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#TrendingNow: Low-alcohol cocktails

Love booze but hate the consequences? Here’s a solution: Low-alcohol drinks.
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 “It’s a revival, not a new trend,” explains Charlie Ainsbury, co-owner of This Must Be The Place (TMBTP) – a hip drinking spot located in Darlinghurst, Sydney. The talented Diageo Reserve World Class winner is referring to low-ABV cocktails – something his spritz and cocktail bar specialises in.
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Also known as “sessions”, these low-octane concoctions are made using ingredients that have an ABV content no higher than 20 percent. So, instead of the usual suspects like whiskey and vodka, you get vermouth, sherry, and fortified vino.

“Bartenders want to do something different and consumers want to try something different. Drinks like Italian aperitifs have been around for a very long time, and today, they’re – once again – becoming an increasingly common sight around the world," Mr Ainsbury adds.

And he is right. We were lucky to have been able to try one of TMBTP’s most popular drinks – the Belafonte – when Mr Ainsbury was in town for Singapore Cocktail Week 2016. Mid-way through his presentation on low-alcohol mixes, he gets behind the bar and whips up an ice cold creation that consisted of fino sherry, Tanqueray No. 10, lemon, prosecco, and basil – the concoction was lip-smackingly good, refreshing, and indeed, different. In fact, we could’ve easily downed two more of them.

That’s the thing about low-proof tipples like aperitifs and spritzes: you can most definitely enjoy multiple swigs without worrying about the nasty spins and the dreaded hangover. Along with TMBTP, watering holes in other parts of the world – including Ox & Son in Santa Monica, California, NYC's Betony, London’s White Lyan (famed for their bottled spritzes and cocktails), and UK bar chain The Botanist – also see the value in offering such options.

The Belafonte (second from right) in TMBTP's line-up of low-ABV cocktails
The Belafonte (second from right) in TMBTP's line-up of low-ABV cocktails
Here are more reasons you should order an Aperol spritz instead of that Appletini during your next visit to the bar:
  • You’re more likely to be able to savour the different flavours. The optimum ABV level for appreciating taste is between 12 to 15 percent – that’s what you usually get with low-alcohol cocktails. Also, plenty of these drinks are carbonated, and carbonation creates a nerve response in the tongue and the mouth, which intensifies aromas and overall taste of the beverage.
  • Perfect for daytime drinking. Want to imbibe early in the day without calling it quits (or feeling sick) by 7pm? With low-ABV mixes, you can. Opting for less boozy options also means you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience at social events – you know, sans regrettable moments and embarrassing conversations.  
  • They can help stimulate the appetite. To rev up your taste buds just before an amazing meal, sip on an aperitif. Alcohol interferes with taste receptors, so choose something that doesn’t kill the palate – either a wine-based aperitif (vermouths, sherries) or a spirit-based one (Campari, Suze).

Jigger and Pony on Amoy Street
Jigger and Pony on Amoy Street
Ready for some not-so-dangerous drinks? Here are five cocktail bars in Singapore with delicious low-ABV options:
  • Easy Like Sunday Morning at The Library – Sloe gin, Rinomato Aperitivo, dry vermouth, tonic water, rose water, and Burlesque Bitters (S$23)
  • Flamingo at Jigger and Pony – Aperol, grapefruit, passionfruit, prosecco (S$22)
  • Summer Cup at CÉ LA VI – Pimm's No. 1, ginger ale, cucumber, fresh fruits (S$24)
  • CBGB at Manhattan – Champagne, berries, basil, pink grapefruit, peach bitters, absinthe (S$24)

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