By Casey Brennan
As people continue to prioritize their health and well-being, it’s no surprise that their relationships with alcohol are shifting, too. While alcohol sales in the United States have spiked over 50 percent since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, many people are choosing to limit their booze intake and turning to low- and no-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails instead.
Renowned bartender Ivy Mix, owner of Brooklyn’s Leyenda, sees the growing trend of these cocktails only deepening, noting how they have become ubiquitous on menus around the country as well as in home bars, as bars and restaurants remain closed for normal operations.
“People get really into low- and no-ABV during Dry January, but now they are looking to keep it going and really enjoying it,” explains Mix. “Just because people aren’t drinking alcohol doesn’t mean they should be robbed of the flavor experience. With new [alcohol-free] brands like Seedlip and their line of Aecorn spirits, it’s much easier to create delicious alcohol-free drinks.”
With more time at home to play around with recipes and ingredients, Mix recommends getting inventive. “Sitting at home and being locked inside means lots of time to experiment—and lots of time also to drink these experimentations,” says Mix. “I love to create low- and no-ABV cocktails in order to enjoy them for longer and stay clear-headed, especially now that we’re going into summer and there is so much fresh produce to play with.”
Now, as people become more “sober curious” or simply want to wake up without a hangover (or make it to that 7AM yoga or SoulCycle class, when things get back to normal), bars and restaurants are offering up creative—and delicious—options to go for teetotalers.
“Low- and no-ABV cocktails serve a purpose culturally and are important for people,” Mix says. “I think bars have a social responsibility to put them on menus and, for me, it’s a real exercise in working on flavors. How do we go beyond something like an amped-up lemonade? Luckily, we have exciting nonalcoholic spirits.”
At Leyenda, Mix has been experimenting with those spirits, as well as wine and beer, as the base. “I am creating a flavor experience, just like with alcohol,” Mix explains. “My favorite thing right now is making wine tiki cocktails and at Leyenda, guests often ask for low- or no-ABV margaritas, which taste great made with Seedlip Grove.”
Low- and no-ABV cocktails can be blended with less sugar, and Mix often uses maple syrup, honey and coconut sugar as alternative sweeteners. But, she admits, “The fact is, to taste good there needs to be a little sugar.”
As low- and no-ABV drinks gain in popularity, Mix is excited about the possibilities, and the inclusiveness, of the experience. “Even if drinking alcohol isn’t on the table,” Mix says, “we need to give people the opportunity to enjoy the art of cocktails.”
This summer, enjoy a Latin-inspired no-ABV cocktail, similar to what is found in Mix’s book, Spirits of Latin America.
2 cucumber rounds
2 slices of jalapeño
2 oz. Seedlip Garden spirits
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. pineapple juice
½ oz. agave nectar
Mint sprig for garnish
In a mixing glass, muddle cucumber and jalapeño.
Add Seedlip Garden, lemon juice,
pineapple juice and agave nectar.
Shake and strain into a salt-rimmed rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with mint.