Stop Making Nonalcoholic Drinks an Event Afterthought

It’s time to make nonalcoholic beverages a more permanent meeting fixture

Traditionally, the success (and overall attendee sentiment) at Celebrate and Network events is driven by two key elements: a mouthwatering menu and a selection of cocktails, beer and wine. And while it's always a good idea to stock a familiar (and favorite) brand of nonalcoholic beer like O’Doul’s for “just in case” scenarios, having a variety of alcohol-free beverages for adult guests has typically been an event afterthought. But as a study from the U.K. found, there might be more attendees seeking out booze-less options than you think. 

As the study reported, the proportion of adults who said they drank alcohol was at its lowest level since 2005. A similar report from the Financial Times reported that the global market for alcoholic drinks had shrunk 1.3 percent. While the popularity of alcoholic beverages at events isn’t likely to subside anytime soon, what is apparent is that the pool of attendees seeking out alcohol-free options is steadily on the rise––a group with preferences you’ll need to account for when mapping out your next meeting beverage menu. 

Enter “mocktails,” which Fortune magazine projects will be one of the biggest beverage trends for 2018. Here, we highlight how to make nonalcoholic beverages the main attraction at your next event. 

Watermelon Margarita 

With their tangy, summer-ready taste and lemon-lime zing, it’s not necessarily the tequila that makes margaritas so popular. And as this recipe from Town & Country magazine shows, a margarita doesn’t have to contain loads of syrups and sugars, either.   

Ingredients: 

1 medium seedless watermelon, cut into chunks
½ cup fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons agave
⅓ cup sparkling water

How to make it: Puree watermelon chunks in a blender until you have 4 cups puree. Add in the lime juice and agave, and blend once more. Top with sparkling water. (Makes four glasses.)

Lavender Lemonade  

In addition to the growing popularity of mocktails, the aforementioned Fortune article also spotlights botanicals (like lavender and rose) as another big wave to hit the beverage market this year. Here’s an easy (and delicious) variation from Town & Country magazine.

Ingredients: 

6 cups water
½ cup light-colored honey
⅓ cup dried lavender
1 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

How to make it: Boil water and honey in a large pot under medium heat. Once water is brought to a boil, crush the lavender in a mortar and pestle or in a bowl. Add the crushed lavender to the boiling water, and then remove from heat. Cover and refrigerate for two hours while the mixture steeps. Strain the mixture and stir in lemon juice. Serve over ice. (Serves six.)

Virgin Mai Tai 

In this mai tai recipe from Food & Wine, ginger syrup and apple cider replace brandy––and help to maintain that “heat” associated with drinking spirits. 

Ingredients: 

1 ½ ounces chilled apple cider, preferably spiced
½ ounce apple cider vinegar
½ ounce ginger syrup
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce orgeat (almond-flavored syrup)
Ice cubes, plus crushed ice for serving
4 thin red apple slices, for garnish

How to make it: Combine apple cider, apple cider vinegar, ginger syrup, lemon juice and orgeat in a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well and strain into a chilled double rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Add more crushed ice and arrange the apple slices decoratively on top. (Serves one.)

Upgrade the O’Doul’s and Grape Juice 

Although it might seem like your options for nonalcoholic brews and vinos are limited, several brands specialize in tasty boozeless varieties. According to an article from the New York Post, Einbecker Alcohol Free is an alcohol-free beer enjoyed by even the most discerning beer snobs. For wine lovers, Eisberg Alcohol Free Cabernet Sauvignon and Carl Jung Chardonnay from Germany (a pale, lemon-scented variety) are both excellent options.