Citrus, spice, all things nice?  Soft drinks are not just a trend

Citrus, spice, all things nice? Soft drinks are not just a trend

During a night of alcohol-free drinking, voting and judging, Vanilla Sex took home the top prize for best non-spirit drink, followed by Time to Ketch Up and Don’t Look Down, all drinks created by local bartenders for a ” special”. No ID” contest and tasting event in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

About 350 people bought a ticket to attend the evening. People lined up in front of bartenders tossing and turning shakers to sample their drinks. Guest votes determined the top three drinks that went to three judges, who ultimately selected the first, second and third place bartenders, who each received a cash prize.

Krys Irizarry, a bartender at River North’s Untitled Supper Club, won first place with Vanilla Sex, a riff on a Porno Star Martini using a house-made non-alcoholic spiced rum, vanilla, ginger beer and non-alcoholic sparkling wine .

“It feels like such an honor to be recognized in this category that’s kind of special, and just to be involved in it, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to do more,” Irizarry said.

Irizarry said the soft drink space will only expand in 2024, with tastier and trendier options that may not have been around or as common a few years ago.

“I think we’re going to see more spicy flavors,” Irizarry said. “You’ll get a lot of spice. You will get a lot of citrus.”

Elias Soto of Three Dots and a Dash placed second with his drink, Don’t Look Down, made with verjus rouge, grapefruit juice, Chinese five-spice syrup and Q club soda. In third place was Dave Silva, of Avli, with Time to Ketch Up, which had a reduction of cherry tomatoes, smoked paprika, fresh lime juice, mint and ginger beer.

The event was held in part because of Dry January, a popular cultural phenomenon in which people choose to abstain from drinking alcohol for the month. Several Chicago-area establishments have come up with fresh non-alcoholic drink menus to mark the occasion, like Pizzeria Uno’s new non-alcoholic cocktail program and alcohol-free cocktails at Michelin-starred restaurants Esmè and Galit.

Proceeds from the event went to Ben’s Friends, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the sobriety of people in the food and beverage and hospitality industries.

Nigal Vann, a board member of the United States Bartenders Association and one of the three judges, said he was very excited to participate in his first non-alcoholic competition. He said non-alcoholic options are more than just a trend, but a growing part of drinking culture.

“There’s clearly a market for it, so if you’re a bar that doesn’t have a non-alcoholic and non-alcoholic section on the menu, you’re clearly missing out right now,” Vann said. “Bartenders are working to stay relevant in this category and give it the same attention, creativity and love it deserves.”

When finding a winning cocktail, Vann said he was looking for complexity with “the same energy that goes into a traditional cocktail.”

“I need it to be aesthetically pleasing, and I need it to still be delicious and not just something simple like juice and soda, like something we used to see when we were looking for a mocktail,” Vann said.

Miranda Breedlove is the national director of bars for Hyatt Hotels’ lifestyle division and oversees a collection of luxury hotel bars in the Americas. Another competition judge, she said she helped launch Zero Proof, Zero Judgment, a Hyatt Hotels program that puts alcohol-free drinks on bar menus that match the caliber of traditional cocktails.

“We’ve gotten away from feeling like there’s that stigma of not drinking so you’re not fun or cool anymore,” she said. “It’s almost the opposite. The Globe has made wellness cool and sexy where people have a lot of respect for people who take care of themselves and it’s a really great way to have an incredible experience being able to take care of yourself too.”

Dustin Drankiewicz, owner of Paper Plane Pizza, and the evening’s third judge, said he has been working in the soft drink space for about three years. He said he used to drink alcohol but chose not to.

“I’m a fan of this space because it helps me stay connected,” he said. “I still see my friends and I don’t have the corrective effects of alcohol the next day.”

Ian Tranberg and Maria Pirotte live in Lakeview and decided to check out the event for date night. Both participated in Dry January as a hard reset after a long holiday season, Pirotte said.

“We’ve been toying with the idea of ​​being more measured all year,” Tranberg said. “Seeing so many products that are readily available makes you feel like, ‘I can really do this’ and ‘I can really be sober and it would be great and I wouldn’t have any anxiety about what to drink. at a party. and everything tastes really good’.”

A Bellini on a table in the outdoor area of ​​a bar.  It is also possible to prepare a virgin Bellini by mixing the dry essence of Prosecco, the aromatic bitter drops and the sweet aroma of peach.  Robert Messer/dpaA Bellini on a table in the outdoor area of ​​a bar.  It is also possible to prepare a virgin Bellini by mixing the dry essence of Prosecco, the aromatic bitter drops and the sweet aroma of peach.  Robert Messer/dpa

A Bellini on a table in the outdoor area of ​​a bar. It is also possible to prepare a virgin Bellini by mixing the dry essence of Prosecco, the aromatic bitter drops and the sweet aroma of peach. Robert Messer/dpa

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