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How much is a ‘mocktail’, a non-alcoholic drink, worth?


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Shortly after sunset on a Saturday night in December, Megan Horton settled into the bar at Nubeluz, a “lounge” on the 50th and top floor of New York City’s newest Ritz Carlton hotel, to enjoy a drink.

She had come to town from San Francisco, where she works in customer service for Apple, and was willing to splurge.

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Contemplating the city skyline around her, she watched as the bartender prepared an emerald coin, a drink that takes honey, lemongrass, lemon and celery, and served it in a glass. and other elegant bar patrons, and smiled, enjoying the atmosphere.

The only thing different is that their cocktail didn’t have any alcohol in it.

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Horton, 43, stopped drinking regularly in recent months, mainly because she no longer craves alcohol. “I always liked to party, for many years, but now I don’t feel like drinking,” she said. “Something changed in my brain.”

When she visited New York City on a weekend trip with a group of girlfriends last month, she planned to order seltzers on nights when they were out on the town. “I love the atmosphere and can have fun without drinking,” Horton said. But it didn’t take long for her to realize that most establishments, including the city’s most popular bars, had a sophisticated and comprehensive list of non-alcoholic cocktails.

The night before, at Oscar Wilde, an eccentric Victorian-themed bar on West 27th Street, she had ordered a drink that was a mix of fruit juices.

Horton wasn’t even bothered by the “mocktails” [coquetéis sem álcool] from Nubeluz cost US$ 20, just a few dollars less than the drinks with alcohol. “It was so much fun that I could order a cute cocktail together with my friend,” she said. “Besides, I’ll pay whatever it takes to feel happy about not having a hangover the next day.”

In New York, locals and tourists alike are enjoying elaborate, non-alcoholic cocktails. Very different from the usual “mocktails”, they are created by professional bartenders, created with top quality ingredients, including alcohol-free spirits, and presented in elegant, well-filled glasses.

“It’s not just a bartender mixing cranberry juice and adding ginger ale and saying that’s a fancy cocktail,” said Chelsea DeMark, who creates drinks for bars, including the one at the Thompson Central Park Hotel. The hotel, which opened about a year ago, serves a drink called Bee’s Knees with a Twist, which costs $19 and includes non-alcoholic gin, lemon and honey (alcoholic cocktails range from $21 to $28).

To the naked eye, these non-alcoholic cocktails are indistinguishable from drinks that make the consumer tipsy.

At Nubeluz, which opened in September, Miguel Lancha, who leads the house’s cocktail program, said that several customers inadvertently ordered non-alcoholic drinks that are part of the menu. “I’d say that when they find out it’s alcohol-free, they’re usually pleasantly surprised,” he said, laughing.

Some non-drinking customers are very happy that these options are available, as it allows them to continue to enjoy the experience of going to a top bar. Others, however, say the cocktails don’t taste good, aren’t healthy enough, or are simply not worth the high prices.

Still, mocktails continue to sell well.

In Thompson Central Park, DeMark said the ratio is one “mocktail” for every five alcoholic cocktails.

“Our non-alcoholic cocktails now account for nearly 5% of our sales,” said Tony Mosca, food and beverage director at the Carlyle, a popular hotel on New York’s Upper East Side. “It shows that there is a market for them.”

“We also see people who come for an alcoholic drink, but they sometimes get a second drink, this one maybe non-alcoholic,” he added.

Bemelmans Bar, Carlyle’s piano bar, offers four non-alcoholic cocktail options, including Pepito “The Bad Hat,” with non-alcoholic tequila, lime juice, orange syrup and sparkling water, which costs $26. will be added throughout the year, according to Mosca.

Cocktail experts say they are now able to offer more non-alcoholic cocktails because they have new ingredients.

“Because non-alcoholic distilled beverages did not exist, non-alcoholic cocktails were just juice and tonic water,” said Lancha. “Now, the ingredients available to make drinks are very modern and keep improving.”

One example is Ritual Zero Proof, a company that produces non-alcoholic spirits for use in cocktails, and makes alternatives to whiskey, gin, tequila and rum. Mullip is another company that makes non-alcoholic spirits with a variety of flavor profiles, many of which match traditional types of alcoholic beverages. (There are also many brands that produce non-alcoholic wines and beers.)

One of the reasons non-alcoholic cocktails are priced so high is that the ingredients are also expensive. Non-alcoholic drinks come in at prices of around $40 a bottle. “Distillation is a laborious process, like an alcoholic beverage,” said DeMark. “Standard drinks cost us a lot of money, and you often have to use more of them than you would use regular alcohol to achieve the same results, because the flavor isn’t as strong.”

Some customers notice the difference.

When Sandie Gong, 33, who works for a technology company and lives in the Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood, got pregnant last year, she ordered non-alcoholic cocktails at five different bars in Brooklyn and Manhattan. “I remember one of the first ones was an Aperol spritz, but it seemed to be made entirely of sugar,” she said.

Gong didn’t just experiment with cocktails. “I bought a bottle of non-alcoholic red wine for $25, and it tasted like a drink that gets stale from being open too long,” she said.

“I love the taste of alcohol, and these drinks don’t have any flavor,” she said. “I just want them to create a synthetic alcohol that tastes like alcohol.”

In fact, experts say that one of the challenges with non-alcoholic cocktails (and another reason the price is so high) is that alcohol-free spirits can be the hardest ingredients to work with. They are also new, so there wasn’t much time to learn. “Think about how long the history of whiskey is,” said Lancha.

“No matter how much you shake a gin, it’s always going to taste like gin, but when you shake a non-alcoholic drink it can lose all of its flavor,” DeMark said. “We tried to make a non-alcoholic vermouth with a mix of grapefruit and herbal ingredients, and we added a touch of vinegar. It’s complicated, and the result wasn’t always the same.”

Another customer complaint is that drinking non-alcoholic cocktails still feels unhealthy.

“Most cocktails in restaurants are like children’s drinks, full of sugar,” said Lisa Morse, 55, a clinical psychologist in New York.

She tries to avoid alcohol because it gives her headaches and disrupts her sleep. Morse tried many non-alcoholic concoctions at bars and restaurants — “I like the experience of having a cocktail without the negative health effects that come with alcohol,” she said — but she didn’t feel good about what she put in her body.

Instead, she started making cocktails at home by mixing seltzer with Ghia, an alcohol-free, low-sugar aperitif (a bottle costs about $40). “If we have people over for cocktails or dinner, it’s fun to have a drink and share the experience,” she said.

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