The big buzz in the beverage industry is about no buzz at all. From Manolo Blahnik’s swanky new zero-alcohol bar at its Madison Avenue boutique (serving “NO-Gronis” and other mocktails) to booze-free Jukes Cordialities and nonalcoholic New London Light gin, mindful drinking is all the rage.
“I was spurred by pregnant women clients, my inability to handle sugar in menopause and my desire to create a nonalcoholic Campari,” veteran bartender Gaby Mlynarczyk explains of her decision to write the visionary cocktail tome “Clean + Dirty Drinking” back in 2018. (It features dual recipes for cocktails with and without spirits.)
Since then, she notes, the legalization of cannabis and the arrival of COVID-19 have spurred more drinkers to eschew alcohol as they focus on their health. It’s part of a growing trend that’s pushed nonalcoholic beverage sales up 33 percent in the past year, for a total of $331 million in revenue, according to research firm Nielsen.
“The recovery from an alcoholic binge is prohibitive,” Mlynarczyk says. “We’re looking for less offensive ways to enjoy ourselves and low-alcoholic cocktails are the way to go.”
A Los Angeles-based bar consultant, Mlynarczyk fashions sophisticated drinks using ingredients like coriander, angelica and juniper to infuse nonalcoholic gin, and chai-spice teas to create an NA rum and Coke. To capture the viscosity and body typical of an alcoholic cocktail, she often adds glycerin.
Working extensively with tea bases and creating satisfying cocktails also inspires Anna Welker, who oversees the mocktail program at the Topside bar at the Revival hotel in Baltimore, one of more than 20 Hyatt hotel properties offering such a selection.
“We’re seeing the best reactions when people spot the Zero Proof, Zero Judgment section on our menu. It makes my day every single time,” she says. “Everyone deserves something delicious, crafted just for them, that looks cute on Instagram and that they’re excited to enjoy and show off to their friends, no matter the proof of the beverage.”
Her favorite nonalcoholic pours include Ritual Zero Proof’s spirit alternatives, Grüvi Dry Secco sparkling wine, Ghia’s Le Spritz aperitivo and Lagunitas’ Hoppy Refresher sparkling hop water.
The list of booze-free beverages continues to expand, including wine from Studio Null (which sells sparkling and white blends from Germany as well as a Spanish Tempranillo-syrah red), tequila from California’s Free Spirits and an eerily authentic IPA from Connecticut-based Athletic Brewing Co. Australian brand Remedy recently launched its sugar-free kombucha in the US, touting the brew’s probiotic health benefits and ease of mocktail mixing. (Drinkers who don’t want to completely abstain can try Osmosis sauvignon blanc — a low-alcohol option with zero residual sugar.)
Celebrities are also getting in on the act: Supermodel Bella Hadid co-owns Kin Euphorics, which sells Instagram-friendly spritzes and tonics, while Blake Lively just launched Betty Buzz, a line of nonalcoholic sparkling mixers. And industry insiders say this is just the beginning.
“There’s a gold rush of fantastic, new nonalcoholic products that deliver the same bright flavors of traditional liquors, but without the alcoholic content,” says Elva Ramirez, author of “Zero Proof: 90 Non- Alcoholic Recipes for Mindful Drinking.” “Keep the gin, skip the booze.”