Tippling or Teetotaling: Why Not Both?
For most whiskey lovers, the holidays conjure images of spiked eggnog, hot toddies, or even just a neat pour fireside. But the holidays can also inspire people to go from tippling to teetotaling as December gives way to “Dry January”.
And in the last few years, there’s been a movement to extend this beyond January. In 2019, media outlets such as ABC News, Forbes and Time quoted reports from market research firms such as the globally recognized IWSR (International Wine & Spirits) highlighting this trend towards “low and no-alcohol” drinking. Alcohol free bars opened successfully on both sides of the Atlantic - Getaway in the US (Brooklyn, NY) and Brewdog AF in the UK (London, England). Bacardi’s 2020 Cocktail Trends Report listed this as the number one cocktail trend, remarking “mindful drinking goes mainstream”. The survey showed that 83% of bartenders reported a rise in popularity of low alcohol drinks as well as an increase of 42% increase of online searches in Google for “mocktail”. And while it’s been noted that it seems as though alcohol consumption spiked as a result of COVID stay-at-home orders, it also appears that there are people still “sober curious” such as Club SÖDA NYC (Sober Or Debating Abstinence).
As a whiskey drinker, I’ve never participated in “Sober October”, “Dry January” or given it up for Lent. If you haven’t seen them already, there will be a slew of articles on mocktails and such this month. So, what about the rest of us that are open to trying other options as we have our [Glenmorangie’s Taste of] Cake and Peated [whiskies] too?
Perfect Purée of Napa Valley. Initially founded in 1988 for chefs and cooking enthusiasts by Tracy Hayward who self-financed her passion project and sold product out of the back of her Volvo station wagon. Eventually, the product line expanded 30+ flavors of premium purées, specialties, and blends used by professional bartenders both in spirited and spirit-free drinks, most notably by Jonathan Pogash aka “The Cocktail Guru”.
Ironically, the first time I tasted their product, it was the Prickly Pear purée in a non-alcoholic "January Punch" alongside a spirited “Punch Like a Girl”. These delicious creations from NYC Bartender Mimi Burnham were served at Speedrack, an annual event and fundraiser for cancer research featuring competing female bartenders. It should be noted that the January Punch (which also included rosehip & hibiscus tea, acai juice, grapefruit, seltzer and ginger) was the first to run out.
In our December 18th Barrel Report, “Sweet on [Whiskey] Sour Mixers” I shared the results of my experiment with variations on a classic Whiskey Sour (using Evan Williams) featuring Perfect Purée’s Yuzu Luxe Sour, Chipotle Sour, and Blood Orange concentrate. (For the cocktail geeks reading this, I opted to add the egg white and did the dry shake prior to shaking with ice, 15 seconds per shake.) If you missed it – subscribe! They definitely gave a fresher and more complex flavor profile, eliminating the need for bitters (for the Chipotle and Blood Orange). If you enjoy smoky flavors, but find many chili based cocktails overwhelming to your palate, the Chipotle Sour allows you to enjoy the taste without it being too much. The Blood Orange was also delicious to use in my favorite brunch cocktail: Blood & Sand.
Feeling fancy and experimental? Use their Ginger Peach purée for this Whisky Sour Riff by NYC Bartender, Tony Delpino
2 oz Rye
1 oz lemon juice
.5 oz peach ginger puree
.5 oz Szechuan peppercorn infused honey*
2 dash Cardamom bitters
Garnish: Spanked basil
Shake with ice and strain into glass.
*Tip from SeriousEats.com “Barely heat up honey (don't boil it, because it makes the flavor change), add some Sichuan peppercorns, and bring it up to almost a simmer, turn it off, let it sit for half an hour, then strain it out.”
Onto Fresh Victor. Cold-pressed premium juices in seven blends from founder Ken Mackenzie, who wanted to create mixers for “fool proof” cocktails and under the guidance of H. Joseph Ehrmann, bartender and owner of San Francisco bar, Elixir, the first bar in the US to get a Green Business certification.
I used their Lemon Sour as part of the “Classic Whiskey Sour” experiment and it definitely gave the cocktail more body than regular lemon juice. If you enjoy the tart, don’t add the simple syrup as it already has cane sugar added.
For cocktails beyond the Lemon Sour flavor, feel free to try out their Chocolate-Dipped and Desert Heat cocktails below.
Or are you more of a “casual” home bartender, like me, who generally prefers a neat pour and sometimes can’t be bothered with tins and bar spoons and such?
Enter Suntory ALL-FREE. Yes, THAT Suntory. This is touted as 0% “sparkling malt & hops beverage” that combines “modern technology with brewing experience” from Tokyo-Musashino brewery. Full confession: I am most definitely NOT a beer drinker but I do love Suntory whisky. (Hello Yamazaki 12.)
So of course, I had to enlist sampling assistance from fellow WBSE Member, Sean Cusack. Fittingly, he put me on my whiskey journey and is a self-professed craft beer snob. The zero artificial flavors or sweeteners, alcohol or calories will certainly appeal to those who look for that. Full confession: Sean and I are both sugar and snack food people so we were curious to see how this tasted.
Our geeky tasting notes ranged from lemon-chamomile to mango, papaya and grain. It was almost like the beer version of a Toki highball and Sean stated that it was definitely more “whiskey” taste notes vs. a beer. While this debuted in the Summer, it would definitely be a perfect “welcome” drink or “between drams” drink for whiskey drinkers and a step up from other nonalcoholic beers we’ve tasted. I’d also be curious to see how this is in a “Manmosa” drink.
I hope you enjoyed this tasting journey with me. I’ll be continuing this taste exploration with Cocktail Squad’s ready-to-drink low ABV Classy Casuals™ so subscribe on whiskeynetwork.net so that you can read about it in an upcoming Barrel Report. Cheers!
Author’s Note: We fully advocate and support your individual imbibing decisions to whether it means no alcohol, low alcohol or responsible drinking. For more information on responsible drinking, visit responsibility.org.