Are Mocktails Gaining Ground In the Cocktail Category?

Warm summer days are here and refreshing beverages are set to take center stage again. While mojitos, piña coladas, and tequila sunrises may have been the classic go-to beverages in summers past, mocktails are increasingly gaining popularity this season.

As someone with stakes in the beverage industry, you may be wondering what the big deal is about a cocktail without alcohol. Hint: It’s not as simple as bottling a cocktail but leaving off the alcohol or canning a Shirley Temple! Keep reading to find out more about this beverage category that’s making a big splash (not just by the pool!) this summer.

Hold the Alcohol: What’s (in) a Mocktail?

What perhaps started as a category of fancy drinks to keep kids happy while the adults sipped on their cocktails has now become a beverage choice for many discerning adults. Whether it’s because consumers don’t drink alcohol, watch their caloric intake, abstain for health reasons, or simply prefer a drink earlier in the day, more adults are opting for zero-proof beverages as their drink of choice.

Here’s what we mean when we say it’s not as simple as “holding the alcohol” to craft a delicious mocktail! Bartenders and mixologists have to depend on a variety of other ingredients and garnishes such as infused waters, herbs, and spices to create the same taste, flavor profile, and mouthfeel in a mocktail without the key ingredient – alcohol. 

Mocktails: All the Pleasure, None of the Guilt (or Hangovers!)

For consumers who are …

  • Celebrating closing a deal at work but don’t want a three-day hangover after
  • Training for a marathon but have their best friend’s wedding to attend the weekend before
  • Attending a beach party but not looking forward to questions about why they’re “only” drinking water

Mocktails are the perfect summer beverage!

Without the key component that makes cocktails so detrimental to health when consumed regularly or in large amounts, mocktails are the perfect guilt-, addiction-, and hangover-free indulgence for the health-conscious consumer. Zero-proof drinks are free of the empty calories alcohol adds to cocktails and often include ingredients like fresh fruits, herbs, and spices to create depth and complexity, with the side benefit of being hydrating and nutritious, too.

Mocktail Flavors Making Waves This Summer

No longer limited to childish Shirley Temples and boring Arnold Palmers, mocktails are taking the beverage industry by storm with new and innovative (not to mention delicious!) concoctions constantly appearing in bars and restaurants nationwide. Ingredients like orange juice, lime, and soda water have long been a staple of mocktails, but with consumers increasingly demanding more robust flavors that replicate the feeling of sipping on a cocktail, mixologists and bartenders have to get creative.

By introducing unusual and unexpected notes from ingredients like ginseng, green tea, jalapeno, lemongrass, and botanicals like elderflower, mocktails are not just a weak replica of popular cocktails. Instead, they are providing consumers with fresh and exciting options that don’t depend on mimicking your favorite cocktails. As consumers seek out alternatives to alcoholic beverages, the variety of sophisticated flavors mocktails have to offer will give them an additional edge this summer.

Rising Interest in Mocktails

The start of the pandemic brought a surge in alcohol consumption, but two years in, people are easing back. 2022 saw 19% of Americans participating in Dry January, and this trend is set to continue through the summer months, led by millennials. Sales are also up for non-alcoholic beverages, with a 33% increase to $331 million in the last year. Recent research also projects that the ready-to-drink mocktails market is set to keep growing, reaching $9.43 billion by 2028 globally. These are promising numbers for beverage manufacturers looking to jump in on a good thing set to get even better.

Yet, beverage development and bringing mocktails to market are not without their challenges. How can you produce a homemade brew at scale? What is the best way to bring it to market cost-effectively? What’s the ideal beverage formulation to ensure freshness and taste in a premixed cocktail that compares to a freshly prepared drink in a bar?

Nick Grube and Jackie Verrilli, co-founders and managing partners of Isn’t Drinks, were faced with these same questions. They came to WiseBev with some of their recipes and we helped them turn their original ideas into market-ready zero-proof cocktails. Today, their Distinctivos beverage line is creating a sensation in bars and restaurants – and we’re celebrating their success!

At WiseBev, we understand the beverage market. As experts in beverage consulting, you can count on us to help you develop a range of mocktails that will embody sophistication and offer consumers an exciting experience. Book a call with us today to see how our team can help you bring your beverage to market!

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