Craft soft drinks have growing appeal at restaurants

Alcohol consumption spiked at the start of the pandemic, according to many reports. But now, as consumers become accustomed to a new health-conscious lifestyle, they want healthier, or at least alcohol-free, beverages.

According to a survey released by Gallup in August 2021, 60% of American adults say they drink alcohol, down from 65% in 2019 and the lowest level since 2012.

Restaurants respond with liquor-free yet flavorful and visually appealing beverages (soft drink-like beverages) that guests respond to by drinking them.

Kyle Letson, bar manager at Oak at Fourteens, a trendy fine dining restaurant in Boulder, Colorado.

Using herbal elixirs from local company Three Spirits, Letson has developed three mocktails, or more commonly known, spirits-free cocktails.

Kyle Letson of Oak at Fourteens in Boulder, Colorado, has developed three mocktails using herbal elixirs from local company Three Spirits: N/Aspresso, Light Out, and Peach Keen.

N/Aspresso uses the company’s social elixir, which Letson describes as similar to Port. This describes letson as being similar to port, with regular or decaffeinated espresso, Fee Brothers Alcohol Free Chocolate Aztec Bitters, and agave syrup.

The Lights Out is made with Three Spirits Livener. This one uses a simple syrup of blackberry thyme, Palo Santo bitters from Dram Apothecary, and Fee Brothers chocolate his Aztec bitters. It’s served in a rocks glass over large ice cubes, topped with a dash of soda, and garnished with preserved blackberries and a sprig of thyme.

Peach Keen uses the Three Spirits Night Cap. According to Letson, it’s a “very herbal bourbon, or almost amaro-like,” with peach-rosemary syrup, lemon juice, and Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters for a more floral note. Shake it up, serve over ice in a goblet, and finish with a dash of soda water for extra foam.

Those drinks are $10 each.

According to Kristen Wemer, director of technical services at Flavorman, a custom beverage development company based in Louisville, Kentucky, there’s a fine line between a cocktail mixer and a craft soda.

“We … see products traditionally marketed as ‘craft soda’ being marketed instead as craft cocktail mixers or non-alcoholic cocktail alternatives.” ‘Non-alcoholic cocktail alternatives’ is now a big marketing strategy because of its connotations.”


Denver’s Deviation Distilling’s mocktails therefore specialize in gin, as the company’s upcoming whiskey is still aged in barrels. Yes, and mixologist Tiago Amaral is happy to offer $11 zero-proof drinks such as the Berry Blast, made with blackberry, raspberry, and grapefruit sorbet. , simple syrup, lime juice, soda water, or a garden party made with cucumber, dill, sage, lemon sorbet and soda.

“Our goal was to focus on beautiful looks, smells and tastes to provide a product that people can socially enjoy even if they’re not drinking,” he said.

Amaral is developing drink recipes with figs, beets and passion fruit, blood oranges and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is not only a beautiful bright green color, he said, but it is also beneficial for asthma sufferers.

Flavorman’s Wemer says ingredients with a healthy halo are certainly trending when it comes to soft drinks. It means a lot of different things, and there’s a lot of room to play with. Whether it’s low-sugar, “beneficial” ingredients like probiotics, or even ingredients known to support health in other ways, like vitamins. Minerals, adaptogens and other herbs. ”

The word “soda” may have negative connotations in some circles, but it’s not common in Utah, where alcohol and caffeine shouldn’t be consumed, as the majority of the population is Mormon. It seems not.

That’s what fried chicken sandwich chain The Crack Shack discovered when it entered Utah. Crack Shack has a great cocktail program, but many Utahans weren’t even into mocktails.

“Sodas are very popular in Utah,” said Nicole Rogers, Crack Shack’s marketing director. He noticed the popularity of his soda machines at restaurants in his Utah communities of Salt Lake City, Riverton, and Lehi. “We wanted to offer something more branded and not just a generic soda product.”

