If you have been to a restaurant or bar recently, there is a good chance you have seen mocktails on the menu. They are often separated on the drink menu, but if you don’t see them, usually the bartender can mix one up for you without a problem. If you have not noticed them yet, start looking, you will be surprised how many places have added them to their list of drink offerings.
What is a Mocktail?
Simply put, a mocktail is a nonalcoholic cocktail. Mocktails typically contain mixes of juices, soft drinks, and other alcohol-free mixers. They often try to replicate alcoholic versions of themselves, thus the “mock”. However, they have grown beyond just trying to copycat their alcoholic brothers, they are creative and delicious on their own. Creating an entirely new drink category for themselves.
You may be asking yourself, well virgin drinks have been around for ages, why all the hullaballoo about the mocktail? It is true, the two terms really mean the same thing. The virgin drinks have evolved into the mocktail to be a more palatable name to remove some of the stigmas attached to abstaining from alcohol. Plus, ‘mocktail’ is much more fun to say! When you think of a virgin drink, you probably think of ordering a Shirley Temple as a kid or that virgin pina colada on a beach vacation. However, a mocktail is the more adult version of the virgin drink.
They are not just juice blends. These are handcrafted drinks using similar mixology methods used when making an alcoholic cocktail. They are typically presented in a cocktail glass with garnishes that complement the drink and are esthetically pleasing. In other words, you will still be able to post your mocktail on Instagram because it will likely be a work of art!
One of my favorite mocktails to make at home is a strawberry ginger lemonade twist. All you need to craft this beverage is a handful of fresh strawberries and store-bought or homemade non-alcoholic lemon-ginger beer. Garnish with a lemon slice to elevate the look of your creation. This drink is the perfect mix of sweet summer strawberry and the fresh taste that is distinctly ginger. You will truly delight in each bubbly sip no liquor involved!
Did someone say ‘Alcohol-Free Bar’?
Due to the steep rise in the sober and sober curious population, bars are taking zero proof a step further. Full bars that do not serve any alcohol. You read that right, a bar without any liquor. Zero. None. These spaces are meant to be welcoming to everyone sober or not. Often people who are abstaining from drinking for whatever reason don’t feel that they can go to bars due to temptation, pressure, or lack of options for them to consume. These alcohol-free bars aim to change that, one mocktail at a time.
Binge Bar DC is a soon-to-open watering hole that will serve only alcohol-free drinks. Gigi Arandid, the founder of Binge Bar, gave up alcohol in 2017 following a DUI a year prior. Her goal with this bar is to offer a sense of a safe haven, and more, to others in the Washington, DC, area. Drinks, on average, will range from $6 to $15, with small bites landing between the $15 to $20 range. Arandid is Filipino and plans to lean into her roots and inspire mocktails and small bites with a Filipino twist. Binge Bar is located in a popular nightlife area of Washington, DC. Its location allows Binge Bar goers to experience a night out just like anyone who isn’t avoiding alcohol. That is the beauty of an alcohol-free bar; you can still partake in the excitement and friendship of going to a bar, but without the pressure to consume alcohol.
Another zero-proof bar running since 2017 in Austin, Texas, is Sans Bar, created by Chris Marshall after his work as a counselor. “I believe that everyone deserves a space where they are accepted and seen for who they are,” Marshall states on his website. “Something is happening across the globe. In big cities and small towns, the conversation about our collective relationship with alcohol has given rise to something we have never experienced before. The dry movement is a decision to be fully present in a world that distracts us from our purpose, and tells us the solution for deep human connection and fun can only be found inside of a bottle. We are sober curious. We are sober sometimes. We are in recovery. We are allies of those who abstain for whatever reason.”
What is the Mocktail Movement?
According to Morning Consult, 15% of the United States population participated in Dry January this year, with the largest participating group being millennials. The sober curious movement is growing yearly, and Gen Z is leading the charge. A 2020 University of Michigan study showed that the portion of college-age people who are abstaining from alcohol has risen from 20% to 28% in just a decade. This may be shocking to many as the typical drunk college student stereotype is still alive and well, but these figures indicate a broader change in the way that Americans think about alcohol.
Dry January and Sober October, among other months of alcohol abstinence, are trendy time periods where large portions of the population give up their happy hours, boozy brunches, and nightcaps. Both of these months come after periods often laden with booze, the holiday season, and the summer months. The challenge to abstain from alcohol for one month is a chance to evaluate your relationship with alcohol. It is also a great opportunity to broaden our conversations as a society about alcohol use and often abuse.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, it was found that excessive drinking increased by 21% in US adults. This is alarming for many reasons and would seem to be another indicator that it might not be a bad idea to dabble in the sober curious landscape in 2023.
This cultural drinking shift has led to the rise of the mocktails available at bars and restaurants in the United States. However, the movement is being taken even further with at-home consumption. There are even companies, like Amethyst Spirits, John Ross, and Wilderton, that craft distilled non-alcoholic botanicals. These bold and complex spirits contain zero liquor but enable you to create a mocktail in your own home with a few simple ingredients!
More and more people are choosing to go sober, whether temporarily or permanently, to reset their relationship with alcohol. The food and beverage industry are adapting to that change and expanding its offerings to be more inclusive of those who are choosing not to drink alcohol but still yearn for a fun dining experience. No one should feel socially ostracized if they opt to go dry for a month or even for the rest of their lives.
Have you heard of a low-ABV cocktail?
Another rising trend in the beverage space is low-ABV cocktails. These are traditional cocktails but with far less alcohol content, usually between 8 to 12% ABV. These drinks usually use sherry, vermouth, sake, or wines and are typically called names like “spritz” or “cooler.” A low-ABV drink is another great choice if you want to cut back on your alcohol consumption but not give it up completely. Maybe you complete Dry January and in February, try to stick to lower alcohol content drinks. A popular lower-ABV drink is an Aperol Spritz, consider ordering this next time you are looking for a drink option with lower alcohol.
This sober movement and the rise of the mocktail is just beginning. I think this sober curious population will continue to grow as Americans reevaluate their relationship with alcohol throughout months like Dry January and Sober October. Mocktails are delicious and gorgeous substitutions for a cocktail. The only thing you are really missing out on is a gnarly hangover the next day.
Mocktails are absolutely here to stay. I predict that their popularity will continue to rise as we change our narrative as a society around alcohol, just as we have around plant-based diets. The sober and the sober curious will likely begin to become more normalized in the mainstream media, and thus the availability of high-quality mocktails will likely follow. So let’s raise our glasses (non-alcoholic, of course) and toast to the rise of the mocktail!