It’s time to put mocktails on your menu

Feb 21, 2023

Your independent restaurant probably has a few great cocktails on the menu—maybe more than a few, in some cases!—as well as an excellent beer and wine list. A lot of restaurants have champagne or prosecco as well, and some specialize in a specific type of liquor: craft gin, a great tequila, or an amazing local whisky. We love a well-rounded beverage menu but today, we’d like to focus on an area that’s been historically overlooked—the mocktail list.

Once unheard of, the mocktail is currently in high demand with no signs of slowing down in the years to come. In fact, we expect to see increased demand for mocktails as customers chose to consume less alcohol. Pop, juice and sparkling water are restaurant staples, but your customers want a wider, better curated variety of delicious non-alcoholic beverages to choose from. Here’s why and what you should do about it—for personalized advice, please contact us or reach out to your local Morton rep.

Who are mocktails for?

In a way, mocktails are for everyone. That said, here are a few profiles that may specifically seek out alcohol-free beverage options at your restaurants:

  • Individuals who choose not to drink for dietary or health-related reasons
  • Individuals with a personal or family history of alcohol dependency 
  • Anyone trying to limit or reduce their weekly alcohol intake
  • Customers who are taking medication that cannot be combined with alcohol
  • Teenagers who want a fancy drink with their meal 
  • Designated drivers
  • Pregnant women

In short: a lot of people! Seeing it mapped out like this, it’s easy to understand why you need more mocktails on the menu. If you miss this critical piece, you’re disappointing a large segment of customers who may spend their dollars elsewhere. We recommend approaching your mocktail menu from three angles: quality, variety and inclusivity. Offer drinks that are delicious, varied and accessible to everyone. After all, no one wants to be the DD if it means sipping on a boring soda all night.

Changing attitudes towards alcohol 

It’s been decided that alcohol will carry warning labels in the future (imagine something similar to the warnings on cigarette packages). Years ago, smoking was socially acceptable and today, it’s looked down upon and dramatically decreasing in popularity. There is a strong possibility that alcoholic beverages will be impacted by new research and the forthcoming health warnings. Be prepared for this ahead of time and your restaurant will be better equipped to transition to the evolution in consumer demand. Now is the time to start—not when you’ve fallen behind!

Another important point to note is that non-alcoholic beverages can be designed as high end, in-demand drinks with a high profit margin. And they aren’t just for adults! You can also create a list of fun beverages for your kids menu: sparkling water with fresh juice, berry smoothies and other healthy, up-sellable options. While these family-friendly options shouldn’t be referred to as mocktails, the same concept applies in terms of creativity, appeal and profit. No matter what type of establishment your restaurant is, we encourage you to make the most of this opportunity.

How to design your mocktail menu

A Shirley Temple isn’t cutting it in 2023: you need thoughtfully-designed mocktails that cater to a variety of tastes and preferences. Consider the following elements:

  • Syrups and other ingredients you already have on hand (sour mixes, citrus and floral syrups, house-made mixes that add colour and flavour, lavender syrup, cucumber basil syrup, bitters, carbonated elements, fresh fruit or fruit juice, etc)
  • Alcohol-free spirits that mimic real gin, vodka and other drinks
  • Canned beverages or mixes (for example, Fever Tree products or dealcoholized craft beer from a local brewer)
  • Ginger beer (non-alcoholic), which can be served as a pint or used in a mix (for example, a mocktail version of a Moscow Mule)
  • Seasonal ingredients (think: a spring menu that’s fresh and fruit-forward, a winter menu featuring warming drinks, etc)

Once you’ve assessed all of the ingredients that are already at your disposal (and considered which elements you should add to your kitchen), start designing those cocktails. You want to put as much effort into a mocktail as you would give to a traditional cocktail—a great mix, some delicious garnishes, the right glass, etc. You can also consider offering flights or specialized pairings that elevate the entire dining experience. Nothing about a mocktail should feel second best—instead, offer a high end, desirable option. It may be beneficial to enlist the help of an experienced mixologist to help you perfect your drink menu and achieve best results.

Next, decide how your menu will be presented. Rather than having a cocktail menu and a separate or smaller mocktail list, consider listing all of your non-alcoholic options with a note that a shot of spirits can be added to any drink at an added cost. Be sure to recommend the right spirit—rum, gin or vodka, for example—so both your mocktail and cocktail options are first rate.

A final note on designing your non-alcoholic beverage menu: don’t forget aperitifs and specialty coffees! You can easily create alcohol-free twists on classics like a B-52, Blueberry Tea or Irish Coffee.

Cheers, everyone!

Years ago, vegan and gluten-free foods were viewed as a nuisance or a passing trend—but now, it’s a must on every menu. The same logic will soon be applied to your beverage menu as serving creative, inspired non-alcoholic beverages become the standard. Morton Food Service is here to help independent restaurants navigate this transition in the industry and come out on top. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or feedback, please contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.