The Rise And Rule Of Mocktails
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Bacardi’s 2022 cocktail trend report featured some rather surprising figures: over 58% of consumers reported that they preferred non-alcoholic drinks and light cocktails over regular drinks. This data and the onset of the trend itself aren't really that surprising given that millennials and Gen Z make up the majority of teetotalers. In this article, we will take a look at the origins of this phenomenon, the history of mocktails, and some easy mocktail recipes to boot.

The origins of the mocktail remain unknown. It was long thought to be the Shirley Temple, a sweet drink made with ginger ale, lemon juice, and grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry. The drink was believed to have been invented when the famous child actress Shirley Temple visited Chasen’s in the late 1920s. During an NPR interview in 1986, Temple claimed that she had no hand in inventing the drink itself and didn't remember when it was first served to her. Temple was also vocal about the fact that she despised the drink since it was too sweet for her taste and she did not like being associated with it, going so far as to sue a company that tried to sell the beverage commercially using her name on the can.

Furthermore, the use of the term "mocktail" predates the Shirley Temple, with Merriam Webster first documenting it in 1916. With all this said, it is safe to assume that mocktails were probably first served alongside their alcoholic counterparts, which date back to the 1800s. The term went mainstream in the late 1970s, when people were increasingly consuming mocktails following the success of RTD cocktails. Philip Kolin, an English professor, wrote about the etymology of the word in an article for American Speech in 1979. The professor states that the first usage of the term in advertising dates back to the 1950s, in ads put out by Libbey Glass, wherein the company stated that mocktails "are a relatively new group of beverages prepared without any alcohol whatsoever."

Fast forward to the present day, and mocktails could not be more popular. In fact, teetotalers today have more choices with mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages than the alcohol-consuming population does with cocktails and RTD beverages. This phenomenon can be attributed to a number of factors, from old timers finally giving up the bottle to millennials never picking up the habit in the first place. Millennials and Gen Z that avoid alcohol can be classified into three broad groups: those who avoid alcohol due to negative health effects, those who have transitioned into sobriety, and those who are barred from consuming substances by the faith they belong to.

Several F&B companies have recognized this transition, from small brands that make non-alcoholic spirits to large corporations that sell non-alcoholic versions of their RTD offerings. Non-alcoholic spirits are fairly new to the market and make use of compounds and flavorings that mimic both the taste and mouthfeel of the original spirit. The biggest hurdle with making a non-alcoholic spirit is to replicate the mouthfeel associated with strong alcohol, i.e., the astringency and the characteristic "burn." The astringency is easy to replicate with the addition of flavor compounds like tannins or with acrid botanicals like clove, anise, persimmon, kokum, et al. The trigeminal burn, however, is far harder to induce since it is an effect distinct to ethanol. Brands attempt to tackle this issue with the addition of capsaicinoids and piperine, similar to those found in chilies and black pepper. Beverages that are intended to mimic botanical distillates such as gin and absinthe taste far more convincing, given that their alcoholic counterparts rely heavily on the same essential oils for flavor.

Another, far more common commercial method, is to make the spirit as is and remove the alcohol entirely.This process was almost exclusively used by beer brands that offered non-alcoholic options, dating all the way back to 1919. The removal of alcohol was achieved through heating, though this was later dropped in favor of reverse osmosis since the former led to the degradation of several sensitive flavor compounds. The downside of this method is that the final product will still contain some alcohol, though as little as 0.5%, making it unsuitable for people who avoid alcohol for religious reasons.

For the longest time, these non-alcoholic beers were the only options in the market for Indian teetotalers. F&B companies would enter the fray in the late 2010s, with several brands selling flavored syrups intended to mimic simple drinks, calling for the addition of just soda or water. In 2021, several homegrown brands will sell non-alcoholic RTDs, the first of which is Svami, an artisanal tonic manufacturer. Svami launched two zero-proof beverages: a rum and cola and a G&T. Both beverages saw rave reviews, praising both for their authentic taste and low calorie content. Zero Percent, a website selling zero-proof drinks, was founded the same year. Zero Percent today stocks several zero-proof alternatives, such as non-alcoholic beer, rum, gin, and sparkling wine. The website also has a good selection of tonic water.

Now that we’ve covered the many base "spirits" available on the market, let's take a look at some simple drinks you can make at home using them.

Virgin rum, old fashioned

    Fill an old-fashioned glass with some ice; stir to chill the glass.

    Add in 60 ml of a non-alcoholic rum, like RumISH (available online at Zero Percent and Urban Platter), a dash of angostura bitters, and a teaspoon of simple syrup (made with brown sugar). Stir to combine.

    Squeeze an orange peel over the drink and carefully rub the rim of the glass with the same peel. Garnish with a fresh orange twist.

The Indian 75

    In a shaker filled with ice, combine 60 ml of non-alcoholic gin, such as Sober (available on the Sober website) or GinISH (available on Zero Percent and Urban Platter), with 15 ml of both lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake until well chilled.

    Strain the mixture into a chilled champagne flute and top with 90 ml of non-alcoholic sparkling wine, such as a Noughty sparkling chardonnay (available on Zero Percent).

    Finish the drink by adding a garnish—a twist of ripe lemon.

Passion fruit caramel limeade

    In a shaker filled with ice, combine 60 ml of passion fruit juice, a teaspoon and a half of caramel syrup, a squeeze of lime, a dash of vanilla extract, and a smidgen of salt. Shake until cold.

    Strain the mixture into a Collins glass filled with ice, and garnish with a sprig of mint.