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2024-07-09 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine Bye Bye Booze. Welcome to Mocktail Hour

Bye Bye Booze. Welcome to Mocktail Hour

Grapefruit and rosemary gin cocktail, refreshing drink with ice

Is there anything more emblematic of a celebration than champagne? Golden, with festive bubbles, no drink says “party” more, whether it’s displayed in an enormous pyramid of coupe glasses, or merely passed around in flutes on trays. But lately, champagne is losing its luster.

In 2022, Avenue reported on the rise of alcohol-free spirits brands in both high-end restaurants and hotels, as well as in our homes. Recently, in the world of galas, balls, and glossy fashion functions, mocktails are the star of the show. Where once the only nonalcoholic options were sparkling water, soda, or, perhaps, a Shirley Temple, modern mocktails are now given the same level of consideration as cocktails.

“Over the past two years, having a mocktail is kind of industry standard, in the same way having gluten-free options became industry standard about five years ago,” says Max McCormack, whose clients include David Webb and the Museum of Arts and Design. For a recent event at Bergdorf Goodman, he celebrated a designer’s new rose-themed collection with drinks infused with the flower. “What we’re seeing more and more is that these mocktails or low-ABV drinks are as sophisticated as the rest of the menu.”

“It’s definitely ramped-up,” concurs Gabrielle Machinist, a caterer who has worked with fashion companies and PR firms, among other clients. “I bring it up as a point the way I ask, ‘Do you need coat check?’ To me, it’s definitely part of my list, because I don’t want people to think about it afterwards… I’ve seen how successful it is, as well.”

“[One day] I would hope that there’s something as recognizable [as champagne] upon entry that carries the same message of ‘Welcome to the party as you’re in for a great night,’ without having alcohol in it.”

Max McCormack

Oddly, this is one of the few areas in which the fashion industry is behind the times. In the world of weddings, crafting alcohol-free cocktails has been around forever. Marie Danielle Vil-Young, the founder and creative director of A Votre Service Events, has long provided nonalcoholic drinks for guests to fulfill a variety of religious and cultural requests, and to make everyone feel included. But there has even been, she notes, a noticeable difference between how her clients now gauge a good time, compared to their goals 15 years ago, when drinking as much as possible was the mark of a successful bash. “It’s not to say my clients don’t want to have a killer party and beautiful experience and great energy, but it’s taken on different meanings,” she explains. “What we deem as an amazing experience is almost a little bit redefined these days. There’s a focus on health and wellness, and it’s not so much on heavy drinking to have a good time.”

“What we deem as an amazing experience is almost a little bit redefined these days. There’s a focus on health and wellness, and it’s not so much on heavy drinking to have a good time.” 

Marie Danielle Vil-Young

Mocktails, like cocktails, can range in complexity. Vil-Young says seasonal fruits with a twist, like jalapeño or habanero peppers, are popular. One of Machinist’s favorite combinations is basil and lime, and she suggests using rosemary sprigs as a garnish. There are also simpler options, like mixing flavored canned drinks with sparkling water. Savannah Engel of the PR firm Savi lists Ghia as one of her favorite nonalcoholic apéritifs. “[Mixers have] become so much better looking and they taste better than they used to,” she notes.

The easier drinks are for caterers to pre-batch, the easier they are to serve. That said, it might be too soon to say they’ll replace champagne. The biggest barrier is the visual perspective—there isn’t yet a signature mocktail that everyone recognizes as being alcohol-free. – ARIA DARCELLA

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