- London bar TT Liquor says its alcohol-free cocktail classes are increasingly popular with customers.
- I went along to make some booze-free cocktails after England lifted nearly all pandemic rules.
- The bar used to be a Victorian police station, and now hosts tasting classes in its old jail cells.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Many have predicted that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic will bring about a new “roaring twenties” – a 21st century version of the decade’s excess partying, spending, and drinking.
The US is the world’s second-largest market for low-and-no alcohol sales, behind Germany. Its volume of non-alcoholic spirits sales are expected to rise 31% over 2021, according to drinks data firm IWSR.
So, when England lifted nearly all of its pandemic restrictions on July 19, I decided to visit the London cocktail bar, TT Liquor, where events company Mixology runs both alcoholic and booze-free cocktail classes.
As interest in low-to-now alcohol drinking has also surged in the UK, I wanted to see how a sober twist on the traditional cocktail class held up against the real thing.
Many non-drinkers don’t want to sit out or drink lemonade anymore — they want to take part and have fun like everyone else,” Estelle Gow-Lumbard, TT Liquor’s digital marketing assistant, said.
A two-hour class costs $104 (£75), which is the same price as an alcoholic cocktail-making session.
Gow-Lumbard said the two classes are priced the same due to the amount needed to pay the mixologists for their supplies.
Kay, one of TT Liquor’s resident mixologists, led the class, and started taking me through how to make a Rose and Pine martini. It was delicious, and tasted very similar to its gin-based rival.
Kay, who preferred to give only his first name, has bartended for 10 years. He helped me rustle up a Rose and Pine Martini, which blended a shot of Seedlip Garden spirit with elderflower cordial, pineapple juice, and Everleaf alcohol-free Vermouth.
Martinis are usually made with either gin or vodka as the base alcohol.
Second up was a Rhubarb Collins which, while the simplest recipe, was the most refreshing and tasted closest to the real deal.
To make the booze-free version of the famous gin-based Rhubarb Collins cocktail, I added a shot of Seedlip Grove spirit, Rhubarb Syrup, and Rhubarb and Cardamom Soda, with a dehydrated apple slice for the garnish.
This was definitely my favorite, and tasted lighter and more refreshing than its alcohol-based version.
Kay said his customers are more confident about asking for booze-free cocktail options compared with a few years ago.
Kay said that over the past five years he’s noticed a big shift in people’s attitudes towards non-alcoholic drinking. Whereas before, some customers would quietly take him to the side and ask for virgin cocktail options, Kay said, there is less social pressure to drink now.
“There’s less stigma around it now,” Kay said. “Some people would feel silly coming to a cocktail class and not drinking.”
The last cocktail we prepared was a French Riviera – with a strong herbal, almost grassy taste, this was my least favorite.
Kay took me through how to prepare a virgin French Riviera, traditionally made with Cognac and rum. We added a shot of Caleño Light and Zesty spirit to a mixture of lemon juice, apricot jam, and runny honey.
The strong grassy taste came from a 15ml shot of Three Spirit Social Elixir. This flavor was too overpowering for me and I couldn’t finish the drink.
The pandemic led to a significant rise in bookings for booze-free cocktail classes, Gow-Lumbard said, as more people prioritized their health and wellbeing.
TT Liquor has taken bookings from yoga groups who have organized “wellness” non-alcoholic cocktail classes, and health companies holding corporate events, Gow-Lumbard said.
TT Liquor used to be a Victorian police station with jail cells underground, which are now gin, whiskey, and rum-tasting rooms.
When Mixology acquired the space in 2017, Gow-Lumbard said it excavated a labyrinthine underground network of chambers, some of which used to house prisoners before they stood trial in the 19th century.
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