Dropping the alcohol doesn’t have to mean dropping the taste.

From sweet-and-spicy teas to lemonade infused with botanicals, craft mocktails can provide a tasty alternative for those who don’t imbibe. “Specialty beverages continue to expand in flavors, ingredients, and even preparation,” says Kim Main, director of industry communications at The Coca-Cola Company. “While the seasonal approach is not a new concept, we’ve seen seasonal flavors expand beyond the ordinary to lychee, blood orange, and prickly pear.” 

Main says that a variety of Coca-Cola products can lend themselves to a specialty beverage menu. The brand offers recipes at CokeSolutions.com and also lists the foods that go well with each specialty cocktail, allowing for chefs to make the optimal pairings. 

Creations include mocktails like the Chocolate Mint Mojito—made with Zico Chocolate Pure Premium Coconut Water, Sprite Zero, mojito mix, a lime wedge, and a mint sprig—and the Muddle Citrus Spritzer, which includes orange juice, light lemonade, club soda, and muddled orange and lime. While many cocktail mixers and ingredients may be known for high levels of sugar, Coca-Cola has found uses for its low-calorie products in crafting mocktails. Beverages like the Frozen Raspberry Coconut Lemonade with Zico Coconut Water, Sprite Zero, and raspberries seems indulgent, but this one contains 20 calories.

“Specialty beverage recipes do not always have to be complex to be successful,” Main says. “Leveraging existing products and equipment will help build the base for a well-executed program. From there, restaurant operators can add one or two ingredients like fresh, seasonal fruit or syrups to create a new, must-have option that won’t drive significant costs.”

According to a report from investment firm First Beverage Group, the nonalcoholic beverage space is predicted to grow from $160 billion in 2008 to $190 billion by 2020. As carbonated soft drinks’ popularity wanes, categories that have traditionally appealed to niche health-and-wellness oriented consumers are becoming more popular, the report says.

And nonalcoholic creations have taken off at restaurants known for premium cocktails.

At Saxon + Parole in New York City, an entire portion of the cocktail menu is devoted to nonalcoholic beverages, which sit at slightly lower prices than alcoholic counterparts. Drinks include the Bell Pepper Lemonade with fresh bell pepper juice, lemon, organic agave, and chili tincture, and the Garden Tonic with fresh celery juice, celery bitters, lime, house-made tonic, and herbs.

At Union Square Hospitality Group’s The Modern at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, “zero proof” cocktails provide a familiar flavor without the alcohol in drinks such as London Dry with tonic, juniper, botanicals, and cucumber; and the Harvest Bellini with sparkling apple cider, pumpkin, passionfruit, and black pepper.

Bar Management, Beverage, Feature