As New Year's Eve fast approaches it is important to remember the non-drinkers and designated drivers. After all, there's money to be made in non-alcoholic cocktails, or mocktails, and not enough bars are recognizing it. Thousands of over-21 customers are avoiding alcohol and they're tired of ordering sodas!
Back in college I gave drinking a try. It was the thing to do in college after all. Unfortunately, drinking didn't agree with me. While many will say "that's true of everyone...if they drink too much", I was getting sick off of rather small amounts of alcohol until I finally just gave up. I haven't had more than a sip of alcohol since 1986.
I happen to be half Asian and I'll blame my alcohol intolerance on DNA. When a person drinks a cocktail, the alcohol gets converted into acetaldehyde by a first enzyme. Then a second enzyme converts that into harmless water and acetic acid. Turns out many Asians are lacking the second enzyme, which means we are left with acetaldehyde in our systems and it will make us sicker than the original alcohol.
Forget about those of us with DNA issues, though. There are plenty of people out there that are not drinking alcohol because of religious reasons (Mormons, Muslims, etc.) or because they are now clean and sober and avoid alcohol to maintain sobriety. They are your target customers and there are plenty of them.
Bars and bartenders have seen a revolution in the bar scene over the last ten years and even as a non-drinker I've been happy to go along for the ride. Just as dining and food have been elevated over the last 30 years, now cocktails have undergone a resurgence. Techniques and ingredients that were lost during prohibition have been rediscovered. Bartenders are experimenting and making their own bitters and shrubs to enhance cocktails to a whole new, creative, handcrafted, farm-to-glass, exciting movement. Cities now offer Cocktail Weeks that include bartending competitions for both technical skill as well as creative, tasty recipes.
A good bartender should be as skilled at making a mocktail as they are at making a cocktail. That's why, when I go out, I order a mocktail to see just how skilled the bartender is. If they hand me just some fruit juice and soda water, they lose not only my respect, but a higher tab and a bigger tip. A talented bartender will present me with a drink that might have muddled fruit or herbs and perhaps a shrub or bitter added to accentuate the overall drink. It will have several ingredients instead of just two. If successful, that bartender will have sold me a few drinks and increased by bill significantly over a refillable soda.
Providing mocktails is also about providing a service to the community. Mocktails appeal to Designated Drivers because they feel they are nursing a "drink" like their drinking friends instead of having that boring glass of soda. If a bartender can appeal to the Designated Driver with a creative mocktail, then they are surely skilled enough to create inspired cocktails for the rest of the party.
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) is directed to use traffic safety funds to reduce traffic accidents and deaths. Each year they sponsor a mocktail contest to promote the cause of safe driving. Over the last few years they have compiled a mocktail catalog from contest entries and restaurant submissions. The OTS runs the Designated Driver VIP website and app as well. Users can log in and find restaurants and bars that offer specials specifically for designated drivers, such as free mocktails or appetizers.
It's a whole new scene for the designated driver or the non-(alcohol)-drinking customer. Adding mocktails to the drink menu and bar repertoire can attract patrons and increase the money they spend in your establishment.