on their investment,” explains Steve Carter, sales and marketing director for Frobishers. “It’s a great way to increase customer perceptions of value too.”
Steve also believes there is a place for alcohol-free drinks in December. “The routine emphasis on alcoholic drinks at Christmas sees many licensees neglecting the potential to increase gross profit through more overt promotion of their soft drinks. Mocktails offer the perfect opportunity to increase the sales of premium, quality juices to customers, whilst at the same time fulfilling consumers’ increased demand for healthy, purer soft drinks that are free from additives and preservatives.”
Ideas from Frobishers include the Very Berry which uses Frobishers Bumbleberry Juice, which is a blend of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant puree, and combines it with lime juice, gomme syrup and egg white, shaken well and strained into a chilled Martini glass, garnished with a slice of lemon and some fresh berries such as raspberries or blueberries. “Serving mocktails chilled, over ice, garnished and in the appropriate glassware can do much to increase their perception of value and desirability among consumers,” Steve explains.
Recipes for virgin cocktails and “detox” cocktails are being promoted to bars by distributor Cellar Trends for Finest Call premium cocktail mixes which normally need only alcohol added. “Bartenders can pour a Cosmopolitan or Mojito mocktail which has the allure and flavour of an alcoholic drink,” explains brand manager Peter Thornton. A core product is Finest Call’s Bloody Mary mix which can quickly be used for a non-alcohol version. “Bloody Marys are classic, high-demand drinks,” Peter says. “The UK is following the US in this respect where the Bloody Mary has always been one of the most popular cocktails. Served as a Virgin Mary, the Finest Call mix is simplicity itself: Bloody Mary mix poured over ice with a slice of lemon.”
Using Finest Call’s purees such as Passion Fruit, Peach, Raspberry, Strawberry, Mango or Banana, bars can created mocktails such as a Virgin Sunset. “Non-alcoholic cocktails are a fun way of drinking sensibly,” Peter adds. “They give customers the chance to detox after the festive period. They are also a great profit driver.”
Non-alcoholic cocktails are not a focus for Coca-Cola Enterprises whose brands include Schweppes, Monster and Relentless energy drinks and Ocean Spray juices in the UK. However, recipes promoted for Appletiser in the on-trade include a non-alcoholic serve called an Apple-Mint-Tiser, made by pouring Appletiser over crushed ice, cloudy apple juice and freshly torn mint leaves.
The availability of good-quality soft drinks in the UK is opening up opportunities for mocktails, points out Julie Ingham who handles marketing for Rauch fruit juices at supplier CWF. “Whether the consumer’s preference is for a non-alcoholic drink because they are driving or looking for something healthy and nutritious, the range of soft drinks available can be very uninspiring, often just a poor selection of sickly sweet soft or carbonated drinks,” she says. With no artificial colours, preservatives or flavours and rich in vitamins and minerals, Rauch 100% fruit juices come in 14 different variants including pineapple, grapefruit, blood orange, mango, tomato and a mix of orange, carrot and lemon. CWF has developed recipes such as a Refresher, pouring the cranberry juice over a mix of three lightly mashed orange pieces, half a lime and 20ml of mango syrup with crushed ice.
One of the current trends for cocktails generally is premium coconut water, which is naturally isotronic, boosts immunity, is low in calories and contains healthy minerals such as potassium. The organic Dr Martin’s Coco Juice, which is made from young coconuts for a subtler and less sweet taste, has launched into the bar trade after success in health food retailers. Jax Coco, a 100% pure coconut water from the Philippines, is gaining listings in the on-trade, including Ricker Restaurants’ Casa Negra in Shoreditch, London, where it is mixed with vanilla in the non-alcoholic Jax Cooler.
London’s three Dirty Martini bars are looking at adding mocktails to their menus in 2014, says their product innovation manager Matt Greenwood. “At the moment, it seems mocktails are on the up with customers willing to spend more on something that is decorative and more interesting than your standard soft drinks. Customers seem to be more health conscious and aware of responsible drinking in recent years and it makes sense that if you are doing great, interesting cocktails, that you could offer interesting and innovative mocktails.”
He believes the bar industry has not put enough focus on non-alcoholic cocktails, with untrained bartenders serving up unbalanced, often overly sweet, drinks thrown together without any thought – but still sold at a premium price. At Dirty Martini bars, they are looking at adding mocktails that use more innovative ingredients and different herbs and flavours to make a well-balanced drink that is good value for money. “Many people are interested in going out and having fun without feeling the need to drink alcohol,” Matt says. “Having healthy options by using fresh juices, homemade syrups or cordials, herbs or exotic fruits – and presenting them in unique and interesting glassware – will allow guests to feel part of the fun and that they are not missing out.”
Picture: Virgin Bloody Mary with a ginger kick at Island Grill
A Virgin Bloody Mary is being introduced to the menu in January at Island Grill & Bar next to Hyde Park in London, with a ginger twist to give it an extra kick. “It is a great healthy option for those wishing to detox in the new year,” says the bar’s mixologist Oscar Ghedin. “A good non-alcoholic cocktail is all about flavour. The flavours must complement one another and cannot be bland. The most popular creations are the berry-infused ‘mocktails’, and we are always coming up with new exciting ideas so non-drinkers can be a part of the party too.”
Related stories: London bar adds aloe vera cocktail as part of new mocktail list
First published in the December 2013 issue of Bar magazine.