As mixologists embrace growing demand for low-proof and alcohol-free cocktails, they’re turning to a rising group of zero-proof spirits that offer complex flavor profiles and high-level cocktail mixability. Even without alcohol, these products mimic the effects of their full-proof counterparts, providing sophisticated components to drinks and gaining both consumer and bartender favor.
“Our zero-proof cocktails are well received,” says Brian Eadie, a bartender at Geraldine’s, a restaurant and bar in Austin, Texas. “Our clientele appreciates being able to have an elevated beverage experience without alcohol. Our guests order non-alcoholic drinks for all sorts of reasons, from health and fitness to seasonal sobriety, so they appreciate our sophisticated beverages that allow them to socially blend in with friends and family at the bar or during dinner. Mocktails aren’t just for expecting mothers anymore.”
Geraldine’s has a few alcohol-free cocktails made with Seedlip Garden 108 non-alcoholic spirit, which Eadie says has a strong vegetal profile and a bitter mouthfeel. Popular selections include the Octopus Garden ($14), mixing lime juice and house-made honey-basil syrup with Seedlip Garden and Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic, garnished with cucumber ribbons, and the Zero Proof ($14), blending lime juice and mint-infused simple syrup with Seedlip Garden, garnished with Gala apple slices. Eadie notes that for now he’s only using the Seedlip Garden in mocktails, but that he could see it becoming an after-meal sipper in the style of a digestif or amaro.
“Alcohol-free spirits help balance the overall flavor of a drink, making a more well-rounded beverage,” Eadie adds. “They’re crafted with flavors and essences that make it easy to build a mocktail without using extra sugary syrups or fruit juices. Our city’s culture is becoming more health conscious, so Austin is a town where zero-proof spirits will be on the rise and become more mainstream.”
In health-minded California, zero-proof spirits are also on the rise. Hacienda-style restaurant and bar Mustangs & Burros at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa outside of San Diego uses alcohol-free spirits in both mocktails and low-alcohol drinks. The hotel’s food and beverage director, Valeria Murrieta, says they’re gaining decent traction with the venue’s clientele. Mustangs & Burros lists one low-alcohol cocktail and two alcohol-free drinks, including the Tickling Tequila ($16), made with 21 Seeds Valencia Orange Tequila, Babe Sandia watermelon-cucumber kombucha, lemon juice, and Lyre’s non-alcoholic Italian Spritz Aperol, and the Summer Fizz ($11), comprising Q Ginger beer, house-made lemon syrup, citrus-based Seedlip Grove 42 non-alcoholic spirit, and a blend of spices like pink peppercorn, juniper, and star anise.
“Non-alcoholic spirits are a great way to showcase mixology at its essence and be fully inclusive for all guests,” says Murrieta. “There are great brands recreating gins, rums, and aperitifs without alcohol. I like to add aromatic elements to give depth to the cocktails and mimic the mouthfeel of alcohol, and adding effervescence is also good. Zero-proof spirits are sophisticated and are getting more popular as they’re featured on cocktail lists.”
And new non-alcoholic spirits are entering the market. Pacific Northwest-based brand Wilderton launched a few months ago with two flavors and is gaining attention from local bartenders. The brand recently hosted a cocktail competition and Portland, Oregon bartender Josh Madrid’s entry took top honors. His drink, the Netflix & Chill, is made with the floral and citrusy Wilderton Lustre, Shrub Works Co.’s Strawberry Lavender shrub, Portland Syrups’ ginger syrup, and muddled strawberries, topped with Aurora Lavender Orange CBD elixir. Madrid is a bartender at Portland’s Multnomah Whiskey Library and he says his venue plans to add non-alcoholic spirits to its cocktail menu this summer.
“There’s definitely demand for more zero-proof representation on menus,” Madrid says. “Zero-proof spirits provide more flavors than typical juices and syrups. They allow bartenders to approach making non-alcoholic cocktails in the same way they would an alcoholic beverage. The demand for this representation on menus is on the rise. Having this new category of ingredients to play with is very exciting.”