Fake drinks that don't taste fake: The rise of the mocktail
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Alcohol isn't just something you drink; it's a social experience that's soaked into the culture.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
SEAN CONNERY: (As James Bond) A martini - shaken, not stirred.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CASABLANCA")
HUMPHREY BOGART: (As Rick Blaine) Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MARGARITAVILLE")
JIMMY BUFFETT: (Singing) Wasting away again in Margaritaville.
MARTÍNEZ: But if you don't like alcohol or you're just trying to cut back, it's easy to feel left out when friends and family gather for drinks. That's why mocktails, alcohol-free cocktails, are becoming increasingly popular.
JACK BISHOP: It's a really exciting time in the world of nonalcoholic beverages. The cocktails and spirits part of the business has really taken off. It's had doubled sales in the last year.
MARTÍNEZ: That is Jack Bishop of the PBS TV show "America's Test Kitchen." And like a cork out of a champagne bottle...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAWRENCE WELK'S "BUBBLES IN THE WINE")
MARTÍNEZ: ...Jack popped into my kitchen via Zoom to introduce me to some spirit-free drinks that taste like the real thing.
BISHOP: So the things that give tequila or gin their flavor are herbs or spices. And maybe 10 years ago, the first companies were inventing the technology to make alcohol-free cocktails by using the alcohol as a solvent for removing those flavor compounds to make these super flavorful drinks.
MARTÍNEZ: Jack sent over a combination of ready-to-drink fake booze as well as some we could mix ourselves.
BISHOP: By the way, I'm in the office today, and you should see the looks I'm getting from everybody walking past my office, wondering why Jack is drinking in the morning at his desk.
MARTÍNEZ: Your secret has been revealed, Jack.
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MARTÍNEZ: Our first cocktail, a phony Negroni.
BISHOP: Negroni is the Italian cocktail that's usually got gin in it and vermouth. Typically, this is an aperitif. You know, we're outside in a piazza in, you know, Firenze or Roma, and we're having a before-dinner cocktail that's designed to prime your appetite.
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MARTÍNEZ: What kind of glass? What kind of glass would be good for a phony Negroni?
BISHOP: Oh, I think a tumbler is a nice choice in general. You know, I think one of the things, if you're really trying to mimic the experience, is to mimic the theater and use the kind of barware that you would use if you were actually putting gin and vermouth in this.
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BISHOP: A good Negroni should have a little bit of sweetness to balance all the bitterness, but it's very bracing bitterness.
MARTÍNEZ: Ooh. You're right. That bitterness is, right off the bat, the first thing that I taste.
BISHOP: Yeah. And I would say, as somebody who really loves a good Negroni, this is pretty close. I mean, I'm not sure that I would flag this if someone served it to me and didn't tell me as being without the alcohol.
MARTÍNEZ: You know what? The bottle - it's a small bottle. But I don't think I can finish it. It is actually that kind of bitter.
BISHOP: You know, you don't really think about cocktails and bitterness, but that's the key to a good cocktail. It forces you to slow down and to sip. We're, from an evolutionary perspective, primed to consume bitter beverages and foods slowly because a lot of bitter things can kill us - like, think about hemlock, for instance. And so we naturally sip things that are bitter.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BITTER TASTE")
BILLY IDOL: (Singing) The bitter taste on my tongue.
MARTÍNEZ: Next up, another ready-to-drink concoction called Curious Elixirs No. 2.
BISHOP: Think we're on a beach in Mexico now. And this has, I would say, more spice because that's another technique that alcohol manufacturers are using is to add spicy things to get us to slow down.
MARTÍNEZ: Ooh. That's strong.
BISHOP: Yeah. So this has...
BISHOP: This has ginger in it. This also has ancho chili extract.
MARTÍNEZ: Chili extract, wow.
BISHOP: Yeah. Jalapeno extract. This is not soda. This is not a bottle of soda pop.
MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Everything that you mentioned, it hits you right away like a punch to the face.
BISHOP: You know, I like the fruit in it. Although, the chili is pretty intense.
MARTÍNEZ: Another thing that can be hard to swallow about mocktails is the price. They cost as much as a drink with alcohol. So why so much for essentially a glass of flavored water?
BISHOP: The technology is actually pretty complicated to extract the flavors from the botanicals. It's the distillation, the manufacturing process, that's expensive, and that's kind of still the same whether or not you're starting with alcohol or not alcohol.
(SOUNDBITE OF JIMMY BUFFETT SONG, "MARGARITAVILLE")
MARTÍNEZ: Next up, my favorite.
BISHOP: I thought maybe we'd make a margarita together.
MARTÍNEZ: Ooh, a margarita. OK. Now we're talking.
BISHOP: Now, this company, Ritual Zero Proof Tequila, has a recipe on their website. Their recipe calls for an ounce each of lime juice and orange juice and then two ounces of the tequila substitute.
MARTÍNEZ: And just shake it up?
(SOUNDBITE OF COCKTAIL SHAKER SLOSHING)
BISHOP: And then I'm going to pour mine. I've got a margarita glass. I put a little lime wedge in. I didn't salt the rim here.
(SOUNDBITE OF DRINK RATTLING)
MARTÍNEZ: Ooh. I think if I added a little salt, this definitely would be almost exactly like - you know, with this one, Jack, I almost taste the alcohol that's not there, if that makes any sense.
BISHOP: Yeah. It has the burn of a drink made with tequila. It burns in the back of your mouth.
MARTÍNEZ: So it is like a phantom margarita in a way or a phantom cocktail.
BISHOP: Yeah. I'm really impressed with how the technology has evolved - recreating the experience of cocktails without alcohol.
MARTÍNEZ: Is this a trend? Is this a fad? Or is this something that is here to stay?
BISHOP: I think it's a trend that's here to stay, and it's growing. You know, I think the recent medical information about consuming alcoholic beverages isn't terribly positive. Whether this is, you know, an all-or-nothing situation, I'm not sure. But is this part of the mix and a way to enjoy the culture of a evening cocktail without actually having the alcohol? And I think for a lot of people it is.
MARTÍNEZ: All right. Jack Bishop, thank you for taking me on this adventure.
BISHOP: Thanks for having some alcohol-free beverages with me in the morning. A great way to start your day, right?
MARTÍNEZ: It's 5 o'clock somewhere.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S 5 O'CLOCK SOMEWHERE")
ALAN JACKSON AND JIMMY BUFFETT: (Singing) It's only half past 12, but I don't care. It's 5 o'clock...
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