Drink, Features

Our healthy cocktail shake-up

As demand for healthy drinks increases, Artur Zielinski shows our teams how to build great alcohol-free cocktails

From apple cider vinegar shots to Tough Mudders, healthy living has somehow become cool in the past few years. And the trend means people are drinking less alcohol, says Tilly Pearman, gym manager and sports nutritionist at Shoreditch House. “Health is no longer just associated with the gym; it’s the complete package that encompasses nutrition and mindfulness too,” says Tilly. “Alcohol has a high sugar content so reducing it or cutting it out altogether helps weight loss and reduces body fat, as long as it’s not replaced with high-sugar drinks.”

The numbers back Tilly up. In 2016, as it was revealed that global alcohol consumption had declined year on year, Soho House members and guests spent more on food than drinks for the first time in our history. Now the market is starting to respond with products like Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic spirit, and Brewdog’s bestselling Nanny State beer. It seemed an ideal time for bartenders
at the UK House Tonic summit to experiment with non-alcoholic drinks to put on the menus in their sites. The brief: cocktails so good that drinkers wouldn’t notice the alcohol was missing. 

“In the past nobody paid attention to non-alcoholic drinks, they just said: ‘Yeah, we’ll use a bit of soda, lemon and sugar,’” says Erdem Kayalar, UK bars manager. “But now people really want cocktails without the alcohol and sugar. It’s the moment of healthy drinks, and the starting point has to be the produce.”

Alcohol has a high sugar content so reducing it or cutting it out altogether helps weight loss

Enter Artur Zielinski, head of our House Press juice brand, to show the summit some interesting ingredients that would not only make great drinks, but actually offer health benefits. The group learned about unusual fruits, cold-brewed teas and botanical extracts.

“I wasn’t sure how [the training] would be received because bartenders always focus on spirits, but the guys asked lots of questions – what is this, what can we mix this with? For them it was a chance to use their creativity,” says Artur.

As a starting point the bartenders were split into groups and asked to make two new drinks: one had to use Seedlip and the other could be their own creation. The results were impressive: “We showed that you can make really good cocktails without spirits that taste almost like alcoholic drinks.”

So what’s the starting point when you’re not using a spirit? “It can be anything you want,” says Artur. “Gin is flavoured by botanicals – lemon, orange oils, juniper – and you can get the same effect from extracts of essential oils. You can also create something that tastes a lot
like a gin using healthy, trendy superfoods like matcha, spirulina and maca root.”

“It’s all about the produce,” says Erdem. “Any sweetness comes from the product itself, and if you are using a sweet juice, you need to go for some citrus to balance it out. Everything comes when you have more good-quality ingredients.”

The bartenders tried making their own syrups, including eucalyptus, shiso and sumac, a flowering plant from the Middle East that gives a vibrant pinkish-red colour. “Most of our bar managers had never heard of it, but they were really surprised when they tasted it and the guys in Shoreditch have now started making cocktails with it,” says Artur. “It makes a great summer drink with a splash of lemon or lime juice and soda.”

you can make really good cocktails without spirits that taste almost like alcoholic drinks

The latest House Press is made with watermelon, ginger, lime and Thai basil, and Artur is working on a range of botanical juices using dandelion, moringa (a nutrient-rich plant with
a spinachy taste), and activated charcoal.

Look out for the soft stuff on our bars across the world – or try some of our teams’ recipes at home.

Words: Tina Walsh

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