Discussing the rise of alcohol-free pairing menus in the UK
With low/no alcohol consumption predicted to rise a third by 2026, Egg Soldiers discusses emerging opportunities with alcohol-free pairing menus in UK foodservice
Dry January can be an extremely challenging time for UK restaurants, and certainly for pubs and bars, with wet sales naturally taking a big hit every January as UK consumers attempt to go alcohol-free for the month.
However, with data analysts IWSR forecasting that global low & no consumption will increase by a third by 2026, the yearly challenge that is Dry January may soon become something of a permanent fixture, with a much larger cohort of alcohol-free consumers regularly seeking out foodservice operations that meet their evolving needs.
With interest in alcohol-free lifestyles continuing to increase in the UK, creative and flavourful alcohol-free pairing menus could be an astute move by developers and operators as a way of meeting the needs of diners seeking 'complete' dining experiences without wine or beer.
A match made without alcohol
Synergy says that there is a clear need and opportunity for both soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages to meet the needs of consumer groups looking for alternatives to alcohol pairings with meals.
Synergy’s flavour pairings for alcohol-free drinks are said to be optimised for a range of cuisines, including Indian, Italian, Greek, British, Chinese and Thai.
Combinations within the realm of Asian cuisines include a mango, lime and mint blend for a low/no drink to complement the flavours typically found in Indian cuisine; pineapple, coconut and lemongrass to pair with Thai dishes; and salted cherry and ginger to compliment Chinese cuisine.
In terms of European cuisines, Synergy recommends Sicilian lemon and bergamot for Italian cuisine drinks pairings; plum, orange and chilli to work in harmony with the British roast dinner; and green tea, lemon and mint which can accompany Greek fare.
So what examples are there of UK restaurants adopting non-alcoholic pairing menus?
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In September 2022, French fine dining restaurant La Dame de Pic launched ‘Imprégnation Absolue’ – a globally inspired non-alcoholic drinks pairing menu featuring teas, coffees and cocktails.
Options include Genmaicha Collins, a non-alcoholic cocktail made with Genmaicha tea, lime cordial and cardamom, with its tart and earthy notes said to pair well with the Heritage tomato marinated with Nikka whisky.
Its Geisha Coffee (pictured), which is made with the Chemex method for a ‘pure flavour’, is said to be a natural companion for the Hereford Beef Fillet, which is marinated in coffee and served with baby aubergine tempura, rich oxtail confit and fresh dill.
Approach the development of an alcohol-free pairing option as you would a dish, certainly without cutting any corners. Prioritise local ingredients where possible, and explore zero waste tactics to boost sustainability credentials.
Craft beyond the cocktail
Consider alcohol-free pairing options beyond the cocktail, such as coffees and teas which, as highlighted by La Dame de Pic, can be effectively harnessed to pair across both sweet and savoury dishes.
Live and kicking
Harness fermentation techniques to increase flavours and add natural depth to alcohol-free drinks. Kombucha is something of a hero drink in this evolving space due to its versatility and complex flavour profile.
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