There’s no doubt that there is a growing trend of teetotalism – and it’s not just restricted to months like Dry January or OcSober. Whether it’s for religious or health reasons, lifestyle changes, or simply not wanting to drink drive, many are looking to either completely cut out alcohol or just reduce the amount that they consume.

Depending on your establishment, alcoholic beverages are always going to make up a hefty chunk of your sales, but that’s no reason to neglect the section of the market that’s abstaining. When dining out, they want to enjoy the occasion – and that means having options other than cooldrinks and coffee.

The beverage market has already responded to the need. Currently there are a number of ready-to-use alcohol-free products available that mimic the alcohol version – alcohol-free beer, de-alcoholised wine, and virgin cocktails such as the Duchess Gin and Tonic. There’s even a range of non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ which have been distilled and tend to fall in the premium end of the market – these include Saint Gin, Ginifer’s SOBER Gin and the soon-to-be-launched FLUERE from Liquid 2 Lip (pictured below).

“In South Africa, consumer enthusiasm [for alcohol-free] has been slow to react, but it is gaining momentum,” says Miguel Chan, Group Sommelier for Tsogo Sun. “It is becoming an increasingly important aspect of beverage offerings, as one can attest to upwards trends worldwide, both in retail and on-trade…Alcohol free is here to stay and no doubt demand will increase.”

Phillip Rossouw Botha, Beverage Manager of The Kitchen Consultants’ Private Chef Experience division, which caters for function-specific requests, has also noticed the trend. With his extensive training behind the bar, he’s always ready to offer alcohol-free options. “I always have non-alcoholic beverages available. My goal is to give all the guests attending the function the same experience and taste without alcohol,” he says. When it comes to non-alcoholic drinks that he’s found guests enjoy, he says that he “discovered that Becks 0.0 is a favourite amongst beer drinkers, and I’ve also created a special virgin Mojito and Cranberry Cosmopolitan, which are big favourites.”

Miguel says that Tsogo Sun has also begun offering alcohol-free versions of beer and wine. “In selected properties, Tsogo Sun have been offering alcohol free beers on request and recently I tasted the newly released Van Loveren Almost Zero Alcohol White wine which was excellent – we are in the process of adding it to our list.”

Many fine dining restaurants are catering for their alcohol-free guests by including a non-alcohol beverage pairing with their tasting menu. “We want to create a magical taste journey for our diners, so simply offering sparkling mineral water is not an option. We are passionate about the entire food and drink experience,” says Chef Chantel Dartnall from Mosaic Restaurant at the Orient Boutique Hotel. “For the teetotallers, we put as much thought into the non-alcoholic pairing, with drinks specially chosen to complement their meal. Our drink pairing changes with each new menu.”

The Mosaic team experiment with pairings, both wine and non-alcoholic, every Tuesday. “We make juices, teas, consommés or toddies that bring out the best in the food and enhance it and experiment with them. Sometimes we have to tweak the drink or the food slightly,” says Chantel. Symmetry Floral Tonic (“created from botanical flowers with no added sugar and no preservatives”) is paired with one of the dishes on the Natura Naturans menu, otherwise most of the drinks are made from scratch.

“With the amuse bouche, the playful My Bento Box, we serve our homemade lemon verbena elixir while the main course duck dish – Cherry Blossom – we serve up Gyokuro Shaded green tea from Japan,” says Chantel. “With our Comte cheese we have a spiced pear toddy and a wonderful Granny Smith apple extract with the Heffalumps and Woozles dessert.”

And how have Mosaic’s guests reacted? “They have been delighted with the taste experience and journey. Those at a table of diners drinking wine sometimes try the non-alcoholic pairing.  I am not sure if it is enough to make them give up wine but they can’t believe how good it is,” says Chantel.

“Non-alcoholic cocktails, or mixtails as they are now referred to, are certainly on the rise,” says Keegan Smith from Liquid 2 Lip brand. “With ever increasing awareness of how we look and act as well as the legal ramifications of drinking and driving, what we choose to drink or how we drink is becoming more and more important.”

Those who are avoiding alcohol don’t want to feel left out: “Nobody wants to stand in a crowded bar and drink a glass of orange juice while their friends are imbibing the latest and greatest tasting cocktails, so the need for attractive, tasty and ‘safe’ drinks is growing.”

How to make a non-alcoholic cocktail

Keegan Smith from Liquid 2 Lip show us how to make a booze-free cocktail aka mixtail

Before we get started, here’s a refresher on the 5 parts of a cocktail

  • The Base: The spirit of the drink. When using a neutral spirit, pretty much anything goes, but when using any other spirit, care and knowledge must be taken to accentuate or compliment the spirit’s flavour.
  • The Modifier/s: added to the base to change or alter the flavour. Modifiers are generally very strong in flavor and include liqueurs, syrups, fresh herbs, spices and muddled fruits.
  • The Mixer/s (also known as a lengthener): also influences flavor but not as much as the modifiers, generally offering length to the drink and diluting the flavours so that the drink is not too strong. These include fruit juices, dairy products, soda and of course, water.
  • The Garnish: must always reflect the flavours of the cocktail, must always be edible or at least not toxic and the major rule here is the garnish must always be fresh!
  • The Glassware: very important in a cocktail and in many cases it is part of the recipe. I like to start with what glass I am using and then build a recipe around the volume allowed in the glass.

So, if we take a classic cocktail recipe such as the Mojito, it can be dissected into these parts:

  • Base: Bacardi rum
  • Modifiers: Fresh limes, mint and sugar
  • Mixer: Soda water
  • Garnish: Mint sprig and lime wedge
  • Glassware: Collins glass

It’s fairly simple to turn this cocktail into a mixtail – simply remove the alcohol base as it does not affect the flavour. It’s also a great introduction to the Holy Trinity Law of classic cocktails, which helps to create the base for non-alcoholic cocktails. The Holy Trinity Law of the most popular classic cocktails (mojito, caipirinha, margarita) all roughly comprise of a spirit with lime and sugar.  The sugar balances the acidity of most ingredients found in the cocktail and the lime juice is there to balance the sugar.

If we had to exclude the spirit, we would have the starting base for our mixtail – one part sugar syrup to one part lime juice – which creates a nicely balanced base for our cocktail. Then, decide on whether you want a short drink, tall drink or something unique, then add the mixer of choice, and finally garnish.

So, using the principles above, here’s a recipe for a mixtail that has loads of personality, even without the alcohol.

The HM Summer Collins

20ml ODK Cucumber syrup
20ml Fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 slapped basil leaves
200ml watermelon juice

  • Add all the ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously for about ten seconds.
  • Strain into a tall glass over ice, garnish with a basil boat.

Tsogo Sun 
The Kitchen Consultants 
Mosaic Restaurant

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