Spirit-free, Zero-proof, NA, or Sober curious? Not so long ago, the drink on the menu was considered a child's game, the kiddie cocktail. But the Non-Alcoholic cocktail is having a moment. The basic economics of supply and demand are behind this trend. There are more spirt-free distillates, bloggers, content managers, and mixers now than ever before, driving up the sober curious demand in bars and restaurants. Is your bar ready for the crush this holiday? This guide goes through the basic reasons why consumers are seeking this style of drink now and why you should consider adding it to your menu this holiday.
1) They're Healthier
Non-alcoholic drinks are marketed as being more healthy than their counterparts. They're less likely to cause a hangover, which means your customers are more likely to order more than one. However, the caveat is, healthy because of "less alcohol" should not equate to un-healthy because of "more sugar". To keep it balanced, consider using a sparkling mixer like tonic water to build some backbone with out a ton of sweet. (Top Note Tonics makes a bevvy of interesting backbone mixers to make any drink spirit free, and healthier.) Other options may include coconut water, or other "waters" like maple or cactus. These lower sugar waters bring flavor enhancing magnesium and potassium too, another benefit. Healthy backbone like these ideas can be built up with juices, teas, coffee, jams, other reductions, and spirit-free distillates to create a new cocktail unlike anything on the menu.
2) They're less expensive, but profitable
OK, sometimes they are less costly for the patron. Depending on the ingredients list, these cocktails may run you about the same as a standard cocktail with a distilled spirit. However any bartender worth their paycheck will have some ideas of how to make a less expensive spirit free cocktail, and make it a highly profitable option. The best ideas come from those who are wizards at finding value in items that get tossed away - for example peels, stems, or other items like pickle juice can get re-purposed in a NA drink. Garbanzo bean water is a classic example of a waste product that can be utilized to thicken the mouthfeel and add protein to froth up a drink. This is also a sustainable play, great for the bottom line with less waste. Other ways to lower costs? Find fruit that is "ugly" and blend away for a puree. To keep sugar minimized, and be savvy on expensive fruit peel ingredients, make an oleo by adding the peels into sugar for a week or so, and thus extract every bit of oil from them. Oleo's are exceptional in flavor, not expensive, and hands off.
3) They build community
Many people are looking for ways to reduce their alcohol consumption, whether it's for health or religious reasons. Some people want to be able to drink in social settings without feeling left out because they don't drink. Others want to make healthier lifestyle choices. Certainly NA's are convenient for kids and pregnant women. But, whatever the reason, non-alcoholic drinks have a community of people seeking like minds, and seeking your creative spin on things. So definitely, don't leave them out of the occasion. By adding these drinks to your menu, you gained new fans most likely, and added another feather in your cap by becoming another community's "friendly" bar. You also may have made more friends with the "occasional" NA cocktail drinker for reason #4....