How to stock a non-alcoholic bar at home, according to an expert mixologist
Whether you’re having a Dry January, moderating your alcohol, wanting to be a more inclusive host or just want to dip your toe into the increasing non-alcoholic spirits trend, now is a great time to refresh your home bar to make it more interesting and exciting.
According to mixologist Joe Mthimkhulu (Barman Joe), Lyre’s South Africa Brand Ambassador, the sober curious movement is driven by an increased need to moderate alcohol consumption and a thirst for interesting drinking experiences for drinkers and non-drinkers alike.
“There have always been people who choose not to drink or who want low alcoholic drinks but with the surge in popularity of non-alcoholic offerings there are so many options available that you can have a drink that tastes just as good as its alcoholic counterpart,” he says. “Much like a proper home bar stocked with a variety of alcohol, all you need for a great alcohol-free home bar is a combination of a range of non-alcoholic products, some nifty tools, a little experimentation and a lot of imagination.”
He says that non-alcoholic cocktails are typically a combination of non-alcoholic spirits, fruits, bitters and herbs. “You’re only limited by your imagination,” he explains. “Crafting no or low-alcohol cocktails at home is less about attempting to make the perfect classics and more about creating any drink using flavours you love.”
“If you’re wanting to serve up something a little more sophisticated than sugary, fizzy mocktail options, there are three main components you need to get you started; mixers, glassware and non-alcoholic spirits,” he adds. “Think of outfitting a non-alcoholic bar just like you would stock up a full-proof setup. Keep a few standards on hand for regular consumption, and incorporate some mixers, flavour enhancers, and garnishes to add new flair to old favourites.”
If you’re hosting a gathering, he explains, tweak your supply accordingly. “It really comes down to what you like and what you think will be awe-inspiring, showing your friends and guests that you’re above the curve.”
Mthimkhulu highlights what you need to create your favourite tipples in style at home, with this list of essential non-alcoholic bar items:
- An all-one-bar set is a great starter for your bar, these will usually include an ice bucket, shaker, tool holder with a mixing spoon, strainer, tot pourer and of course for presentation a silver tray.
- Glassware is essential, no bar is complete without glassware. Some of the most basic ones to start off with are a margarita glass, wine glasses; large, stemmed or stemless, martini glasses, high-ball glasses and old-fashioned glasses. You can even thrift these styles of glasses and find some really great antique-looking one’s.
- Muddler and pitcher: having a good muddler in your arsenal will help you when a recipe calls for you to smash or muddle fruits like berries and citrus, or leaves like basil and mint. A pitcher is a good idea if you’re planning to mix up a big batch of a specific drink, include a long stir stick to help with mixing but to also look like a pro.
- Mixers, fruits and herbs: don’t forget the backbone of any non-alcoholic cocktail – soda water or sparkling spring water and include some not so basic mixers on-hand to create an alcohol-free cocktail at home, everything from aloe vera juices to tonic waters, fruit juices like grapefruit, pomegranate, lemon and cranberry can add some flair.
- Fresh fruit and herbs on hand are important either to be muddled in a cocktail or as a garnish – you can get really creative here so let your imagination run wild and wow your guests like a pro mixologist.
- Adding flavour: varieties of shrubs or fondly known as drinking cordials are highly concentrated syrups and are always mixed with a soda or tonic water and bitters, is an easy way to add more depth and flavour to cocktails.
- Most bitters are not alcohol-free so if you want to keep your drink free from booze it’s important to look for glycerine-based bitters. Store-bought concentrates can add a spicy kick, you only need a few drops because they can be quite sugary.
- Staying spirited: Last but not least, you can’t have a booze free bar without a range of non-alcoholic spirits. Lyre’s is the world’s most awarded, impossibly crafted premium quality non-alcoholic spirits brand – with five variants available in South Africa that pay homage to the flavours of the world’s most classic, time-tested spirits.
The unparalleled spectrum of drinks means that any home bartender can make almost any drink using simple swaps with the Lyre’s line-up: start with Dry London Spirit (a great substitute for a London Dry style Gin), Italian Spritz (for the perfect Spritz), American Malt (adored by Bourbon lovers), Coffee Originale (for an Espresso Martini) and White Cane Spirit (to make amazing White Rum based cocktails).
He says, most importantly this process as an opportunity to experiment and expand your palate and have a truly impressive no or low-alcohol bar at home.
Lyre’s is now available at selected Tops at Spar outlets, via Takealot and premium cocktail bars and restaurants.