Over the last 10 years the trend of healthy eating, healthy drinking and a general increase of self awareness of personal health has really gained momentum.
The younger generation or better known as Generation Z (born 1990’s-early 2000’s), as well as Millenials (1981-1996) have started to reduce their consumption of alcohol in relation to their older counterparts. So what drives this? Being healthy is important to people but also being health-conscious is now not uncool.
The second reason is the increase of pressure in modern life, with a perception that being hung over leads to a reduction in productivity. Finally and most importantly in our eyes, according to Mintel research, “younger people are seeking control in the face of constant social-media surveillance”. However these factors we feel do not lead to no drinking, but more control over drinking and we as an industry need to react. CGA data shows says alcohol-free beer sales were up 28% and non-alcoholic spirits sector sales volume rising 407%. In cocktail bars this has seen the explosion of No & Low cocktails.
But there is no quantifiable understanding of what low alcohol means. Until now. At Hedonist Jon Lee and I wanted to create a way of offering a low alcohol cocktail but in a quantifiable way. Inspired by an initiative in Amsterdam which sees only 12.5ml of spirit used in a cocktail, we went one further and launched a program called Project One. This is a menu where all the drinks include just one unit of alcohol as defined by Health England. In a world where everyone counts everything our guests can now count the units of their cocktail consumption – drink by drink. So, how do we go about bringing out the flavours and characteristics of the base spirits, without losing them to the mixers and modifiers. This comes down to the spirits we choose.
The first part of the process is a blind taste to make sure the spirit has distinct flavours we can pick up. We also look for ways to amplify that flavour. For example in Mexico #1 we infused roasted cumin with mezcal. Cumin complements the mezcal flavour and helps it travel through the drink even in the quantity of 10ml. A technique we also employ is harnessing the aroma of the spirit to trick the mind into thinking there is more booze than there is. For the Mexico #1 we spray a mezcal atomiser over honey dehydrated lemon.
The combination adds depth and smokiness to the drink (key characteristics of mezcal ) via the retro nasal olfactory receptor. Since launching, we have seen a great influx of people ordering lower-alcohol drinks. Most promisingly – for our area of the country – we’ve seen an increase in mid-week business. Lower alcohol consumption isn’t a trend, it’s a generational shift. As an industry we must listen and we must adapt to prosper.