“Low- and no-ABV”: low and no alcohol options for events

published on January 30, 2020
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A rising trend for 2020 is the integration of low and no-ABV (Alcohol by Volume) beverages, with many bars, speakeasies and restaurants offering alternates on their cocktail menus. A growing movement (particularly amongst Millennials and Gen Z attendees) that’s less about over-indulgence and more about flavour and enjoyment is making itself heard, and trend-savvy mixologists, restauranteurs and planners are taking note. We spoke with Kate Boushel, the director of Beverage & Education for the Barroco Group, the owners of Montréal’s Atwater Cocktail Club, Barroco, Bocata, Foiegwa, Fugazzi and Milky Way for an insider glimpse at where drinks are headed.

A shift toward intelligent consumption

The low- and no-ABV movement isn’t just about abstaining, but about making informed decisions when it comes to consumption. “If you’re drinking a lot of spirit-forward drinks, it’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your liver,” says Boushel. “Much more than if you are incorporating other ingredients.” Montréal bars are also keeping customers informed of what they’re actually ingesting, through innovations like the rotovap at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth’s Nacarat to measure the alcohol content in final drinks, and the Marcus Lounge & Bar in the Four Seasons’ experiments with distillates and hydrosols to create new flavours.

For Boushel and the Barroco Group, clear labelling and a wealth of drink options for different tastes and desires is key. “Our menu is divided into our signature cocktails, then what we call ‘Featherweight’ cocktails that are low-ABV and then our Placebos that are non-alcoholic,” she says. She’s also noticing, “at least one non-alcoholic cocktail on the menu – which is pretty good, because most restaurants only have five or six cocktails on the menu to start with.”

Keeping options open

As people are reconsidering everything they put in their bodies, from cuisine to coffee, a focus on alcoholic consumption goes hand in hand with these changing needs. “Just because you’re not drinking alcohol, doesn’t mean you can’t drink well,” she adds. “Having the option to abstain is important! People are just naturally thinking more about what they’re consuming.”

And alcohol isn’t the only ingredient people are keeping tabs on, with a growing focus on caffeine and sugar content to boot. “That’s part of the trend as well,” Boushel adds. “How do we make non-alcoholic cocktails without adding a ton of sugar?” Innovative startups like Seedlip are heeding the call with the creation of non-alcoholic distillates, with zero sugar or sweetener content (and used at Barroco Group’s bars). “Seedlip looks exactly like a gin or vodka, transparent like water and with a similar mouth-feel to water,” she says. “[There’s] zero fat residue, it’s very thin in the mouth and tastes like a panopoly of flavours.”

The ABCs of ABV for events

While Boushel admits, “I think many event companies are late on trend,” when it comes to low- or no-ABV drink options, she also sees change already on the horizon. “[Montréal’s] LAB, is one of the first starting up in this space and is one of the most sought-after cocktail event companies,” she says. Providing low and no-ABV drink menus is also an added boon to event Diversity and Inclusion strategies, ensuring options are available for those who choose to abstain based on personal beliefs or other reasons.

It’s possible to cater to this shift without making attendees feel that they’re missing out on social experiences – all while keeping a focus on flavour and fun. With just a few simple adjustments of event cocktail menus, it’s a shift that can be simply made to keep events ahead of the curve. Bottoms up!

Read more about the trend at the International Wine and Spirit Research’s website here: theiwsr.com

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