Recently, I made a reservation at a restaurant that I subsequently had to cancel. Why? My friend was adamant they offer mocktails and, alas, one of my favorite neighborhood eateries did not.
It’s no secret that non-alcoholic cocktails are on the rise and in high demand. Yet, many restaurants have stopped short of taking the plunge into the mocktail scene. To extend the reach, we’ll take a deep dive into the number of customers looking for non-alcoholic options and how this selection benefits both guests and profit margins.
The Rise of the “Sober Curious”
According to Nielsen, the sober curious movement is in full swing. In 2021, one survey revealed that 22% of consumers were cutting back on their alcohol consumption. Some of the top responses when asked why were shifting interests as well as health and wellness. And, as with most trends, it’s the younger generations taking the lead. Marketplace reports that only 21% of the Gen Z population drink alcohol on a regular basis. That number increases to 42% for millennials.
The Mocktail Defined
There was a time when non-alcoholic drinks consisted of club soda with a splash of cranberry juice. Those days are long gone. Now, mocktails go by the name of Phony Negroni and Chinola Mule. And distillers have heeded the call of the sober curious, setting out to extract a botanical’s flavors without using ethanol.
For example, some of today’s bitter aperitifs that offer non-alcoholic alternatives to popular spirits like Aperol and Campari have the complexity found in their alcoholic brethren. Some examples include Figlia, Pathfinders, and Three Spirit Social Elixir.
- 3 parts Prosecco alternative like French Bloom or tonic water
- 2 parts bitter aperitif like Figlia or Three Spirit Social
- 1 part soda water topped with an orange slice
Many of the most popular drinks are incorporating adaptogens and mood enhancers. Adaptogens are plant-based compounds that help your body adapt to stress. These represent some of the common ones included in mocktails:
- Ashwagandha: This herb has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. It helps restore balance by increasing energy, reducing stress and inflammation, and improving sleep.
- Holy Basil: As an adaptogen with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it reduces stress, inflammation, and anxiety.
- Ginseng: Ginseng has long been used to increase energy and vitality while helping relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Rhodiola: This ancient herb is used for its medicinal properties and its ability to reduce stress and fatigue while enhancing your mood.
- L-Theanine: This amino acid supports relaxation, focus, and reducing stress levels.
- Yerba Mate: This traditional South American drink contains theobromine and theophylline, natural stimulants that can improve your mood and reduce stress.
- Damiana: This herb is considered a natural aphrodisiac and is legal in all 50 states except Louisiana.
Some flavorful additions to today’s mocktails include lemongrass, non-alcoholic smoked agave, ginger, and black pepper. Those with a flair for innovations incorporate ethnic flavors or the juxtaposition of bitter and sour or sweet and salty. Some of the unique fruits on the drink menu are pomelo, gooseberries, and yuzu. And, of course, as with their alcoholic counterparts, hibiscus, rosemary, basil, and mint are popular additions.
Restaurants Embracing the Mocktail Movement
While many restaurants have stepped up to the plate as the demand for non-alcoholic beverages grew, one standout is the Topside of Mt. Vernon. This rooftop restaurant provides unique zero-proof offerings. One is the Hummingbird, combining Seedlip Grove 42, Hibiscus Rooibos Tea, Fee Bros Falernum, Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters, and lemon.
Businesses Joining the Fray
One business staking a claim in the alcohol-free movement includes Alt City Beverage Co. Opening in 2019 in Grand Rapids, it specializes in zero-proof spirits like the Moscow Fuel and Paloma. The company is also opening the city’s first non-alcoholic liquor store. Good thing I’m sitting down.
Seedlip Spirits has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in 2015. Ben Branson, the founder of the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, sold his first 1,000 handmade bottles in three weeks, his second in three days, and his third in 30 minutes online. Impressive. Today, they’re found in 25 countries and over 7,500 bars, restaurants, hotels, and retailers, including over 300 Michelin Star restaurants.
Megan Klein founded Little Saints in Detroit in 2021, creating mocktails with functional benefits that also taste great. Her plant-based, sugar-free drinks, such as Negroni Spritz and Spicy Margarita, contain ingredients like reishi and lion’s mane mushrooms, CBD, terpenes, and palo santo, which, in Spanish, means “holy wood.”
The Bottom Line
Mocktails have the power to bring in new guests, retain old ones, and increase your profit margins. Without zero-proof offerings, your guests may turn to soft drinks, juice, or water, beverages with far lower profit margins than today’s mocktail mania. It’s clear that meeting the demands of today’s consumers requires entering the zero-proof trend.
Do you know if your competitors are serving mocktails? F&B Insights offers a quick and painless approach to keeping an eye on market and competitor trends. The world’s largest menu database lets you explore local and nationwide menus at the click of a button.
Why are mocktails trending?
One of the top reasons for today’s consumers imbibing less include their focus on a healthier lifestyle. By adding adaptogens and mood enhancers, restaurants can appeal to the health-conscious in a big way.
Why are mocktails expensive?
Mocktails are much more than a combination of juice and club soda. Today’s distillers and crafters use high-quality ingredients, such as botanicals.