After weeks of over indulging over the festive season the new year is the perfect time to reassess your relationship with alcohol. But rather than be resigned to drinking water while everyone else continues the celebrations why not sample something from the growing market of booze-free choices.
Manufacturers, pubs, bars and restaurants are recognising our drinking habits are changing and are developing drinks with flavour, depth and sophistication to meet that need.
Sales of non-alcoholic drinks have risen 57 percent in the past five years, according to the Euromonitor International’s Alcoholic Drinks In Australia 2018 report.
And younger generations are drinking less than their elders. Nielsen reported in 2017 that 53 per cent of Millennials (aged 18 to 34) said they consumed alcohol in the past month, compared with 65 per cent of Gen Xers (aged 35 to 54) and 72 per cent of Boomers (aged 55+).
“New drinks and new ideas … all appeal to alcohol-consuming Millennials who are more likely to see themselves as trendsetters amongst their friends,” the report said.
At Pilot restaurant in Ainslie, Ross McQuinn and Dash Rumble saw an opportunity to present non-alcoholic drink choices that would not only challenge preconceptions of a matching menu, but would also allow them to be experimental when it came to the drinks menu.
“It wasn’t that we thought there was a need,” Rumble says, “but one we wanted to experiment with the drinks menu too, and two, there is that trend towards being healthier.
“And there’s also the idea of people not feeling left out if they can’t, for whatever reason, drink alcohol.”
Pilot sommellier Caitlin Baker loves the challenge of mixing up the drinks, which show a lot more sophistication than some mocktail with a paper umbrella stuck it.
Just as Pilot’s food menu is pared back, so too is the drinks menu: a liquorice tonic with a dash of basil oil; a bayleaf lemon squash which uses bay leaves from a bush on the deck; a Pimm's cup (an iced tea that’s a mix of black tea, balsamic vinegar, ginger beer, soda and lime) matched with pork + pepita; and a ginger beer with a good story matched with prawn + corn.
She also makes a tepache, a fermented pineapple drink which originated in Mexico with the leftover pineapple cores and sking from the pine + lime dessert.
“The ginger beer recipe is actually my grand-mother’s,” Baker says. “Mum used to make it for us when we were kids.
“The ginger beer is popular with our older customers, I think it just has that nostalgic memory attached to it.”
She shows us the "plant", the mixture of ginger, sugar and water, fermenting away in a large jar she’s got hidden away. She’s got to feed it, keep the sugar up, waiting for it to get fizzier. It’s a science as much as an art.
If you’re looking for something a little less labor intensive, around the corner at Ainslie Cellars Kate and Keith Mihailakis sell a good range of non-alcoholic beverages including Seedlip, one of the first distilled non-alcoholic spirits.
Like gin, it is created with botanicals such as lemon peel, cardamom and cascarilla tree bark, and can be paired with tonic, or included in cocktails, offering a similar flavour profile to alcoholic spirits.
"Australian producers are doing similar things now," Keith says.
"The Hills Cider Co. Virgin Apple is another winner. It's made from 100 per cent fresh Adelaide Hills apples, that’s it."
He said they also often headed into the Ainslie IGA for the Hello Lovelies cordials from Mudgee. They are much more nuanced than the cordials we might remember from our childhood.
"The rosemary and sage flavour is a personal favourite," he says. "Or the Madame Dry range of rose quartz- or amethyst-infused water for those who may have forgotten to put their own crystals out at the last full moon."
In August, Canberrans Christina DeLay and Alan Tse launched Altina Drinks, craft cocktails that offer "all of the party and none of the hangover". The Altina range is made from plant ingredients including bark, spices, flowers and herbs.
Also look out for:
Sobah: Clinton Schultz worked in the drug and alcohol sphere for 10 years and saw the damage created by excessive consumption of alcohol. Feeling somewhat hypocritical, he quit drinking and tinkered with non-alcoholic beers, collaborating with Tweed Heads’ Pickled Pig Brewery to create craft beer. His Sobah beers feature Australian "bush tucker" including lemon aspen, finger lime and pepperberry. Available at Hops & Vine, 6A Victoria St, Hall. 6230 2862.