They’ve come up with $7 Shack Ships like Henhouse Mules made with strawberry, lime, grenadine, mint and ginger beer, and Dirty Bird made with blackberries, Sprite and vanilla cream. A “dirty soda” is a soda that has something added to it, often dairy, but can be any flavored shot.

They are made by the bartender, but are served in soda cups, and guests can refill those cups with fountain drinks for free.

The Shack Sips is only sold at the 7-unit chain’s stores in Utah, not at three restaurants in Southern California or one on the Las Vegas Strip. But the Pink 182, which features berries, lime, mint, and pineapple topped with Sprite, was served in every restaurant during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and sold well.

“We’ve actually found that people are pretty receptive to non-alcoholic beverages, even in Las Vegas stores directly on the Strip. I think people are very interested in having a drink, especially when it’s branded and pairs very well with food.”

A Utah soda chain called Swig has trademarked the term “Dirty Soda” and sells them in bulk, according to founder Nicole Tanner.

Founded in 2010, Swig is based in Lehi and recently opened 46 Located in the Dallas Fort Worth area.

Called The Founder, Tanner’s own favorite drink is Diet Coke with unsweetened coconut syrup, lime juice and coconut cream.

Swig offers both Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola products (which she said takes a lot of work), Dr Pepper, root beer platters, their own energy drinks, and distilled water. and sparkling water. Sweet tea was added when Swig entered Oklahoma.

Guests can customize their selection of 35-40 flavored shots, along with purees, creams and fruits.

“They know exactly how they want their drink,” says Tanner, adding that Swig tracks loyalty program members’ favorite drinks, so they get a specified amount of each flavor every time. and the amount of ice is made exactly the same.

Chick-fil-A-Cloudberry-Sunjoy.jpgphotograph: Chick-fil-A’s Cloudberry Sunjoy

Popular syrups include coconut, vanilla, raspberry, and peach. A hit across the chain is the Strawberry Breeze. It is made with distilled or carbonated water, strawberry puree, frozen strawberries, unsweetened coconut and vanilla syrups, and coconut cream.

The larger chains have found success with soft drinks of varying flavor profiles, such as Chick-fil-A and Cloudberry Sunjoy, which launched as limited-time offers in the spring. ), flavored with cloudberry and cherry blossom, starting at $2.29.

A spokesperson for the Atlanta-based chain said the Cloudberry combination scored best in internal tests and was offered nationwide last fall after a successful test in Augusta, Georgia. .

Hot dog on a stick pineberry lemonade.jpgphotograph: Hot Dog on a Stick launched Pineberry Lemonade in November.

“We don’t typically share sales information, but we can tell our customers love it,” she said in an email.

Other chains with trend-forward flavors in their sodas include Buffalo Wild Wings, which launched MTN Dew Legend in blackberry, ginger, and citrus flavors this spring, and Cherry Sunrise Freeze, a frozen wild cherry, this spring. They have Taco Bell. Flavored drinks with pineapple and orange flavors — and soon Brisk Dragon Paradise Sparkling Iced Tea was a permanent addition to the menu. A bright purple soda with raspberry, blackberry and dragon fruit flavors added to a hibiscus tea base.

Dragon fruit is a trending beverage due to its appeal and health benefits, despite its understated taste. Syrup company Monin will launch dragon fruit syrup in 2020, an orange spritz with bitter orange and floral notes, resembling small white strawberries with bright red seeds, and tastes like a cross between strawberries and pineapples. Pine berry.

Hot Dog on a Stick, a subsidiary of Fat Brands, introduced pineberry lemonade to more than 50 stores in November and was expected to be available until December, but operations director Nichole said it hadn’t. Many restaurants have sold out before. Montano.

“Pineberry is like the perfect balance of ripe strawberry and sweet pineapple flavors,” she said. It’s been our busiest time of year and we wanted to introduce this delicious product to our customers.”

Contact Brett Thorn [email protected]

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