drinks From bubblies to bitters: How to stock a booze-free home bar

Booze-free merriment is a lot more enjoyable than it once was and your guests really shouldn’t have to face a flat, disappointing club soda ever again. A good way to curate a non-alcoholic home bar is to stock up on flavoured tonic water mixes, fresh juices, herbal fizzy drinks along with bitters and syrups, so your teetotaler guests can have a good mix of options.

A few popular, distilled, non-alcoholic spirits like Seedlip or Bella Hadid’s Kin Euphorics can be difficult to source, especially if you’re in a time crunch and have a holiday party to plan. But there are plenty of readily available, global and homegrown labels that have introduced artisanal, zero-proof pre-bottled alternatives that you need to include in your booze-free home bar.

Flavoured sparkling water

Sparkling water categories are surging in popularity. Not only are they a functional and healthy alternative to hard seltzers, they are also hugely versatile as a party drink. Traffic Gastropub’s mixologist, Biswajeet Biswas, tells us he swears by the ever-popular Perrier for non-alcoholic guests. And homegrown brands are also designing their own niche to appeal to a wider demographic.

Labels like Polka Pop, Zenzi and Borecha saw a consistent demand for fruity bubbly water. “Zenzi offers calorie-free bubbles and the hydrating qualities of water — it’s the perfect health-friendly alternative for non-alcoholic drinks. It can be used as a mocktail mixer or as a standalone sugar-free, botanical, sparkling water,” shares Zenzi’s Aman Rastogi.

Dry botanical fizzy drinks

Premium soft drinks are slowly gaining ground over mainstream ones. Sugar and calories are big concerns for non-drinkers, and brands like Fentimans promise a more conscious substitute and a botanically brewed base. The Fentimans light rose lemonade or botanical elderflower drink contains no artificial sweeteners and 4.8 grams of sugar per 100ml. Homegrown picks like Shunya or the aerated, juice-based Sosyo are also good options.

Ginger beers

“Coast Beer Co’s Hazy IPA (a citrus-forward, complex draft beer), Gunsberg’s non-alcoholic ginger beer are top-sellers. Veen ginger ale, bitter lemon and tonic water are good chasers and mixers,” shares Harjot, from Sector 5’s Motorworks and Brewing Company.

Modern ginger beer is carbonated and not fermented and is not classified as alcohol. Ginger beer does have a stronger, more discerning mouthfeel than ginger ale and is truly versatile as a mixer. Delhi-based label Jade Forest offers a ginger ale that has an initial punch of ginger and balancing notes of citrus to finish.

Artisanal tonics

Tonic is a must-have for any home bar, and speciality or craft blends have an edge considering they are designed to be the ideal mixers. Award-winning Indian label Sepoy & Co has a line of classic and floral tonic waters in flavours like spiced grapefruit, hibiscus, elderflower etc.

Bengal Bay’s tonics are naturally sweetened with organic cane sugar and infused with champagne carbonation, while Sahil Jatana, Rahul Mehra and Aneesh Bhasin’s Svami offers bottled, alcohol-free gin and tonic that work as standalone beverages.

Non-alcoholic sparkling wine

Sparkling wines are a no-brainer for a home bar. Booze-free wine is readily available in the city and online. This is also a staple for Christmas punch, so stock up on bottles of Cloudem or the more accessible St. Regis!

Craft/sparkling teas

Tea-based coolers can be an efficient replacement for cocktails. The popular Tost has a sophisticated blend made of carbonated water, white tea and white cranberry, and is essentially booze-free champagne. 

L.A. Bar & Kitchen owner Freddy Liao and Canteen Pub & Grub’s bar manager Arpan Nandi both swear by a tea-based pick-me-up. “It refreshes my mind and keeps me on the go,” Nandi shares. Bottled non-alcoholic iced teas are good options. Tea sommelier Snigdha Manchanda’s label Tea Trunk has loose leaf iced teas in flavours like matcha, hibiscus and blue pea that work for infusions and as standalone herbal coolers.

Pre-packaged mixers

Bottled cocktail mixers can be easily used for non-alcoholic beverages as well. Jovita and Jordan Mascarenhas’ brand Bartisans is an Indian label that sells bottled mixers made with seasonal produce in flavours like pineapple basil, hibiscus lavender and tamarind orange. Brands like & Stirred and Jimmy’s Cocktails also have easy mixes that can be used in DIY mocktails.

Non-alcoholic bitters

Bitters are a good way to add flavour to mocktails, infused drinks or teas, and glycerin-based bitters are ideal for a home bar. Tropical, aromatic bitters from Sakurafresh are readily available online. New Delhi-based label Bab Louie makes craft bitters with herbs and spices that are macerated for three months in wooden oak barrels. They also serve dehydrated garnishes!

Their orange bitters are made with homely elements such as Seville orange peels, coriander, cardamom, anise and caraway seeds. You can simply mix a tonic base or a herbal sparkling drink with citrus bitters along with homemade juice and a dash of syrup.

Artisanal syrups

Instead of store-bought syrups, go for signature, craft picks that use natural ingredients which contain less sugar and can add earthier dimensions to your DIY drinks. Vaishali Mehta’s Swa Artisanal Syrups are made in small batches with whole fruits and herbs.

“Natural syrups have a better shelf life since they’re more concentrated. They’re also quite versatile and can be used in other culinary aspects. Hibiscus tea syrups, Jamun Kala Khatta, seasonal fruit-based syrups are doing well,” Mehta tells us.

Herbal mineral water, flavoured floats and fruit-based energy drinks

“We do not keep any pre-made beverages at home. We like to serve fresh drinks when we have guests, but I do like Avengers Energy. This drink keeps me refreshed and energetic for a long and hectic day,” says Vanita Bajoria, the director of Kolkata’s Lord of the Drinks.

Energy drinks work as a quick fix, so consider stocking them in your home along with flavoured, herbaceous mineral waters by brands like Beyond Water or Aquatwist that also work at dinner tables.

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