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How to start catering for people who aren’t drinking

Sep 17 2018

How to start catering for people who aren’t drinking

For many, abstaining at home is the lesser of two evils, as it allows you to create a controlled environment where the fridge can be filled with one’s favourite non-alcoholic drinks.

But eating out is a different matter. You choose the restaurant and select enticing dishes from the menu, while your dining partners peruse the lengthy wine list your choice is somewhat more limited. For the food, everyone’s personal taste is catered to. Those with dietary preferences such as vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free will, of course, be offered appropriate dishes. But as modern customers become more demanding, everyone’s personal taste is catered for and the restaurateurs should be more than happy to help create your perfect experience, whether it is adding extra chillies or swapping a side. If only this personalisation extended to drinks.

The desire for customisation has been taken to the next level and we see in research that consumers are increasingly taking control as they analyse menus in great detail, seeking clarity of the ingredients and what this means in terms of their calorie and sugar intake. In 2018, according to MCA, the UK’s leading provider of eating and drinking out market intelligence, over 30% of consumers customised their last meal out whilst 55% believed that customisation is an essential element when it comes to making their choice. It seems that, no matter what’s included on the menu, a growing number of consumers want to pick and choose or mix and match because that fits their belief that they, not the proprietor, knows what suits them best.

Customers are also looking for co-creation in these multi-sensory experiences and for those who are abstaining, drinks options are becoming more available. As a recent entrant, Kolibri allows for customisation and ritual for those who are not drinking. Co-founder and creator Kamilla Sitwell explains: “Kolibri is the world’s first adult bottled drink, tailored to taste. Starbucks was able to turn what was seen as a basic commodity into an experience and within soft drinks, Kolibri will also be a game changer. Our non-alcoholic sparkling drink has a separate patented cap filled with Kolibri drops, a blend of agave, apple, lemon and caramel in a nectar which can be added drop by drop to increase the flavour complexity and sweetness. This means that consumers can make their drink just the way they like it, dry or with a dash of sweetness. Now the consumer is totally in control of their drinking experience, without it being dictated to them by a manufacturer or barman. It also allows for creativity and a new ritual, something that has been totally lacking in the non-alcoholic drinks arena.”

Other options for a customised non-alcoholic drink do of course include bespoke mocktails. Bars should start training their mixologists to take their non-alcoholic options with the same amount of seriousness as their usual cocktails. By becoming a bar that pays attention to non-drinkers as opposed as to only serving them, you can open up doors to a whole new wave of customers.

For me, there are a handful of bars in London that stand out as they take their non-alcoholic drinks just as seriously as their alcoholic beverages. One of those is Dandelyan with its virgin Canon Cosmo which reflects the power and brightness of its alcoholic sister, the Cosmopolitan. Ryan Chetiyawardna, the innovative bartender otherwise known as Mr Lyan, explained how they do it. “To get savoury notes we often use ‘teas’ made from herbs and spices, such as dried chillies and fruits. Changing what you use as an acidulant works too – citrus often needs quite a lot of sweetness to balance it out so using vinegars and tart juices can lead to a cleaner, drier profile.”

Alternatively, Redemption is a bar with a difference - there is absolutely no alcohol. This bar and vegan restaurant with an extensive mocktail menu has as its mission ‘Spoil yourself, without spoiling yourself!’ The Frocorita with its frozen coconut water, lime and birch syrup, blitzed with ice and rimmed with Himalayan mountain salt feels like a familiar cocktail and with all the benefits of a clear head the morning after.

For a traditional cocktail experience, head off to the American Bar at the Savoy, the oldest surviving cocktail bar in Britain and named the World’s Best Bar at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards 2018. The drinks mix the classics with the new and their experienced bartenders are always available to create your ultimate drink. Their non-alcoholic offering includes the delicious sounding Transparency which is a blend of Seedlip 108, coconut water, verjus, pineapple syrup, tonka tincture and non-alcoholic absinthe tincture which should put any drink jealousy at bay.

This customisation and responsiveness is a great way to cater to non-alcoholic drinkers. After all, everyone in a bar just wants one thing, to feel catered for, and being attentive with all of your drinks options is the first step in doing that well.

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