Low-alcohol cocktails: Life beyond Dry January

13th February, 2015 by admin

Low-alcohol options: The Le Coquetiez du Lion by Le Lion in Hamburg

In awe of the aperitif

Trick Dog in San Francisco and Le Lion Bar de Paris in Hamburg both place low-proof at the front and center with signature drinks. Trick Dog’s house aperitif (the Haberdasher) is available in a single serving or bottled for a group, while Joerg Meyer of Le Lion is often found welcoming his guests with a tray of glasses of Coquetiez du Lion, their beautiful variation on the Martinez (50ml of Lillet Blanc, 20ml of Tanqueray gin, 3 dashes of Peychauds bitters; stir, strain, serve, lime twist).

Hidalgo sees low-proof as a rising trend in the US as well. “Low abv drinks are starting to be viewed in a different form by the drinking public and by American bartenders,” he explains. “It’s being regarded as a category in its own right, and that’s fantastic. In recent years, renewed interest in vermouths and the huge boom in popularity of amaro have done a lot to elevate the format.”

Balanced approach

As the category grows in attention, everyone is digging deep into what makes low-alcohol drinks work best. Colliau advises considering carefully how to replace the volume of omitted higher-proof ingredients: “Teas and tisanes can be great extenders, and often can mimic qualities of certain alcohols, like lapsang souchong for Scotch because of the smokiness, or hibiscus tisane for wine because of the tannins.

“I’ve found great success with bitter Italian sodas like Chinotto and Sanbitter, as they have complex elements that Americans usually associate with alcohol, and elevate a low- or no-abv drink from the realm of fruit juice and soda. You want to add complexity to make it taste ‘adult’.”

Ingredient choice is also a chance for local flavour to shine, as Lu points out: “For us here in Shanghai, it’s important to source and use what’s uniquely available here in Asia. In other words, creating shims [drinks with less than 15ml of high-proof ingredients of 40% abv or above] with an uniquely Asian twist that might not be available anywhere else.”

Wherever you are in the world, put as much effort into your low- or non-alcoholic cocktails as your regular menu, and the benefits are clearly obvious: happy drinkers make for a thriving business.

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