July 3, 2020

Winnipeg
25° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Subscribe

Mock? Silly talk... they rock!

Social and cultural changes are fuelling an explosion in sophisticated, high-end cocktails with low or no alcohol. 

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/7/2019 (339 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Whether you like it shaken or stirred, Winnipeg bartenders are noticing a shift in the city’s drinking culture.

Take a shot at zero-proof cocktails at these locations:

Click to Expand

Langside Grocery, 164 Langside St.
Patent 5 Distillery, 108 Alexander Ave.
The Roost on Corydon, 651 Corydon Ave.
Forth, 171 McDermot Ave.
The Tallest Poppy, 103 Sherbrook St.

Interested in attending #goodfoodnobooze with chef Ben Kramer and Tiny Bar’s Josey Krahn on Aug. 14? Tickets are on sale now: http://wfp.to/nobooze

Casey Bee has been mixing drinks in the heart of Wolseley at Langside Grocery for the past two years. He was in Toronto in 2007 during the "cocktail renaissance" that produced unnaturally colourful liquids served in martini glasses with bizarre garnishes; an unappetizing trend that missed the mark when it came to making cocktails "cool" again.

Bee says drinking culture has sobered up since then.

"People don’t want to be hammered anymore," he says. "We discovered how great cocktails were, and then a lot of bartenders around the world made cocktails better than they had ever been.... So, people want to drink them all night, but they were never designed to do that. They were too strong."

Langside Grocery bartender Casey Bee says an all-ages beverage begins with a question: does the customer prefer their beverages spicy, fruity or savoury? (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Langside Grocery bartender Casey Bee says an all-ages beverage begins with a question: does the customer prefer their beverages spicy, fruity or savoury? (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Over the course of 20 years in the industry, Bee says he has seen a steady increase of customers requesting alcohol-free or low-alcohol "mocktails." That word, however, leaves some mixmasters suffering from a language-generated hangover.

"The term ‘mocktail’ sort of takes the word cocktail and makes it less serious and less important.... So calling it a mocktail makes it look like we should be taking it out of a package, putting it into a blender and giving it to someone for two bucks. And a lot more work goes into these drinks than that," he says.

There is no set menu for zero-proof cocktails at Langside Grocery. Instead, Bee says an all-ages beverage begins with a question: does the customer prefer their beverages spicy, fruity or savoury?

"Really, we are just going to the grocery store before the weekend and just buying a bunch of stuff, and that’s why we don’t really have a set menu for these things," he says. "What we do is see what we have and then decide what we can make for people."

Patent 5 Distillery in the east Exchange District specializes in making small-batch vodka and gin, but offers a set low- and no-alcohol menu in their tasting room.

The Summer Smash mocktail at Langside Grocery contains cucumber, ginger and basil. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Summer Smash mocktail at Langside Grocery contains cucumber, ginger and basil. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Assistant manager Callan Anderson says although the distillery mostly makes alcoholic beverages, the owners recognized there was a need to serve another constituency.

"We wanted to make sure that we weren’t just going to be offering people, ‘Here’s some fruit juice in a cup, or here’s a Coca-Cola.’ You know, that’s boring. Make it exciting for people because there’s lots of reasons why people don’t drink," Anderson says.

Patent 5’s six-item menu ranges from a standard cola to the unique Not Rosé, which mimics the look and feel of rosé wine.

"I feel like Winnipeg is thirsty for something different," she says. "And it definitely feels like Winnipeg is on the cusp of a move forward and creativity."

Other bartenders say they attempt to create low- or no-alcohol cocktails with a completely new vision in mind.

"It definitely feels like Winnipeg is on the cusp of a move forward and creativity," bartender Callan Anderson said. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press)

"It definitely feels like Winnipeg is on the cusp of a move forward and creativity," bartender Callan Anderson said. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press)

Josey Krahn operates Winnipeg-based Tiny Bar, which hosts bar services, private events and cocktail education. He has also collaborated with entrepreneurs in the city.

"If you take a minute to think about what a drink could possibly be and then offer it to somebody, not as a ho-hum throwaway alternative to alcohol... then that person gets that same experience that everyone is looking for at a bar or restaurant, which is escape, celebration, something special, something that is not easily duplicated at home," Krahn says.

Krahn and chef Ben Kramer are joining forces again for their second multi-course dinner paired with non-alcoholic cocktails. The first edition was in May at the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club. Krahn says the next event will be hosted on a rooftop, but the exact location will remain unknown to ticket holders until closer to the dinner, scheduled for next month.

"We kind of overlooked the fact that that (a bar) might be a prohibitive environment for people who maybe aren’t drinking because of recovery or addiction issues and being triggered by sitting at a bar was not kind of within their wheelhouse," he says.

More recently, Krahn hosted a pop-up event at The Forks crafting lavender-and-rose fizzes and sage-and-lemon Collins. The booze-free drinks priced out at about $7.50 after tax and Krahn said people didn’t seem too concerned about the cost.

Patent 5’s Not Rosé mimics the look and feel of rosé wine. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press)

Patent 5’s Not Rosé mimics the look and feel of rosé wine. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I think that people should pay for quality. Whether that quality has alcohol in it or doesn’t have alcohol in it, if it’s quality, it has value. And often the people that are trying to put this quality product in front of you put in a lot of effort," he says.

Krahn says it’s challenging to create flavours without relying on familiar favourites.

"When you are making cocktails that have gin or whiskey in it, you kind of rely on that one-and-a- half or two ounces of gin or whatever to create the base flavour of the drink. Not so with zero-(alcohol by volume) cocktails," he explains.

"You definitely need to put in the effort and say, ‘OK, how is this going to work? How am I going to get a drink that is worthy of calling itself a drink without just adding a bunch of different sugars?’"

It appears to be last call for Shirley Temples and run-of-the-mill sodas.

nadya.pankiw@freepress.mb.ca

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.