The surprising drink trend taking over Melbourne bars
NOgronis and virgin mojitos: welcome to the era of alcohol-free drinking.
Abstainers unite. The tide of Australian drinking culture is turning, and non-drinkers are no longer left high and dry.
Prodded along by the growing popularity of abstemious months such as FebFast, Dry July and Ocsober, alcohol’s starring role in the typical Australian’s social life is on the decline. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported last year that the nation’s drinking was at a 50-year low, and Roy Morgan research released in March, found that between 2013 and 2018 the number of people drinking at least once a month dropped from 70.1 per cent to 67.9 per cent.
It’s not an outright victory for the temperance union, but certainly more Australians are drinking less – and a growing tribe of bartenders and sommeliers are responding.
What makes a mocktail?
Restaurants such as Fitzroy’s upscale Cutler & Co – a finalist for Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine’s new award for the best non-alcoholic drinks list –has devised carefully nuanced booze-free pairing menus harnessing the power of ingredients such as teas and plant extracts, along with the same skill-set required to stand out in the competitive bartending world. The boring go-to of lemon, lime and bitters is out. In its place are complex, thoughtfully considered drinks with all the theatrical sophistication of a ‘real’ cocktail or the complexity of wine but none of the hangover.
Cutler & Co sommelier Liam O’Brien had his interest in the no-booze road super-charged by his wife’s first pregnancy. “It became clear that mineral water ceases to be an interesting beverage after the first month or two,” he says. “I get a real kick out of offering guests the opportunity to have a paired drink with their entree and main. Instead of the usual mineral water, orange juice or soft drink, all of a sudden they are included and involved in the meal in ways that perhaps they hadn’t expected to be.”