Low-alcohol drink programs don’t have to be a buzzkill. With more consumers looking for healthful alternatives as well as a longer social experience from restaurants, these low-proof drinks are being treated much like session beers, allowing diners to consume multiple cocktails over the course of a meal, including potentially during daytime hours.
Here’s a glimpse at how (and why) several operators are presenting low-alcohol libations.
Low-booze liquors that sell
Common Theory, a San Diego gastropub, largely focuses on craft beer. In fact, it only has a beer-and-wine license. So it makes use of soju, a Korean distilled beverage that falls under the license, to spice up its cocktail offerings. Common Theory uses a soju with 20% alcohol by volume in a variety of cocktails that would typically feature vodka. By mixing soju with fresh ingredients or even seasonal beers, it allows the drink menu to undergo seasonal makeovers, too.
Guests pick the proof
Blue Ribbon Federal Grill in New York City is all about full disclosure when it comes to alcohol content. Its cocktail menu plots libations on a graph by strength, from low proof to full proof and over proof. What’s more, the lunchtime cocktail menu categorizes drinks as “Back To Work” cocktails or “Half Day” cocktails.
Catering to day drinking
Cindy's, a rooftop bar at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, offers a low-alcohol lineup during the day that includes a beer mimosa. The menu also features a selection of mocktails with fresh juices and sodas that can be made boozy with the addition of a specifically paired spirit.
Toning down beer with mixers
Casual restaurant Redz in Mt. Laurel, N.J., menus low-proof drinks while also moving seasonal products. The bar’s Hoppy Shandy, made with equal parts housemade lemondade and hoppy IPA or pale ale, for example, dilutes the beer to something more sessionable.
Shell & Bones Oyster Bar in New Haven, Conn., recently launched a new brunch cocktail menu featuring a “Temperance” cocktail section with drinks that can be served with or without alcohol. Selections include the Stevie Ray with lemon, pineapple, ginger, maple, angostura and soda.