Thu, Sep 05, 2019 - Page 14 News List

With a nudge from the young and sober, mocktails taking hold

Alcohol-free mixed drinks grew 35 percent as a beverage type on the menus of bars and restaurants in the US from 2016 to this year

AP, New York

“I have no interest in it,” she said of booze. “It’s not particularly fun. It’s very expensive. There are better ways to have a good night out.”

Many bartenders will mix up regular cocktails and just leave out the alcohol if you ask, but that’s different than choosing something conceived as virgin from a separate menu, Farooqi said. Mocktails generally cost a few dollars less than cocktails, but separate menus are still hard to find.

At the sober bar Getaway in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, mocktails go for US$13 a pop. There’s the Paper Train, with lemon juice, tobacco syrup (from the leaf and containing no nicotine), vanilla and San Pellegrino Chinotto. And there’s A Trip to Ikea, a mix of lingonberry, lemon, vanilla, cardamom and cream. Getaway opened in April in a permanent space.

“Weekends are generally really busy,” said co-owner Regina Dellea. “My business partner’s brother is in recovery and when he first got sober they missed having a space to hang out in at night, where you can meet up and just talk.”

Mainstream suppliers are catching on. Beer companies are experimenting with alcohol-free selections, and Coca-Cola North America gobbled up the popular Topo Chico premium sparkling mineral water. The UK’s Seedlip brand bills itself as the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits. It comes in three flavor profiles with ingredients like hand-picked peas from founder Ben Branson’s farm in the English countryside.

At Listen Bar, Tjan and Farooqi sipped on a mocktail dubbed Me, A Houseplant, a green concoction comprised of Seedlip’s Garden 108 variety (the one with the peas), cucumber, lemon and elderflower. Each glass was garnished with a hefty cucumber slice. It was thought up by Jack McGarry, co-founder of the booze-serving Dead Rabbit bar in lower Manhattan and a well-known mixologist.

McGarry is also three years sober. At Listen Bar’s “Good AF Awards,” he was one of the judges, clipboard in hand.

“Alcohol-free used to be very simplistic with, like, homemade lemonades and ginger ales. People are wanting more diverse offerings,” he said. “I’m intrigued at how it will all shake out. I’ve seen lots of trends come and go. When people come in asking for non-alcoholic drinks, we have a bunch of drinks that have been thought out.”

Chris Marshall in Austin, Texas, has been sober since 2007. He was once a drug and alcohol counselor whose clients often shared their frustration at not having an alcohol-free nightspot to frequent. They were his motivation for founding Sans Bar in Austin, with pop-ups all over the country, including Anchorage, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle, New York, Nashville and St. Louis.

“The response is just overwhelming,” he said. “We’re taking out community spaces, coffee shops and places like that. The lack of a social circle is the one thing so many of my clients lacked after treatment.”

Marnie Rae Clark, who lives outside Seattle, is also a recovering alcoholic. She’s experienced the struggle of socializing while sober and started a blog about the sober lifestyle in 2017. She founded National Mocktail Week this year. Part of her mission is to encourage bars and restaurants to up their mocktail games.

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