When it comes to a drink menu, a bar or nightclub owner may shy away from alcohol-free drinks. The dirty word “mocktail” has muddied the waters of promoting alcohol-free beverages. And those stereotypes about alcohol-free drinks still abound. However, a smart owner knows that alcohol-free drinks are profitable and innovative. Kathy Casey, president of Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen, is an expert on crafting alcohol-free drinks that are changing the way people are ordering drinks. But why is having a couple drinks without alcohol on your menu important? Casey highlights some of the top ways to enhance and promote your business with alcohol-free alternatives:
1. Tap into an untapped market. “It’s not just for kids but adults,” Casey explains, noting there’s a huge opportunity for sophisticated drinks without alcohol. Casey says include a minimum of five alcohol-free drinks on the menu and “put effort into it.” That means not using words such as “virgin” to describe alcohol-free drinks. Language matters when it comes to marketing.
2. Don’t make the drinks so sweet. The problem that comes up with promoting alcohol-free drinks is people have lowered expectations, believing those drinks will be too sweet. Make them more sophisticated, Casey reminds. “For men, present them in a rocks glass or (serve them) up, so it doesn’t look like a tall tooty fruity-looking drink.” It should look like a cocktail and taste like a cocktail sans alcohol.
3. Think fresh. Casey has been crafting alcohol-free cocktails for years, and she knows what works. “When I do alcohol-free cocktails, I incorporate fresh herb in them. Also, I like put a nice squeeze of something fresh, such as a half Clementine or tangerine or some honey-lemon syrup made with honey and soda water,” she explains. High quality products and fruit syrups can make a drink delicious, Casey explains.
4. “You want to make the category special.” Casey says looking for what’s in the bar to help create your drinks is good, but bartenders need to look beyond the bar to make the category special. “You have to really put the ingredients in it,” she says, as well as focusing on the presentation and using a special glass to serve the drinks in. Think about making it a “more luxury experience.”
5. Producing profitable products. The misconception with alcohol-free drinks is that because they don’t cost a lot to make, they won’t be priced higher. However, that’s not the case, according to Casey. “One thing I hear often from people that don’t drink is they get (upset) when they go out, they’re going to have cranberry soda. It’s $4, and everyone is drinking $10 cocktails, and they have to split the bill,” she says. “They want something expensive,” so when they split the bill with their friends, they’re spending equivalent dollars. This coupled with knowing that you can “do an exciting drink for $1 and $1.50—and that’s on the higher end—and get $8 for it. That’s a pretty good cost of goods,” she says.