Famed advocate of bartender and customer wellness, Giuseppe Gonzalez has slammed mocktail menus as ‘stupid’, ‘inferior’ and stigmatising.
Talking at Imbibe Live last week, the New York bartender, currently working at Herbs & Rye in Las Vegas, was damning in his assessment of what’s become a growing trend in bars across the UK.
‘Mocktail menus are stupid,’ he said. ‘I hate the fucking term mocktails. I don’t see value in a term that adds stigma to someone trying to have a non-alcoholic experience. You think you are creating a special experience for the guest, but it separates them from their friends. Plus you don’t put in half the effort to it that you do into alcoholic cocktails.
‘The mocktail menu will always be seen as inferior.’
Instead, Gonzalez called for a ‘change [in]the culture’ on how bars think about sobriety and treat guests who are not drinking.
Rather than make a big deal of non-alcoholic drinks, he suggested that bars could quietly offer non-alcoholic cocktails on every page of their list, like the Savoy does. ‘They have a lot of Muslim guests, and they don’t want to separate them from the rest of their guests,’ he said.
He also suggested small, subtle symbols to indicate non-alcoholic options, similar to those used in restaurants for vegan or vegetarian food. ‘What I’m preaching here is subtlety,’ he told the audience.
More ambitious bartenders, he suggested, might want to take on the challenge of attempting to make a non-alcoholic version of every cocktail on their list, though he admitted that this ‘requires an incredible amount of creativity – I’ve never seen it done.’
A better option might be to offer enhanced versions of drinks that already exist, such as tea and coffee. ‘There’s a parallel between tea and tiki,’ he said, ‘all the different cups and service.
‘A lot of bars are reimagining the model to accommodate the new generation. It’s becoming more and more common for people to come in my bar and have a coffee or a non-alcoholic drink.’