Dry January is upon us, and thus many bar and restaurant owners may be anticipating an annual lull in business as even those who formerly enjoyed a regular tipple take a step back from the pub in an attempt to cultivate a healthier lifestyle in the New Year. However, for the savvy business, this does not have to be the case. Recent research from Mintel suggests that the market for lower alcoholic drinks is booming year-round, with their value and volume having grown 10 per cent in the past two years alone according to Eat Out Magazine. With more consumers switching to non-alcoholic diets each year, dry January could – and arguably should – be viewed not as a threat to the drinks industry, but to take advantage of what could become a boom in the sales of premium soft drinks.
One of the features that will score highly with the ‘mindful’ drinker is the presence of high-quality, interesting soft drinks and alcohol alternatives. Eat Out Magazine claim that the smoothie market is “one of the fastest changing in the drinks world with the quest for new, healthy ingredients driving innovation”, testifying to the need for the dining industry to respond to a world where soft drinks are not only at the forefront of consumer spending, but are also becoming increasingly sophisticated, high-end, and customisable. Newly-commercialised ingredients such as seabuckthorn, morginga, cacao and maca are the word of the day, and, as Eat Out claim, “The world is now literally your oyster, your baobab and your pea protein.”
To many, the realm of smoothies and the bar may seem worlds apart, but there is a common ground shared between this ultimate health drink and one of the most popular and profitable offerings on the menu at any respectable bar or restaurant: the cocktail. Both the cocktail and the smoothie share a common feature – a fusion of flavours deriving from fruits and botanicals, interesting preparation methods and the capacity for endless customisation to give the consumer exactly what they want. This makes the cocktail perfectly placed for the exploitation of bars and restaurants that want to retain customers throughout the ‘dry January’ period.
So how can cocktails – those drinks that are usually so heavily alcoholic – be made into a stronghold of soft drink premiumisation and ultimately provide a draw for customers? The answer is simply: the mocktail. Alcohol-free cocktails, or mocktails, are easy to provide, simple to up-sell, and offer endless scope for premiumisation, which is, after all, the primary feature that will attract the independent and health-conscious consumer.
But, to truly compete in the dry January game, establishments must do more than simply offer cocktails without the alcohol, or simple fruit blends. Paul Matthew, owner of The Arbitrager, told Club Soda Guide, “At our venues we find that it’s grown up flavours that are most popular – something bittersweet created with our home made tonics, or like Square Root rhubarb. Ginger and elderflower are popular too.”
Central to ensuring that your bar or restaurant attracts non-alcoholic drinkers is in making your offerings stand out above the norm. Allowing guests to customise their mocktail will not only make them feel as though they are having a premium and allow them to tweak flavours to their preference, it will also enable them to control the nutritional content of their drinks by, for example, substituting sugar with agave syrup. Think beyond the traditional ‘virgin’ cocktail and think about creating different drinks to different occasions that are infused with botanical goodness.
Adapted from Kim Davies’ book The Art of Mixology, here are our top five mocktails to attract customers in January.
Smoothies are often associated with energy-boosting properties, and for those who are forgoing alcohol, a mocktail offered as a pick-me-up can be very appealing in helping the customer to keep up with their friends all night. This cranberry energiser features plenty of fruit goodness, vitamins and minerals to refresh and revive the drinker.
150 ml cranberry juice
60 ml orange juice
25g fresh raspberries
1 tsp lemon juice
Fresh orange slices to decorate
1. Mix the cranberry juice and orange juice
2. Add the raspberries and lemon and blend until smooth
3. Strain into glasses over ice and decorate with the slices of orange
Banana Coffee Break
When groups of friends go for lunchtime drinks, they tend to choose either coffee or alcohol, yet those who are abstaining from drinking, it might feel a little odd to drink a latte while friends are toasting wine. This is what makes the banana coffee break so perfect – it offers aspects of both coffee and cocktail in one, for a satisfying and sophisticated answer to the daytime mocktail.
150 ml milk
2 tbsp ground organic coffee
50g 70% dark chocolate
70g low-fat and sugar ice cream or frozen yoghurt
1 banana, sliced and frozen
Agave syrup to taste
1. Mix the coffee with equal parts cold water and whisk into a liquid paste
2. Grate the chocolate into small shavings.
3. Pour the milk and coffee into a food processor and pulse until combined. Add the ice cream or frozen yoghurt a little at a time and process until well combined. Use a hand mixer if you don’t have a food processor.
4. When blended, add the bananas and agave syrup to taste.
5. Garnish with a few slices of banana.
Adventurous drinkers need not quell their experimentation when they are going teetotal with the clam dagger. Fusing elements of a bloody Mary and many other more savoury cocktails, this spicy concoction is as exciting as it is uplifting.
10-12 ice cubes
Hot pepper sauce
4 measures of home-juiced tomato
4 measures clam juice
¼ tsp horseradish sauce
Celery salt and pepper
Celery stick and lime to decorate.
1. Put 4-6 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, dashing the hot pepper and Worcestershire sauce over the ice. Pour in the tomato juice and clam juice and add the horseradish sauce. Shake until frosted.
2. Fill a chilled long glass with cracked ice cubes and strain the cocktail over them. Season to taste with lime juice, celery salt and pepper and decorate with a celery stick and lime wedge.
Inspired by the street vendors of India and Nepal, lassi has been growing in popularity around the world in recent years. This yoghurt-based drink has the creamy consistency of the mudslide cocktail but with the zingy flavour of the mango, making for a unique taste that many will never have experienced in this form before.
110 ml milk
110 ml natural yoghurt
1 tbsp edible rose water
3 tbsp agave syrup
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
4-6 ice cubes
1. Pour the milk and yoghurt into a blender and process or mix by hand.
2. Add the rose water and agave syrup until processed
3. Add the mango and ice cubes, chilling until smooth.
4. Serve and garnish with rose petals.
Catering to those guests looking for grown-up flavours, the ginger fizz offers a combination of complex notes, featuring spicy ginger ale and sweet, sharp mint sprigs, this mocktail is an explosion for the palate that is sure to excite even the most discerning of non-drinkers.
Fresh mint sprigs
Fresh raspberries to decorate
1. Put 2 measures of ginger ale into a blender, add mint sprigs to taste and blend together.
2. Strain into a chilled long glass over cracked ice and fill two-thirds of the way before adding more ginger ale to fill the glass.
3. Decorate with raspberries and mint sprig.