Mocktails are dead – cheers to the non-alcoholic cocktail!

by | Jul 25, 2022 | Drinks, Opinion

We welcomed Andrew Down, New Zealand Brand Ambassador for Lyre’s Spirit Co, to share a few thoughts on the rise and rise of the non-alcoholic cocktail and why it should mean the end of the mocktail. 

Where in the world is it acceptable to be sipping a Negroni cocktail at 7:35 AM? That’s where you join me on this chilly winter morning in Auckland – slightly behind on a deadline, but right in-step with the full flavours of this in-vogue bitter aperitivo drink. At the Dry July halfway point – and after a sociable weekend of spectating and birthdays – you might be surprised to learn I am in fact, still on the wagon. 

Oh, this Negroni is a Lyre’s non-alcoholic by the way.

My weekend engagements typically involve some social lubrication, steadied by the growing diverse range of flavour-filled and rather convincing non-alcoholic options. This weekend, I happily soirée’d dry, watching Ireland beat the All Blacks with some ice-cold non-alcoholic IPAs from State of Play followed by an uplifting chilli Margarita using Lyre’s Agave Blanco.

It’s amazing how many people you notice not drinking alcohol at a party when you’re also abstaining. Mixing up some delicious booze-free beverages, several folks also put their hands up for a taste, turning my lonely drink into an eight-strong round. Whether partaking in a charity challenge (Lyre’s is the official partner of Dry July NZ Trust this year, with 10% of all online sales being donated to support Kiwis affected by cancer), driving home, or simply pacing oneself, the place for alcohol-free is here – and it’s here to stay.

61% of New Zealanders report they enjoy sipping a nice drink, even if it’s non-alcoholic, while 62% say they’re open to drinking a non-alcoholic spirit/cocktail where alcoholic versions are available. And 72% reported they either never, rarely, or only occasionally drink – that’s market majority. So, what exactly are people drinking?

At this very moment in history, a mass shift away from the now reviled ‘mocktail’ is taking place.

Before I retired my bar blade and shaker, it was rare to see non-alcoholic options listed on drinks menus. If any, juvenile fruit juice concoctions at $9 a pop prevailed. Today, Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits sell at a rate of a bottle every 30 seconds globally. Sophisticated non-alcoholic cocktails are on the rise in even the world’s top bars – and not to boast, but I’ve worked at some of these places. As Brand Ambassador for Lyre’s, I both witness and play a hand in the death of the mocktail. There’s blood (orange juice) on my hands, and I don’t plan to wipe it off any time soon. 

Even during my time working in some of the world’s top bars, the utterance of ‘mocktail’ induced a sigh and sent me trundling to the till to punch in ‘cordial’ or ‘misc juice’ twice – a steep price for fruit juice, whatever syrups were laying around, and maybe some herbs if you were lucky. Each mocktail was ad hoc, lacking in any real thought or research and development, and supposed to be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.

The times, they are a changin’.

Photograph by Babiche Martens.

I joined Lyre’s because I was excited by the innovation and evolution of what is an entirely new category. The fact that we are the world’s most comprehensive and awarded range of non-alcoholic drinks in the world, 100% vegan and made using all-natural ingredients, extracts and essences that are blended to replicate the flavours, aromas and textures of time-tested classic spirits minus the booze also twisted my arm. 

After years of oversaturated gin varietals and yet another special edition barrel finish of a whisky, the astronomical rise of non-alcoholic spirit alternatives heralds a brand new fast-growth category to explore. The most exciting and challenging part of this new category is that you must think about flavour, mouth feel, aroma and appearance – a feat mastered time and again by awarded sommelier and Lyre’s own Global Flavour Architect, David Murphy. Now, we can finally move away from the dreaded mocktail to thoughtful, adult, non-alcoholic cocktails. It sharpens the thought process to drink creation towards having to think about flavour, while paving a pathway to non-alcoholic drink and food pairing.

I like to explain Lyre’s drinks as “treating the non-drinker like an adult, with a more sophisticated palate.” Just because a drink doesn’t contain alcohol doesn’t make it any less of a cocktail.

You can enjoy all the tastes you know and make all the drinks you love with the benefit of no alcohol. Lyre’s allows people to experience the ritual of making a drink at home or confidently order delicious cocktails in bars and restaurants without compromise. Dwindling are juice mocktails (boring), sodas (yawn) and childish excuses for booze-free tipples (no, I don’t want a Shirley Temple thanks). 

Customers increasingly expect sophisticated drinks they’re going to want more than one of. That’s really something venues should consider. Incorporating thoughtful non-alcoholic cocktails into bar programs is a great way to generate additional spend and interest, while welcoming the long-forgotten crowd of non-drinkers, who not only query – but demand – premium alcohol-free options. 

In a way the category mirrors the plant-based and vegan dining scene. Several years ago, if you didn’t eat meat or animal products, your options in a bar or restaurant included sides or one sub-standard meat-free main. Now, most venues have an extensive variety to cover all dietary requirements. Alcohol-free is walking the same path. And as a vegetarian myself, I can say it’s the veggos, vegans and non-drinkers dictating where a group will go for dinner. Us (and our very considerate friends) curate venues that have thoughtful, varied options. 

While the mocktail may still have a pulse in some places, it’s the non-alcoholic cocktail that’s injecting life into the category.

Now, time to go and make myself a Lyre’s Espresso Martini using our amazing White Cane Spirit and Coffee Originale. This will surely help me get through the next tasks on my looming ‘to do’ list.

Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits is a range of 18 alcohol-free classic spirits, 5 ready to drink cans and a non-alcoholic sparkling wine, created using a unique understanding of food science andflavour architecture. Founded in 2019 by entrepreneurs Mark Livings and Carl Hartmann, the range is the world’s most comprehensive and awarded solution for mindful drinking, equivalent to the most popular spirits in a non-alcoholic format.

Lyre’s portfolio of premium non-alcoholic spirits is capable of crafting 90% of the world’s best-selling cocktails. A frictionless swap of a Lyre’s non-alcoholic spirit for the original alcoholic ingredient delivers all the benefits of a premium sophisticated serve without compromise. Lyre’s currently sells one bottle every 30 seconds in over 60 countries across multiple channels, including direct-to-consumer, and in leading restaurants, bars, hotels, retailers, and airlines. All
products are vegan, and packaging is 100% recyclable. Lyre’s was created to change the way the world drinks. Simply choose your drink and make it a Lyre’s. Visit


About the Author

Tash McGill

Tash McGill works as a strategy consultant in tourism, hospitality and digital transformation. She is co-founder of The Feed, President of Food Writers NZ, Chair of the New Zealand Whisky Association.

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