Mocktails find their moment
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On a recent evening, the bar at Oquirrh Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake was covered in cocktails – delicate glass flutes, colorful art deco-style bottles, lowballs with salty rims and citrus garnishes. A green ceramic mug in the shape of Baby Yoda sat nearby.
While the cocktails ranged from a strawberry margarita to a mint green slushie with a cherry on top, they all had one thing in common: none contained alcohol.
Like many fine dining restaurants, Oquirrh has offered mocktails – mocktails – among its drink options for years, alongside wine, beer, traditional cocktails, and sodas. But this new range of “mocktails” completely reinvents Oquirrh’s approach to alcohol-free offers.
At the end of the summer, the restaurant launched a new cocktail menu and announced that it could create zero-proof versions of each of the drinks on demand.
For Angelena Fuller, one of the co-founders of Oquirrh, expanding the restaurant’s alcohol-free options was meant to create a more inclusive environment.
â€œOur whole motto is to make everyone happy, at all levels,â€ Fuller explained. Having a robust alcohol-free menu – and incorporating it more prominently into the beverage menu – makes non-drinkers feel more welcome in the restaurant.
According to Fuller, there are a myriad of factors that motivate customers to choose alcohol-free options.
There are countless reasons why someone may not drink alcohol – health, religious, social, or other beliefs – and restaurateurs and mixologists are increasingly focusing on providing exciting and delicious cocktails that don’t. not ask customers to explain or justify their spending habits.
So far, Oquirrh’s alcohol-free menu has been a big hit with restaurant goers.
Fuller said customers “are thrilled to be able to go out to dinner and enjoy the same alcohol-free experience.” When she made the announcement on Instagram, “People … were like ‘thank you for doing this’.”
A global trend with us in Utah
According to Forbes magazine, mocktails are a major trend in cocktail bars around the world. The number of Google searches for the word “mocktail” has increased steadily since the mid-decade, and Utah leads with the most all-time searches for “mocktail” by state.
Oquirrh’s new alcohol-free menu also allowed Fuller to experiment with new flavors and ingredients. â€œIt was good for my creative side,â€ she added.
Andrea Latimer of Salt Lake City-based Bitters Lab agrees that mocktails are an opportunity for culinary exploration, as the drinks present unique challenges for bartenders and mixologists.
In traditional cocktails, the alcohol components add “flavor complexity” and “a different mouth feel,” explained Latimer. Mocktails get a bad rap because people think they’re ‘boring’ kid’s drinks with too much sugar and a simplified flavor profile.
However, for Fuller, Latimer and many of their colleagues in the industry are on a mission to refute this misconception.
Local business owners understand that mocktails have the potential to be just as adult, delicious, and visually stunning as their alcoholic counterparts. Plus, they tend to be cheaper (to make and buy) and are guaranteed to be hangover free.
Whether you’re heading out for a night out on the town or cooking something tasty from the comfort of your home, these local businesses can help you keep up with the trend.
Jacob Kailer is the co-founder of Syrup Co., a local simple syrup company that produces homemade simple syrups in small batches.
He and his friend Nate envisioned the business at the start of the pandemic, during a few themed cocktail parties with their pandemic pod.
Kailer could tell that the popularity of the home bartender had grown exponentially over the past year. â€œYou would see people on Instagram with cocktail pages that [had] has grown to thousands of followers, just over the past twelve months, â€he said.
So he buys 500 empty bottles, chooses a domain name and Syrup Co. is born.
Kailer believes the complex flavor profiles of its syrups can help aspiring home mixologists keep up with the mocktail trend without leaving the house or breaking the bank.
â€œWe wanted to create the same experience you could have in a bar,â€ he said. “In a bar, there can be five, six, seven ingredients in a craft cocktail, and we’ve tried to simplify that by making the syrup complex.”
Syrup Co.’s flavors include Earl Gray, Spiced Honey, Roasted Jalapeno, and Cherry Pie, a seasonal offering that is one of Kailer’s proudest accomplishments.
