It’s close to midnight in Dublin, the drinking capital of the world. You enter a bar that’s heaving with young partygoers. You go to the bar and order a stiff drink. Only this is a dry bar.
It’s called the Virgin Mary - taking its namesake from the alcohol-free classic cocktail – the beers too are all alcohol free. It feels like they are taking the piss too, and of course that’s exactly what they’ve done. There’s not a drop of piss in the place.
This is a scene that is being replicated all over the world.
Drop into the bustling Sans Bar in Austin Texas, drink all night then drive home. There’s Redemption in London, Zeroliq in Berlin, Getaway in Brooklyn, the 0% Alcoholic Experience in Tokyo and a crop of bars and restaurants here in AKl are serving credible adult drinks without a drop of alcohol.
Joining regulars at the bar - like Seedlip and Lyres, some of the newcomers promise a buzz of a different kind. AF Drinks’ range of ready mixed Gin & Tonics have a heat extract called Afterglow which is said to mimic the pleasant warmth of drinking alcohol, Kin Euphorics’ High Road owes its promise of mood-enhancing properties to licorice and gentian roots. They may not be alcoholic, but you do get a definite and addictive buzz that you just don’t get from water, juice or soft drinks.
Speaking to one young drinker, they claim to have never drunk alcohol, it’s hard to believe. Another, a self-proclaimed professional drinker, explains they love booze, and it’s the best way to drink more rather than less, pacing your night with a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. “It’s the drink you can drink between drinks.”
The latest stats claim that sales of non-alcoholic drinks are growing three times faster than their boozy counterparts. I can confirm I have accidentally joined the fray, on more than one occasion happily drinking a Sawmill Pale Ale or a Heineken Zero and thinking I should pace myself only to see in tiny small-print on the Sawmill label that the beer I was drinking was alcohol-free. I have to admit to feeling a little stupid for a second - having mistakenly ordered a properly dangerous looking brew. But no one cared. No one knew - not even me. And I guess that’s the point.
It’s simply nice to be able to choose to go out and have fun in a bar with no booze, and drink drinks that happen not to have a drop of alcohol in them. It felt rather good.