Don’t Mock These Drinks
Whether you call them mocktails, virgin or spirit free, adding non-alcoholic drinks to your list can boost your bottom line
Celebrated Chicago mixologist Julia Momose has a mission. She helped GreenRiver, which unfortunately closed in early 2018, earn its Michelin star. Julia grew tired of people referring to drinks without alcohol as mocktails. In her opinion, that moniker denotes something negative. Instead, she feels this category of drinks that’s growing in popularity at restaurants and bars across the country should get a new title: spirit free.
“The most commonly used term, mocktail, sounds so demeaning,” says Momose, who later this year in Chicago plans to open Kumiko with partners Noah and Cara Sandoval, who own two Michelin-star restaurant Oriole, sometime in 2018. “Everyone who comes into a bar is equally important, and everyone’s needs should be met. Drinks should be made with the same attention to detail.”
Momose feels that no matter if someone is 80 or pregnant or gave up drinking for whatever reason should have the same amount of fun in a bar and feel what they’re drinking is as important as that single-barrel Old Fashioned served over hand-cut ice. After leaving GreenRiver in late 2016, Momose teamed with the Sandovals to create a non-alcoholic beverage pairing as an option at their intimate tasting menu restaurant. She combined fresh juices, herbs, flowers, produce and teas to create well-balanced, flavorful drinks anyone could enjoy.
The drinks don’t have to be overly complicated or include obscure ingredients like one she made with ginger, agave nectar, red beet, lime, grapefruit and Fever-Tree club soda; or another with tarragon, lime juice and banana. You can, of course, use more complex ingredients.
“With spirit free [drinks], it’s about layering flavors into a beautiful syrup or using a combination of flavors from teas to recreate those complex flavors you’ll find in alcohol,” Momose explains. “And for a bar, people who would just have water, now may have a spirit free and that’s money they may normally not have spent, so that’s a good thing.”
“Everyone who comes into a bar is equally important, and everyone's needs should be met.”
– Julia Momose, Chicago Mixologist
Alan Walter, creative director at Loa Bar in New Orleans, agrees. He says bars that don’t include non-alcoholic options are missing out on money-making opportunities.
“This is a more necessary and profitable area of a menu,” Walter explains. “I realize there are people who are with their friends and maybe they don’t drink or aren’t in the mood to drink.” It’s catching on as patrons have started to actively seek out non-alcoholic options. Sometimes you want more than water or sparkling water with lime with your meal, but don’t want something with booze in it.
“We should be able to offer people something that is delicious and pairs well with food that is just not necessarily a blend of juices,” says Christine Wiseman, bar manager at the Broken Shaker in Los Angeles. “We have a plethora of drinking vinegars and syrups we can make spirit free cocktails with. You have the opportunity to pair these with food that maybe wine or cocktails cannot do.”
At the end of the day, it’s really considering all your patrons and making sure everyone has options to not only enjoy, but to also make them feel welcome at your establishment.