By Lyre's Spirit Co
19th Nov 2019
Bars can no longer afford to ignore consumer demand for alcohol-free cocktails, according to industry veteran Grant Collins.
A bar manager and beverage consultant for more than 20 years, Collins was well aware of prevailing consumption trends when he opened Sydney bar Gin Lane in late 2017.
Grant Collins - Owner of Gin Lane & Spritz Bar
"Being from the UK myself, I follow UK and US trends pretty closely, so we jumped on the whole zero alcohol thing pretty early," he says.
"In the UK it's pretty normal now. You wouldn't find many of the top bars in London without a pretty decent zero alcohol cocktail list, so I don't think that can be ignored.
"You can't take your eye off what's happening globally.”
Gin Lane is located in the Kensington Street precinct in Chippendale, which Collins says has ensured an "eclectic demographic" of patrons.
"There's three big hotels that feed Kensington street, so that's about 1500 rooms. That gives us a lot of international tourists and interstate visitors," he says.
"Then there's an Asian demographic as well. They either seem to drink very hard, or don't drink at all.
"The demographic that don't drink at all, we tapped into. We used to get the Asian demographic coming in, taking pictures of our drinks and not drinking them."
"Now they can take pictures of the drinks and drink them, and they don't feel they are being left out."
Collins says the zero alcohol trend has clearly spread to other demographics, especially at key moments of the year.
During Dry July, Gin Lane offered a special menu of zero alcohol classic cocktails featuring Lyre's Non-Alcoholic Spirits.
"We weren't quite sure how it was going to go, but whenever someone wasn't drinking we pulled it out and it was really warmly received," says Collins.
"We actually kept it going past Dry July. Now, whenever someone is not drinking, we pull out the zero alcohol menu."
"It's a nice touch because they feel a bit of love, rather than being the poor relation who's just got to drink a juice or a soda.
"And it's good for business. It just means that rather than sitting on a soda water they'll probably have two or three cocktails as well."
Collins says Gin Lane puts exactly the same amount of effort into preparation and presentation of its zero alcohol cocktails.
In stark contrast to the 'mocktails' of old, the list includes non-alcoholic versions of cocktails including the Italian spritz, south side, negroni, rum punch and martini, which are almost indistinguishable from the alcoholic versions.
"If you go back ten years it would be a pineapple juice with a couple of cherries on top and a bit of grenadine,"he says. "Now, if there's a table of people drinking negronis and someone's driving and they have a zero alcohol negroni, they can't believe how close the taste is."
Beyond the dedicated zero alcohol list, Gin Lane offers patrons the option of having alcohol-free versions of many other drinks.
"Some of our top signature cocktails, we just remake them with Lyre's," he says.
"We have a little footnote at the bottom our menu that says 'please ask your server, many of our signature cocktails are available zero alcohol'.
"We promote zero alcohol during our happy hour as well, so if you come in and your friends are drinking gin and tonics, you can also enjoy a zero alcohol G&T at a good price.
"If you're running a venue, if you're looking after your guests and responsible service of alcohol, this trend is something you can't turn a blind eye to."