Saturday, February 24, 2024
HomediningNon-alcoholic drinks for the festive season: Which bars to go to and...

Non-alcoholic drinks for the festive season: Which bars to go to and where to stock up for your home bar

Not drinking this holiday season? You’re not alone. Scores of teetotallers across the island will be traipsing about town, refusing offers of an alcoholic libation. So, what to drink when you’re not drinking over the holiday season? Plenty, actually.

Never have there been more non-alcoholic spirits, wines, mixers and beers available for the steadfastly sober. Recent years have seen a rising number of non-alcoholic beverages worth lingering over, many the result of distilling a combination of thoughtfully chosen ingredients. These time-consuming methods yield rich, nuanced “spirits” sold by names like Seedlip, Lyre’s, Melati and Forged Counterfeit.

No matter if you’re thirsting for gin, whiskey, vodka, Campari, bourbon, amaretti, cane spirit or tequila, there’s a non-alcoholic alternative ready to be popped. To stock your home bar, head to Free Spirit, which touts itself as “Singapore’s first and biggest alcohol-free shop”.

The online store was established by Emma Pike and Rebecca Forwood Choy in 2020, when the world was told to shelter in place as COVID-19 raged. “I wanted to give up (alcohol) for a few months whilst not going out,” explained Pike. “I found the (non-alcoholic) selections very limiting in Singapore.”

Evidently, the duo began building the business at the right time. “Today, choosing non-alcoholic drinks is definitely gaining traction,” Pike said.

“This is really showing amongst young adults aged between 20 and 30 who are drinking less or abstaining entirely. Similarly, individuals over 40 are also opting for non-alcoholic options, largely for weight and health management reasons. The overarching trend is a shift towards moderation, with people balancing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.”

Of course, bars have taken notice too. In 2021, The Dandy Collection, whose concepts include Neon Pigeon and Firangi Superstar, introduced the Better Drinking initiative.

“We were looking at ways that we could create more impactful drinking offerings across our company,” explained director of operations Mike Pekarsky.

“On average, we find that consumers are drinking 20 per cent less alcohol than they were some years ago. New generations of diners are less interested in alcohol and more in experiences. Current diners want more options and understand the pitfalls that come with excessive alcohol consumption.”

To that end, The Dandy Collection purveys “inclusive cocktail lists” in which non-alcoholic cocktails are made with “the same craft, precision and care that go into its potent sibling”.

At Neon Pigeon, there’s the popular Yamaringo (S$18), a mix of Lyre’s Agave Syrup, sencha, genmaicha, Japanese red apple juice and NON3, an alcohol-free wine infused with toasted cinnamon, yuzu and oranges.

At the newly renovated MO Bar at Mandarin Oriental Singapore, the Blueprint menu of cocktails is inspired by Singapore’s heritage and architectural icons. Its zero-proof cocktails include Helix (S$21), mixed with ginger and celery, and fashioned after the Marina Bay bridge of the same name; and Henderson Wave (S$21), which boasts “a taste structure that emulates the undulating shape of waves” using chrysanthemum and gentian root.

If you are toasting the festive season at the grand Atlas, ask for Hope On The Horizon (S$16), an alcohol-free take on the champagne cocktail with kombucha and yuzu. Then hotfoot it to Manhattan, where the new cocktail menu, inspired by the bright lights of Broadway, features a zero-proof offshoot called Off Broadway.

On the playbill are offerings like Bee & Honey, inspired by its off-Broadway musical namesake, made with Lyre’s White Cane, lime, mint, honey and Lyre’s Classico; and The Ruby, a twist of Manhattan’s New York Sour, made with Lyre’s American Malt, lemon, lavender maple syrup, and NON7 Stewed Cherry and Coffee.

At the hidden-from-sight Cat Bite Club, four of its popular cocktails come in zero-proof form, including Rice Rice Daisy with notes of baijiu, miso, citrus and coriander; and Glock & Stalk, with agave spirit, mezcal, vermouth, celery and soda.

Naturally, these offerings are but a drop in the ocean of bars and restaurants in Singapore clamouring for a slice of the holiday pie. For teetotallers, happy hour lasts all night long. 

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