Like the other flavors of Syrup, Cherry Pie is a small-batch syrup that uses locally sourced ingredients. â€œWe were able to go to a little orchard in Willard and get cherries picked and packed the day before they were purchased,â€ Kailer said.
These flavorful syrups can enhance the flavor of your mocktail (or cocktail) creation far beyond the boring and simplistic realm of soda and juice.
“The backbone of your drink”
Salt Lake City-based Bitters Lab launched their first product in 2015: aromatic bitters, with hints of cinnamon, anise and citrus. Since then, they have produced tasty and sustainably sourced bitter cocktails.
Andrea Latimer, the founder of Bitters Lab, believes that bitters are “the backbone of your drink”. She suggests looking at bitters as the liquid equivalent of seasoning – to be used sparingly, like a pinch of salt or a dash of lemon juice.
Even those familiar with the vernacular of craft cocktails may not know what’s in a typical bitter bottle. Bitters typically consist of plants – fruit spices, herbs, leaves, bark and more – dissolved in an alcoholic solvent.
Although they technically contain alcohol, it’s common to use bitters in a mocktail recipe because they add a lot of flavor and almost no alcohol. little is needed to add flavor to a drink. â€œYou put in drops and dashes,â€ explained Latimer, usually a few drops for a whole glass.
These small but powerful components can raise the bar on the flavor of mocktails and add spice to the drink. Flavors like plum and oak, rhubarb and sea salt, and hibiscus and yuzu make a drink anything but ordinary.
“There are so many nuances” in the way of making a good mocktail, Latimer said. â€œYou can brew simple syrup, you can brew tea, you can add different types of flavored coffeesâ€¦ making mocktails can be so much more interesting than syrup and club soda. “
The growing popularity of the mocktail has been an encouraging change for Latimer, although she believes there is still work to be done to make the bar experience more inclusive for patrons who choose not to drink alcohol.
â€œI don’t think it’s as common as it could be,â€ she said. â€œSomeone who is pregnant always wants to go out and hang out with their friends. “
“Fun and tangy flavor”
Like the owners of Syrup Co., Brooke Marple was also inspired to enter the world of craft drinks during the pandemic.
She is the founder and owner of Drupefruit, a local company that produces â€œshrubsâ€ – fruity, vinegar-based concoctions popular in mixed drinks.
The non-alcoholic cocktail trend applies particularly to the non-drinking Marple. She believes shrubs are a great way to add health benefits and a unique flavor to mixed non-alcoholic drinks.
â€œA lot of people use [shrubs] as a transition [to non-alcoholic drinks], “she said. And drinking shrubs is not just an alternative to drinking alcohol. Marple pointed out that many people” drink [shrubs] earlier in the day and you get the benefits of vinegar.
Marple uses raw apple cider vinegar as a base in all of their shrubs because it contains “good bacteria” and has a “fun, tangy flavor.” Then she adds imaginative combinations of fruit and lets them steep.
One Drupefruit flavor includes mango, habanero, hibiscus, and lemongrass, another contains mulberry, lime, and orange blossom.
Drupefruit produces new flavors every week – find them at the Salt Lake Farmers Market or follow them on Instagram for updates @ drupefru.it.
Ready for a drink?
If you’d rather leave the drink preparation to the experts, these Salt Lake restaurants offer mocktails on their regular drink menu – and many other restaurants and bars are happy to whip up a mocktail on request.
Oquirrh’s mocktail options are particularly extensive, as they offer non-alcoholic alternatives to every mixed drink on their menu.
HSL offers two mocktail options – one sweet and one savory – and their ingredients depend on what’s available each night. The presentation, however, is impeccable. Each drink comes with a fruit garnish and a green garnish – a sprig of mint and a lime with a pattern etched into its rind, for example.
Copper Common – the underground bar-style bar next to its better-known partner restaurant, The Copper Onion – has mocktials on its menu, but their available drinks aren’t fixed. Talk to your bartender to find what you’re looking for.