Health-Conscious Consumers Opt for Mocktails Over Cocktails

Jun. 16, 2017

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Alcohol has been around for centuries, making it evident that the fermented liquid isn’t going anywhere. However, the 21st century has seen consumers trending toward a more health-conscious lifestyle. Now more than ever, people are thinking about their daily choices – from the cars they drive, to the food they eat, to the beverages they digest.

Due to the health kick, industry experts predict that low-alc and non-alc drinks will spike in popularity this year. With only 29% of bartenders currently offering alcohol-free beverages*, this leaves a huge opportunity for bars and restaurants to capitalize on this shifting lifestyle. Breakthru sat down with Beverage Development Specialist Mike Page to learn tips and tricks for building the ultimate mocktail menu.

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What are the benefits of mocktails?
Mike Page: Oftentimes people go to a bartender and ask for something special because it’s not something the establishment already offers. A bartender might look at that as a pain, or as something extra they have to do, or maybe they’re really busy and don’t have time to be creative – whatever the case might be. Sometimes I find that if a restaurant or a bar already has that option available, that conversation or that awkwardness doesn’t have to happen. More often than not, it would actually be better service to already have one or two of those options available so those customers know first, you have a commitment to satisfy their needs, but then also that you’ve taken steps to make sure that the service can be smooth and the bartenders don’t have to take time out of their day to try to figure out a person’s needs.

How can you get creative with mocktails?
As the world’s changing for cocktails, you see a lot of new ingredients and new trends, and a lot of those things can carry over into the mocktail world. I see a lot being done with tea syrups, botanical ingredients, or unusual fruit juices. Presentation is also a huge part – having something that looks fun that has all of the same merits that you would expect a cocktail to have. Things that stimulate more than just your basic senses – like a garnish that can have an olfactory sort of presence that ties everything together. People are lashing back against the sweeter things – so the bartender grabbing every juice he’s got, that’s not going to satisfy everybody’s palate.

What are other key ingredients bartenders can use in mocktails?
Tonic is great – it’s a beverage that bars already have that clearly has bitterness from the quinine, and it has a good amount of sugar in it – just as much sugar as a regular soft drink. If you’re using tonic as your base, you have to then think about what’s going to set it apart as a craft mocktail. A lot of times you’ll see people playing on the botanical flavors that you’ll find in gin – maybe they’re using fresh juniper or maybe they’re messing around with rosemary because it has that piney nature to it that pairs with that quinine. It’s also a great place to introduce acidity because you already have a sweet base or medium that you’re working off of. If you can bring in some fresh lemon or lime juice, or yuzu because it has high acidity and an interesting flavor, you can use tonic as a good canvas.

There’s a science aspect to making cocktails. Does the same apply for mocktails?
There can be a science behind mocktails. If you’re trying to apply a recipe that you already had, obviously water or some other type of medium is needed as the base. For example, if I were making a daiquiri, the spirit is the primary ingredient of the entire drink. So if I’m going to play on those flavors and do something similar, then I need to find something that’s going to occupy that volume that’s similar in taste, which can make it difficult. This is why more often than not, you’ll see mocktails based on soda water or tonic.

Any tips or tricks for easy mocktail making?
You can make homemade syrups that are easy to create, or use premade syrups. These ingredients can really have dual purpose, and having ingredients you can leverage on both sides is fantastic. Craft sodas are also a great medium because they’re not overly sweet, which gives you a lot of room to add other ingredients like a special syrup.

What advice would you give to bar and restaurant owners to motivate their bartenders to build out a mocktail menu?
I think oftentimes motivation just comes from within, but I do think perspective is key. People have many reasons for not drinking alcohol – some don’t like the flavor, some don’t like the feeling, some have a problem or perhaps a personal reason. But trying to see things from others’ perspective and trying to understand what it’s like to have fun in a bar when you can’t drink – it’s hard to open up people’s eyes to that.

Can you lose customers if you’re missing a mocktail menu?
That’s a tough one. Ultimately customers are based on three things: service, location and product. If your service is great, your location is great and your product is just alright, you’ll still probably do pretty well. If you have all three, you’ll make money hand over fist; and if you only have one, you’ll probably fail. It’s the guest experience that’s usually going to bring somebody back, so if it affects their experience enough, then absolutely. It’s a great way to maintain a customer as a guarantee if you can hit those needs. So why would you not? That’s really the question.

To mocktail maker, would you give the advice of trial and error?
Trial and error is great, but I think the most important thing is to find a concept and stick with it. Just like setting goals for yourself, you think of what it is that you want to achieve and where you want to go, and then you think of what it will take to get there. A lot of times people don’t have a plan, and when they start to conceptualize cocktails, they’ll put the base spirit in, and then they’ll turn around and look at the bitters and think, “Oh, what do I want to put in next?” That’s never an effective way to solve a puzzle.


As Americans’ tastes are trending toward healthier options, more and more consumers will be looking for non-alc drinks this year. Whether you’ve got a full-fledged mocktail program or are just getting started, your customers will be appreciative of your virgin versions of their favorite drinks. Talk to your Breakthru Sales Consultant today about our non-alc portfolio. 

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**© 2017 Technomic Inc., Behind the Bar Insights

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