First-ever Booze-free Bar Competition Proves Need for Zero-proof Cocktails

Images: Sasha Charoensub

Listen Bar, a pop-up bar in New York City crowdfunding for its own permanent location, has put on the first-ever alcohol free-cocktail competition in the United States.

The Good AF Awards, sponsored by Seedlip, brought together top NYC Bars to create cocktails that are “alcohol-free as f*ck.” Each one was poured out into sampling-sized cups for the crowd.

There were five competitors: The Aviary, Pouring Ribbons, The NoMad, Clover Club, and Sunday in Brooklyn. The winner, Pouring Ribbons, won over both the judges and crowd. 

Wellness is now being infused into bar culture, which is a new yet promising trend. More and more alcohol-free alternatives are popping up across the city for wellness-minded Millennials living their New York City grind, which Lorelei Bandrovschi, owner of Listen Bar, says are her prototypical clients.

“There’s a true sense of a spectrum in nightlife, as in all things,” she says.

Alcohol-free cocktails at Listen Bar during the Good AF Awards
These drinks look just like their boozey counterparts.

The zero-proof cocktails had subtle notes and evolving flavors. Different from mocktails, they erred away from stereotypical sweetness and instead emitted sophistication.

“People are choosing more refined, flavorful styles [of cocktails]. Everyone is afraid of a [non-alcohol] drink being sweet, and I think that is one of the most frequent criticisms,” says Bandrovschi.

Check this out: Mindful Operations: Serving Sober, Sober Curious and Moderate Guests

No-proof drinks tend to take a backseat, which may hinder quality. She says bar owners who put alcohol-free options on their menus solely to have that option are creating “one-and-done” drinks, those that are not consumed multiple times in a night.

“When you are building an alcohol-free cocktail, and you haven’t planned for it, a lot of times the only things that bars will have on hand will be some syrups, and some sodas, and some fruit juices. And it will largely result in a drink that is overly sweet, fruity, and not complex,” Bandrovschi says.

Two-thirds of Listen Bar’s clients are drinkers. One-third are sober. This may be somewhat counterintuitive, but it shows that some consumers who do drink may opt for alcohol-free options.

Check this out: Mock Cocktails, Real Money: Zero-proof Drinks Bring Big Dollars

Ultimately, bar owners can tap into this emerging demographic, Bandrovschi says, by evolving from the mocktail to alcohol-free cocktails. “Really consider all the dimensions of your drink as a cocktail, from flavor to complexity to texture,” she says.

Listen Bar was developed as a programming entity. Open only once a month, it consistently hosts sold-out parties—like karaoke nights—which are in part branding initiatives designed to cultivate excitement. “I’ve had people tell me they’re booking international travel based on our calendar,” Bandrovschi says.

Listen Bar will be open again on September 10 for a NYC Fashion Week-inspired event. It is located on Bleecker St, New York.


Listen Bar website

Listen Bar Instagram

Listen Bar Facebook

Seedlip website

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