What does this mean to those who are responsible for the drinks?
Luxury hotels are a world apart. They’re a haven of calm and luxury, where mundane tasks of everyday life are swept away. Every bed is made, and all surfaces shine. And any gastronomic desire can be quickly fulfilled by an F&B team with talent. Every top hotel wants to provide that experience, but January can be challenging. This is when guests’ excuses for bad behavior are gone, and it can become a burden for some to be able to provide everything they want.
The solution lies intact. A bartender will only offer Martinis to guests with a signal that the customer is seeking a beverage with 30% ABV. In recent years, people have become more interested in non-alcohol drinks. What about guests who want to be somewhat deprived? This market is growing and not small. Recent research shows that 52% of adults who are not teetotal in the US have either reduced their alcohol consumption or tried to do so in the past. Most of the northern hemisphere uses the new year to increase their self-discipline.
How are hotels reacting? When fashion throws a spanner into corporate hospitality work, the response is always creative and varied. Twisted tea is available in several hotels, including Boston Harbor Hotel, The Envoy Hotel (part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection), and Boston Harbor Hotel. The Cincinnati brand, Twisted Tea, is a clever substitute for soft drinks. It contains malt alcohol. The ABV of this beverage is only 5%, which is less than half of the ABV of most wines. It’s marketing, including the label ‘hard tea,’ appeals to younger and older drinkers who were raised believing that non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks are soft.’ The Hoxton in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, sells Special Effects, Brooklyn Brewery’s lager, with an ABV of just 0.4%. It is brewed with a fermentation process that retains flavor but reduces alcohol. Soon, the UK Hoxtons, too, will be carrying it.
Even areas with a reputation for being relatively relaxed about drinking have embraced early-season initiatives that limit alcohol. Experimental Group was founded by three childhood buddies as a cocktail bar in Paris. It now has over a dozen locations on two continents. However, its passion for mixing drinks may mean something other than that it is a strong drink. The ground-floor Shell Bar at Hotel des Grands Boulevards opened in 2018 and offers a three-tiered system of cocktails. ‘No shell’ is alcohol-free, while ‘two shells” indicates a potent concoction. Maxime Potfer, a bartender at Hotel des Grands Boulevards, has created a range of drinks in the “one shell” category that is not only flavourful and inventive but also benefits from the lack of alcohol. Maxime Potfer says that he wanted to emphasize the health benefits of drinking. He chose seasonal fruits and vegetables to give priority to and to mimic the French wine industry’s focus on terroir – the soil and environment in which an ingredient was grown.
It can be difficult for some spirits to convey a sense of terroir. Fruit, however, can’t help but be terroir-like if it is organically and lovingly grown. Potfer admires Rene Redzepi, the chef at Noma in Copenhagen, who uses a similar approach to match tastes. He says that creating a low-alcohol cocktail requires a different way of thinking. Alcohol is not the main ingredient anymore, but rather one of many. This has led to an explosion of homemade syrups, tinctures, and other flavored drinks. Everything from wasabi to agave and even muscovado and lapsang souchong is used to give the cocktails a new twist. There is no need to worry about guests looking for a low-ABV beverage.
One of southern Spain’s most exclusive hotels also offers a helping hand for those trying to abstain from alcohol – at least in a small way. Finca Cortesin is a 215-hectare resort with a 67-suite hotel and an 18-hole course. It is the place to anticipate guests’ needs before they know about them. The Jasmine Sour, which it introduced in January, is an example. St-Germain elderflower liqueur (20% ABV) is judiciously mixed with orange blossom water and lime juice. Sugar, egg white, and sugar are also added. Finca Cortesin’s PR representative says, “It is a twist on the classic cocktail. Perfect for a slightly more boozy tipple in January.”
Six Senses Hotel in the Douro Valley of Portugal, located north of the border, uses a lesser-known version of port, the most popular beverage of the region. Acacio Peixoto, Wine Director at Six Senses Hotel in Douro Valley, Portugal, says the white port is a lesser-known version of the more full-bodied and traditional red port. It has a lower level of alcohol – 16.5% as opposed to the 19-22% found in conventional red port – which makes it an exciting and popular option for those who want a less alcoholic treat in January.
However, using more potent ingredients to create lower-ABV drinks is possible. One Aldwych in London, newly reopened after a major refurbishment last year, has partnered with Mediterranean-influenced Gin Mare to offer a well-being package that includes a spa treatment, lower-alcohol gin cocktails featuring herbs and juices, and a living wall from which guests can pick their garnishes. This is a new initiative that will last until April.
Giving customers the choice they want when it comes to drinks is essential. Six Senses Douro Valley offers an afternoon tea where guests can make shrubs and tonics. Adding alcohol is optional. The Lanesborough, in London, has partnered with Seedlip – the alcohol-free spirits – for January without making assumptions about visitor preferences. Mickael Perron is the manager of The Lanesborough Library Bar. He says, “We’ve prepared a more inclusive menu so guests can enjoy their favorite cocktails with or without alcoholic beverages.” He knows it’s essential to provide complex flavors that don’t necessarily include alcohol and to leave the decision of whether to add alcohol to the drinker.