Millennials are the driving force behind a number of trends in the food and beverage industry today. Contrary to popular belief, the new generation of adults is actually drinking less than their peers from other generations. This has created a gap in the market, which some business owners find to be a hurdle to overcome. Resourceful entrepreneurs have looked at this gap as an opportunity to create mixed drinks that don’t have any alcoholic ingredients. Whether it is for health reasons, religious choices or just to take a break from drinking, bar patrons have turned to zero-proof cocktails as their drinks of choice for dry occasions.
So what does zero-proof mean? Also known as mocktails or virgin drinks, zero-proof drinks are created with a specific flavor profile in mind. Alcohol carries the flavor of a mixed drink because of its properties as a great mixer and solvent. Since it has a lower evaporating point than water, the moment it is sipped, the flavors of a cocktail are released, creating a spark of aroma that envelops the senses. Alcohol also acts as an excellent preservative and holds on to its constituent flavors for a long time. This is an achievement that most creators of alcohol-free beverages strive to attain. Using bitters, florals, herbs, and spices, experienced bartenders and mixologists have taken on a mission to appeal to the alcohol-free audience.
Smartphones are ubiquitous today and almost everyone has a camera at social gatherings to capture lively moments. The younger generation of adults is well aware of this and wants to appear in their best light in photos and videos. Others, who have chosen to take on a healthy lifestyle, try to abstain from alcohol altogether or have an occasional drink. People who are spending a considerable amount of time socializing or catching up with friends also like to be “in the moment”. This is where the real challenge for skilled mixologists comes in. It is technically challenging to create an aromatic beverage without the use of a carrier, like alcohol. Because of this necessity, innovation is sparked, and passionate drinks experts have taken on this challenge to create mixed drinks for all occasions. The premise is simple - to create an adult beverage without alcohol that does not appear to copy anything else. This essentially means that the zero-proof drink does not try to mimic the flavor profile of any kind of alcohol, but creates its own distinct scent and flavor by using aromatics. Beverage companies have also looked at this as a favorable opportunity to fill a gap in the beverage market. Brands like Seedlip, Cedars, Herbie, Whissen, and Strykk produce some of the most sought-after zero-proof cocktail mixers in the market. Beer manufacturers have also followed suit, with popular names like Heineken and O’Douls producing beers that are effectively 0% ABV.
Social media has proven to be a great driving force behind the growth of the zero-proof cocktail movement. No one wants to look like the proverbial black sheep when out-and-about with family by being over-served. Ordering zero-proof drinks allows families to connect and share memories without alcohol being a disruptive factor. It is a similar situation when you’re spending considerable time with friends and drinking. It feels nice to take a gap between drinking alcoholic beverages and non-alcoholic cocktails are a great way to have a drink in your hand while socializing. The water content in these drinks keeps you hydrated and refreshed before you have your next alcoholic beverage. This removes the factor of blacking out while drinking and having unwanted moments from being captured digitally.
A lot of love and passion goes into creating a non-alcoholic cocktail. Preparing a drink without a carrier alcohol is difficult and getting the flavors right involves a lot of trial and error. Ingredients like pickle brine, grapes, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices are often used to bring floral and fruity notes to the flavor. Non-traditional aromatics like carthamus flower, bitter orange zest juniper add a layer of complexity to the beverage. Vegetals like black carrots can add more earthy tones to the drink and prevent it from becoming too sweet. Choosing the right ingredients is essential for making a palatable and enjoyable drink.
Bars can make use of the same essential equipment for preparing zero-proof cocktails as regular cocktails. Experienced mixologists know the importance of serving their beverages cold, so a cube or two of traditional, or specialty ice can add a layer of smoothness to the drink. A number of mixers in alcoholic cocktails are also prominent ingredients in non-alcoholic cocktails. When prepared correctly, it may be difficult to distinguish between a cocktail that is alcohol-based and another that is virgin. Sangrias that are made purely from fruit juices and florals are much in demand and can be enjoyed by people of all age groups. Virgin versions of popular blended drinks like Margaritas, Daiquiris, Pina Coladas, and Roses can be made with regular bar blenders and do not need any special equipment. It is always great to have a drink mixer on hand to prepare drinks like virgin Mojitos, Gimlets, and Tom Collins. Zero-proof cocktail recipes do not necessarily have to be complex - all that is needed is a good combination of ingredients and aromatics.
Zero-proof beverages have come a long way from replacing alcohol in regular cocktails with other ingredients. These libations have carved their own niche in the drinks business and provide patrons with alcohol-free beverages for all occasions. In fact, a growing number of regular drinkers has been leaning towards alcohol-free cocktails as their drinks of choice for social occasions, saving regular cocktails for private times. This surge in popularity of zero-proof drinks has also helped cut down on drunk driving incidents and provided designated drivers alternative options to enjoy their evenings out with friends and family. On the business side of things, a number of specialty brands like Seedlip, Kin Euphorics, My Celtic Soul, and Spiritless Kentucky 74 have become the faces of non-alcoholic spirits and occupied the gap in the market for a much-needed alcohol alternative.
Zero-proof cocktails and spirits have started a revolution in the drinks industry by attracting non-drinkers to bars and pubs. Whether it is for religious, health-related, social, or personal reasons, these patrons now have a venue to attend with their peers for social occasions. This growth in the number of customers has given the beverage business a much-needed boost. By stocking your bar with the essentials for creating these delicious, yet non-alcoholic creations, you can increase profits and create a livelier atmosphere that attracts customers from all walks of life. All you need to prepare these alcohol-free libations is an experienced bartender or mixologist, regular bartending equipment, and a decent inventory of floral, fruity, and earthy mixers. Also, don’t forget the importance of aromatics in a good zero-proof cocktail!