It's a movement that indubitably raises many an eyebrow when first mentioned. After all, the sickeningly sweet aftertaste of a Shirley Temple is hard to forget. But with more bartenders turning their attention to mocktail craft, those days of sipping on syrupy concoctions in a bar could soon be a thing of the past.
Over at Atlas Bar, housed in the grand Gotham-like building along North Bridge Road, head bartender Roman Foltan is mixing up mocktails that take some serious work.
But this means produce such as edible flowers and teas that he turns into syrups without that artificial sweetness. Even the ice cubes used in the mocktails here are chipped into perfect squares from crystal-clear blocks of ice. We speak to the barman to find out more.
We believe if you can create a delicious vegetarian dish, there has to be a way to make a similar drink where you don’t need alcohol as a base to make something delicious. When people ask for non-alcoholic options in a bar, it used to be that they would be served either a juice or a drink that ends up very very sweet.
Nowadays, people ask for mocktails for many different reasons — they could be driving, or pregnant, but still want to enjoy a night out. Then, there's also those that entertain nearly everyday of the week and they need a break from all that alcohol. It's more about a healthy lifestyle and how do we as bartenders provide low to no-alcohol options increasingly.
Making a good mocktail is actually more challenging than doing a cocktail! If there’s no alcohol used, the actual cordial (syrup) becomes the base of the drink because it carries the main flavour. Mimicking the sharpness and warmth of alcohol is about the intensity of the cordial you use; you’re never going to achieve the sharpness of the alcohol, so you have to up the intensity of the cordial and flavour profile.
Take recreating a classic gin and tonic in mocktail form. First, we look closely at the DNA of gin as a spirit — to copy the juniper-berry driven profile, we boil water with juniper berries and cardamom, coriander seeds and leave it to steep. Then we play around with the portion of juniper berries used and add herbs and spices like fresh rosemary and boiled bark (the same one used in gin), as well as cardamom and coriander seeds. Once the cordial is intense enough, it will be a close copy of gin, and we add sparkling tonic water and stir it up.
Besides preparing a good cordial, we also make sure the drink is presented as beautifully as if it were a cocktail. The ice we use, for instance, is chipped and shaped by hand into a perfect cube that sits right in the middle of the mocktail, then garnished with edible flowers. We also pay attention to colour. For instance, for our take on the Aviation (a gin-based cocktail), we wanted to recreate a colour that would give the drink the same purplish-blue hue that comes from the creme de violet (a dark blue liquer) used. So, we mixed blue pea flowers with water and some sugar to create another cordial to add to the drink.
All our drinks are very refreshing, so I will pair it with a light main course on the menu. The octopus with feta cheese, for instance, would go great with our White Lady.