For bartender Antonio Lai, it may be embarrassing to exit for drinks with colleagues, as a result of he has a low tolerance for alcohol. His face turns blush purple and fairly quickly he has to name it an evening. Asking for a virgin cocktail also can lead to a purple face – from embarrassment.
However the barman who runs Quinary, The Envoy and VEA needn’t really feel the disgrace any extra – he’s noticing extra clients asking for non-alcoholic drinks that he likes to name “spirit-free drinks”. There’s no disgrace in asking for one among these concoctions that may be simply as or much more difficult than their boozy counterparts.
At The Envoy, Lai exhibits off the “spirit-free” menu that includes 5 drinks that look the identical as their alcoholic counterparts however have totally different names and barely totally different shows in order that bartenders and servers know the distinction.
“After we opened Quinary, not many visitors requested for non-alcoholic drinks, however after just a few years we see spirit-free drinks are extra standard than juice. You may have an excellent time and never need to drink cranberry and orange juice,” he says.
He says alcohol-free cocktails are good for these with low alcohol tolerance, girls who’re pregnant, these taking remedy, or who had a boozy evening the evening earlier than however nonetheless need to hang around with associates.
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“Making a spirit-free cocktail will be much like making a cocktail – it must be balanced and style good. Alcohol is superb for extracting flavours from elements,” he explains.
For instance at VEA there’s a drink on the cocktail pairing menu that options shiso gin with yuzu soda and elderflower. Shiso, a tangy herb within the mint household, is pungent and grassy, it comprises robust flavours of spearmint, basil, anise and cinnamon.
To make the non-alcoholic model, Lai makes the shiso water by distilling shiso leaves to get as shut as attainable to the alcoholic model.
“It takes extra leaves and time to make it due to the distillation,” he says. “Now we have to distil at a decrease temperature, in any other case the flavour will disappear.”
He provides one other instance: the signature Earl Gray caviar martini at Quinary that has vodka within the alcoholic model, however within the spirit-free one (HK$120), extra lemon juice is required.
When Quinary opened, three to four per cent of shoppers had been asking for spirit-free drinks. 5 years on the quantity has elevated to six per cent. When Lai talks to visitors, they’re eager on having non-alcoholic drinks, although initially some balk on the value, as they’re solely HK$10 to HK$20 cheaper than the model with alcohol.
“However once I clarify to them how the drink is made, they perceive the pricing,” he says, presenting Morning Dew (HK$108), a inexperienced tea drink blended with pandan syrup that’s then carbonated.
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The elevated curiosity in non-alcoholic drinks is ideal timing for Ben Branson, creator of Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit that tastes like gin. He was lately in Hong Kong presenting his two flavours, Seedlip Backyard 108 that has a herby backyard flavour due to peas, hay and rosemary, whereas Seedlip Spice 94 is flavoured with Jamaican allspice, cardamom and oak.
He explains that alcohol is a preservative that may additionally extract flavour from elements when mixed with water. To make Seedlip, the alcohol is evaporated away by heating the combination to 78 levels Celsius. The ensuing liquid is decreased additional by being heated to 100 levels to take away the water, leaving the essence.
You may have an excellent time and never need to drink cranberry and orange juice
Every particular person ingredient for Seedlip is made this manner earlier than mixing them, which is why it takes six weeks to make one bottle.
“I’m seeing folks consuming a decrease quantity of alcohol, however consuming higher spirits, higher cocktails,” says Branson. “I’m seeing folks consuming fewer fizzy sugary drinks and consuming higher gentle drinks. The youthful crowd’s priorities are much less about going out and consuming alcohol. One in three millennials in London is a teetotaller.
“How we socialise is totally different. It’s cooler now to train and be wholesome, persons are blissful to boast about how lengthy it’s been since they had been drunk. It’s extra like, ‘see me with my inexperienced juice on the gymnasium’.”
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Seedlip can also be sugar-free, has no energy and no allergens, although Branson explains there will probably be some sugar within the tonic water, which is the best approach to drink it.
He has experimented with extracting flavours from every kind of elements together with pebbles (not a lot luck) and chillies – “you may get the flavour however not the spiciness”. Branson stresses whereas Seedlip might style like gin – significantly Seedlip 94 – none of his concoctions comprise juniper, which differentiates it from gin.
At present Seedlip is offered in 15 cities, served in 150 Michelin-starred eating places, and in 20 of the World’s 50 Finest Bars. In Hong Kong, it’s on drinks menus at Aberdeen Avenue Social, PDT, Staff Solely, Potato Head, Buenos Aires Polo Membership, Frantzen’s Kitchen, Pleased Paradise, and on the market at HK Liquor Retailer (hkliquorstore.com), at HK$328 a bottle.
James Barker, bar specialist at Jia Group, prefers to name non-alcoholic drinks “gentle cocktails”, as mocktail provides the connotation of being of inferior high quality or that it’s an imitation.
I’m seeing folks consuming a decrease quantity of alcohol, however consuming higher spirits, higher cocktails. I’m seeing folks consuming fewer fizzy sugary drinks and consuming higher gentle drinks.
Ben Branson, creator of Seedlip
“Gentle cocktails don’t offer you a headache, nor do they sacrifice flavour as a result of they use the identical top quality elements,” Barker says. After noticing that many individuals in Asia don’t need to drink alcohol, he needs to supply them greater than Coca-Cola or heat water.
He says mixologists spend as a lot time making gentle cocktails as common cocktails to make sure stability in sweetness, acidity and size of flavour.
At Duddell’s, the bar on the fourth flooring has a web page for its gentle cocktails (HK$115 every) that includes 4 drinks with the theme of shinrin yoku, or “forest bathing”, hoping that these drinks will “enhance one’s temper, scale back stress, and hopefully, contribute to an total sense of contentment”, in accordance with the menu.
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They actually are refreshing and totally different from one another.
A straightforward drink is yuzu, that includes the flavour of the citrus fruit mixed with glowing mineral water and floral honey. One other gentle cocktail, Backyard, makes use of Seedlip 108 blended with tonic water.
Houji has a spicy style due to the ginger mixed with hojicha – a Japanese inexperienced tea roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal, Okinawa sugar, lime juice and soda and garnished with house-made candied ginger.
The healthiest drink of the lot is kombucha, which Barker says takes 9 days to make utilizing fermented Darjeeling tea with marsala spices.