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November 21, 2017

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New trend in cocktails at high-end hotel bars — hold the booze

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Dandelyan via The New York Times / AP

The Apple Sourz-Less at Dandelyan is shown a bar at the Mondrian London at Sea Containers hotel. Creative nonalcoholic cocktails are catching on at a number of high-end hotel bars; the Dandelyan offers four, including this concoction made from fresh peas, pressed apples, rye flakes, capillaire syrup and Seedlip Garden, a nonalcoholic distilled spirit.

Renowned hotel bars — the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, for example, or Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle in New York — are often well-regarded for their innovative cocktails.

Today, creative nonalcoholic concoctions are catching on, most notably in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. Just don’t call them mocktails.

“I consider our nonalcohol cocktails to be as complex and as important as our ones with alcohol and refer to them simply as cocktails,” said Ryan Chetiyawardana, the founder and owner of Dandelyan at Mondrian London at Sea Containers hotel, which offers four nonalcoholic drinks. “Mocktails, on the other hand, have a negative connotation. They tend to be overly sweet and an afterthought at bars.”

There’s the Bradsell, a combination of cold-brew coffee, malt caramel and chai spices like cinnamon and ginger. Another option is the Apple Sourz-Less. The base is a nonalcoholic distilled spirit called Seedlip Garden, a blend of peas, hay, spearmint, hops, rosemary and thyme. It also includes fresh peas, pressed apples, rye flakes and capillaire syrup (a mix of fern, pine and orange blossom).

The bar sells an average of 50 to 100 nonalcoholic cocktails a day, and this number is only growing, Chetiyawardana said. “The people ordering them aren’t necessarily teetotalers,” he said. “They’re often drinkers who want to take a night off from alcohol but still want to go out and socialize.”

The American Bar at the Savoy offers five nonalcoholic cocktails, and all use another Seedlip product called Seedlip Spice, a blend of allspice berries, cardamom, oak and lemon and grapefruit peels. One example, which they refer to as the Art Deco, also includes citric acid, eucalyptus, peppermint syrup and soda water.

“We’re open all day and were seeing that our customers increasingly didn’t want to drink alcohol midday, so I tried to give them some equally appealing alternatives,” said Erik Lorincz, the American Bar’s head bartender.

Generally, these nonalcoholic drinks are less pricey than regular cocktails. At the American Bar, for example, prices for alcoholic cocktails start at 18 pounds (about $24) each, while the nonalcoholic ones are 11.50 pounds. At Bemelmans, the difference is even more stark: nonalcoholic options are $12, compared with $21 to $26 for cocktails.

Lorincz and several other hotel bartenders said that Seedlip, a relatively new London-based brand, has inspired them to pay more attention to their virgin cocktails because the two variations of the spirit are made with flavorful, high-quality ingredients and match the sophistication of a top-shelf liquor.

In addition to Dandelyan and the American Bar, Seedlip cocktails are available at almost 100 notable hotel bars, including the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz London, the Nomad Bar at the Nomad Hotel in New York, Le Bar at Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris and the Walker Inn at the Hotel Normandie in Los Angeles.

Seedlip’s founder, Ben Branson, said that he created the spirits because he does not imbibe but likes spending time in vibrant bars. “I love the bar scene, and I often had a hard time finding a drink to enjoy at many of the bars I went to,” he said.

Well-made nonalcoholic cocktails impart the same feeling of relaxation as ones with alcohol, said Philip Duff, the education director for the New Orleans festival Tales of the Cocktail.

“An artistic drink is an artistic drink whether it has alcohol in it or not, and both will chill you out,” he said. Hotel bars are the ideal setting for serving virgin drinks, he said, because compared with other bars, they tend to have bigger spending budgets and access to more ingredients, which the bartenders can use to craft creative drinks.

In addition to an expansive list of alcoholic cocktails, Le Bar du Plaza Athénné in Paris has a “Nice Guys” no-alcohol menu with four choices, including the Mister Ginger, a combination of fresh mint, ginger ale, simple syrup and soda water.

And in New York City, Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle has a seasonal nonalcoholic cocktail menu. One is the Ananas Cooler, made of pineapple juice, ginger beer, muddled mint and agave nectar. Served over ice in a tall beer glass and garnished with candied ginger, the drink is a best-seller at Bemelmans, according to Javier Martinez, the bar’s manager.

“We may be known for our martinis and manhattans, but the virgin drinks have been a winner for us and are fun for me to create,” he said.

Martinez is so excited by the prospect of nonalcoholic cocktails, he said, that right now, in fall, he’s already experimenting with combinations for next spring.