By Sayuri Nitani / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterMocktails — non-alcoholic versions of cocktails — are a refreshing twist on classic drinks, combining various ingredients such as fruits, fruit juices, tea and soda.
People who order mocktails can savor the flavor combinations as well as the beautiful presentations, with bartenders and tea connoisseurs constantly thinking up new concoctions.
And they are, of course, good for people who don’t like drinking alcoholic beverages. They’re also great for those who want to enjoy a cocktail on a day when they can’t drink alcohol. They’re steadily gaining a reputation as the fashionable alternative for those seeking an alcohol-free beverage.
Mocktail combines the English words “mock” and “cocktail.” The drinks have garnered so much attention overseas in recent years that bars specializing in mocktails have opened in London.
Karel Capek Tea Museum in the Umeda main store of Hankyu department store in Osaka served its own take on mocktails during an event in February. Standard recipes for sangria (fruit soaked in wine) and a mojito (rum and mint combined) were used to make the mocktails but in place of alcohol, the tea store uses tea.
The mocktails are best characterized by their aroma of tea leaves and refreshing taste.
“Mothers out with their children also love these drinks,” said Chihiro Uekawa, manager of the tea store.
As the presentations of mocktails make them quite photogenic, many photos can be seen on the photo-sharing app Instagram.
In spring last year, Suntory surveyed 50,000 adults about alcohol-free beverages. To a multiple-answer question about the appeal of non-alcoholic beverages, 54.9 percent said they can drink them casually and 52.6 percent said they feel at ease even after drinking the beverages. Respondents also praised the fact that they can enjoy drinking mocktails without worrying about the time, place or their physical condition.
A book titled “Mocktail,” published by Asahiya Publishing Co. in 2016, introduces recipes for mocktails from bars nationwide, including those in Osaka, Kobe and Tokyo.
There has been a rising trend of people who don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all or who don’t every day, according to the editorial staff of the book.
Despite this, many people still want nice beverages with different flavors, rather than standard non-alcoholic beverages, such as oolong tea and juice.
“Mocktails are seen as fashionable, and they match the moods of bars and restaurants,” one of the editorial staff said. “Operators of bars and restaurants are paying more and more attention to them.”
Two types of original mocktails are particularly popular at the 40 Sky Bar & Lounge at Conrad Osaka, a hotel that opened in June last year in Osaka.
One is called the Naniwa-Sling, which is based on the Singapore sling, made with cranberry juice and soda as an homage to Osaka, a city with many water channels, and Sha-Nakunai, which is made using ginger and hiyashiame sweets.
Both are priced at ¥1,450, excluding tax and service charge.
Manager Ko Kitahara devised the two mocktail recipes for the bar’s launch.
“There are business people who order the drinks during their afternoon break,” Kitahara said. Such people appear to drink the mocktails as a breather during work.
“Making mocktails is the best opportunity for bartenders to show off their skills,” said Kiyomitsu Shinano, the owner of Bar Augusta Tarlogie and director of the Kansai headquarters of the Nippon Bartenders Association.
This is because, he said, bartenders can’t rely on alcohol for the taste and so must draw on their skill at combining flavors and other cocktail-style techniques.
Shinano’s bar offers original mocktails made with fruits of the season. For this season, he’s serving a mocktail called “Golden rings,” using kinkan (kumquat) produced in Kagoshima Prefecture.
One glass is priced at ¥1,300, excluding tax and service charge. Instead of vodka, he uses tonic water and lemon juice.
By shaking the mocktail, the kinkan’s fruit skin collides with the ice and emits an oil, thereby producing a fresh aroma when the liquid is poured into another glass. The taste is only mildly sweet, making it perfect for adults.
“I hope both types of people — those who don’t like alcohol and those who do — will enjoy my authentic mocktails,” Shinano said.
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