By Sarah Pretorius
It’s 2023, and the explosion of inclusive menu options has extended to the drinks menu, but let’s be honest; mocktails get a bad rap. The common complaint is, “Why would I pay for overpriced juice?” Even using the term “mocktails” immediately denotes that these drinks are a lesser version of a regular cocktail. This simply isn’t true.
Here are seven straightforward tips to elevate and reinvent your existing non-alcoholic menu or create a brilliant one from scratch that patrons will go gaga over if one didn’t exist before.
1. Show sensitivity
There are a number of different ways that people identify themselves when it comes to their relationship with alcohol. Some mindful drinkers opt to only imbibe on occasion. Some are sober-curious and are re-evaluating their alcohol usage, and there are those who are alcohol-free for personal reasons. That’s why it’s essential to include various options, both with and without alcohol-mimicking products, when curating a non-alcoholic beverage menu. Doing so ensures there is something delicious for everyone to experience and enjoy.
2. Embrace both sweet and savory
As mentioned, non-alcoholic cocktails get a bad rap for being mouth-puckeringly sweet and loaded with juices and sugary ingredients. Like alcoholic cocktails, their N/A versions can showcase the spectrum of sweet to savory. Or strike the perfect balance between the two with a non-alcoholic mango mezcal margarita rimmed with chili lime salt and finished with a squeeze of tangy lime. When creating a savory cocktail, think celery or beetroot juice, a flash of heat from fresh jalapeño in the shaker, or borrow a page from famous aperitifs by bending clove and bitter orange notes.
3. Bold flavors and innovative ingredients
From non-alcoholic dark chocolate espresso martinis with a caramel salt rim to a pineapple watermelon frosé garnished with a spring of mint, there’s no limit to how creative an alcohol-free cocktail can be. Out-of-the-box ingredients like Earl Grey Tea, passion fruit syrup, rosemary shrub, Thai chili, and chamomile bitters are all creative ways to reimagine how complex a N/A cocktail can be. And for a quick hack, you can add club soda to almost anything to give it a sparkling effervescence that elevates almost any drink.
4. Equal real estate in menu placement
Many restaurants, bars, and hotels still leave non-alcoholic beverages as an afterthought at the end of the menu. That lack of intentionality will be apparent to non-drinkers, who often share feeling seen as less important than their booze-loving counterparts. Reimagine a simple menu redesign where non-alcoholic beverages are placed side-by-side with regular beers and cocktails. Or better yet? Interweave the non-alcoholic options among the regular ones and note the difference with a 0.0% or “N/A” by their name.
5. Variety should be non-negotiable
Non-drinkers appreciate an eclectic mix of delicious, elevated adult beverages that skip the booze like regular drinkers. By giving alcohol-free patrons a few different options when it comes to non-alcoholic cocktails, spritzes, wine, beer, and mixed drinks, you’ll not only be winning major brownie points (hello glowing Yelp and Google Reviews), but you’ll be surprised at how much you can up-sell drinks beyond soda, juice, coffee, and iced tea.
6. Understand the differences between non-alcoholic and regular products.
There are two big things that every bartender should know when using non-alcoholic spirits. First, keeping your non-alcoholic spirits and products refrigerated between uses is essential. The cool temperate expands the liquid’s molecules to thicken it and gives the perception of additional body or weight. Secondly, because non-alcoholic spirits are less dense than regular ones, it’s easy to over-dilute them very quickly. When shaking non-alcoholic cocktails, add a few ice cubes, and don’t shake them for more than ten seconds. Otherwise, you might end up with a watery slush.
7. Do your research or hire someone who is a N/A expert.
Hiring non-alcoholic beverage consultants like Kansas City-based SipSteady saves businesses hours of industry research, product tasting, and trendspotting so they can cut to the chase and add only the best, most popular non-alcoholic beverage brands and products to their bar shelves. From menu curation and consulting to product tastings, finding an expert in this arena saves a business time and money and ensures your non-alcoholic menu is worth boasting.
Sarah Pretorius is the CEO/Cofounder of SipSteady. To learn more about SipSteady, visit www.sipsteady.com.