It seems as though teetotalism is a growing trend – and it’s not just restricted to periods such as 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 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: “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.”

Guests at Kitchen Consultants event

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 Barsmith Cocktail Co. “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.”

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your alcohol-free offerings, click here for Keegan’s recipe and method for creating a non-alcoholic cocktail.

Tsogo Sun 
The Kitchen Consultants 
Mosaic Restaurant

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