We recently were approached by Shari Bayer at Bayer Public Relations who is putting together a piece for Food & Beverage Magazine about “Mocktails”. I hate the term but the idea has tons of relevance to any beverage program. Here were some of her questions and our replies…
Shari Bayer: Do you create mocktail menus? If so, can you give a few drink examples and what they cost?
Andy Seymour: At aka wine geek when we create beverage programs, the focus is on creating a beverage service that will apply to anyone who sets foot on that property. So while we don't create "mocktail menus" per se, non alcoholic beverages and cocktails specifically are always a component of what we do. The idea is to make sure something great is available for everyone. If you are not drinking alcohol, you should have excellent options available to you that go beyond bottled water, juices or soda. There are lots of reasons why guests don't drink when they go out and it is our job in the service industry to provide for everyone who comes to our establishment. People go out to be entertained--to enjoy things that they would not or could not make at home, so we make sure to offer those options that will excite them regardless of whether or not they want alcohol.
We create one or two non alcoholic cocktails for a beverage menu, made with fresh ingredients in the same way that we develop alcoholic cocktails. They should be balanced and have great texture to match well with food just as any of our cocktails would. Many of the alcoholic cocktails that we develop for a menu can be made without alcohol by adjusting the proportions of the ingredients. One good example is a Vodka based mint lemonade cocktail can easily be made into a delicious non-alcoholic cocktail by taking the vodka out and extending the lemonade base of the drink. Prepared and served the same way with fresh muddled mint and a beautiful sprig garnish, the drink could be enjoyed by anyone. We work the opposite way as well on occasion, such as at a resort we consult on in Mexico, we created a list of non alcoholic batidas (frozen fruit smoothies) which are delicious by themselves but each recipe has a specific alcohol that can be added if the guest wishes. The idea for all of it is to create great beverages that have flexibility to adjust for your audience at that given moment. That is the essence of what the service industry is about.
Pricing will vary so much depending on location, type of account, ingredients etc. That said, I don't think guests are afraid to spend a bit of money on a well made non alcoholic cocktail. Again, people go out to be entertained and to enjoy, so if you are making an effort and delivering a quality product, you can charge for that and people will step up. For a long time if you didn't want alcohol you were limited to traditional juices or sodas, if you wanted something to make a child feel special during a night out you could get them a Shirley Temple/Roy Rogers which is ginger ale and grenadine. SO if you didn't want to hop your kid up on a potentially meal killing sugar rush, what choice did you have? As I stated earlier, there are lots of reasons guests won't want to drink; kids of course, but if you're driving, have an early morning, or just making a choice to not drink, your options should be diverse and exciting. I think customers have raised expectations for what they should be able to get--they want it. It has to be an area that beverage programs address.
Leo DeGroff: I noticed I made many more non-alcoholic drinks out of the service side of the bar for the dining room. Normally somebody who did not drink would not sit at the bar. We used to charge aroound seven dollars for non-alcoholic drinks. We wouldn't do a menu for them because we would make them up on the spot. We had many homemade syrups and teas that we could use.
SB: Are mocktails an important part of your Beverage Program?
AS: yes, see above
LD: It is important to keep everybody happy and cater to everyone. I personally would have an option for a drink without alcohol but not a list of different drinks. A bartender or waitress should be able to help guide somebody to what they would like to drink alcoholic or non-alcoholic. A staff should be able to interact with a person and figure out what drink would be great for them. Thats part of being a bartender is not just hiding behind a menu.
SB: Do you find that customers are interested in creative non-alcoholic drinks?
LD: In a club-like scene there was much less people looking for a non-alcoholic drink but the same fun is put into a well made alcoholic cocktail that their is in a non-alcoholic drink. Outside I felt we made a few more non-alcoholic drinks but we would always want to impress a customers culinary sense's either way.
SB: What’s the most popular mocktail?
AS: Again, so much is based on account but key is fresh, well thought out, well executed drinks.
LD: As Andy mentioned a mint lemonade is always a winner. People always notice the mint on your bar and you can throw a few twists into that same drink with berries and syrups or pom wonderful was always one of my favorite non-alcoholic ingredients.
SB: Do you see mocktail menus becoming a trend?
AS: Trend would imply that they have a shelf life for their relevance, and it's our belief that they should always play an important part of the program. A good beverage program will be balanced with options for everyone. That will include different types of spirits, and mixers, a variety of wines from diverse and exciting regions, cocktails that apply to all the things a guest could want in that establishment. Without question that must include low alcohol, and non alcoholic offerings.
LD: As far as a menu, you don't really need one. I think a little extra interaction between a bartender and customer is good for everyone. As a fresh juice program increases in every bar which is our mission in the first place so will the popularity of a non-alcoholic drink.
SB: How do you personally feel about serving/creating mocktails? (Is it something you welcome or find tedious?)
AS: As you can probably read from above, creating a non alcoholic drink can and should be as exciting as creating ANY cocktail.
LD: I don't mind making them but that's not what I want to do on a regular basis. I personally specialize in drinks with alcohol in them. Bartenders must and should be well rounded in a great many things. In looking at it from a kitchen view the pastry chef doesn't cook the steaks and the grill guy isn't making banana ice cream.
SB: Anything else you want to add
AS: I am not a fan of the term "mocktail" (you notice I didn't use it at all in my replies) because it kind of implies the trend aspect and we believe all beverage programs should have a way to address a guests needs, whatever those might be. Plus it's a little too cute.
LD: I agree with Andy on the word "mocktail". Maybe Virgin Libations is better.