Written by root. Posted in FEATURES


Published on May 17, 2016 with No Comments

The mocktails are having a moment.

Words Emma Ramsay



If sober is the new sexy, the English are at the forefront of teaching the world a new way to enjoy happy hours. With pubs quintessentially a cultural phenomenon, dry bars are now popping across the UK, merging trend with tradition. The feel remains a classic bar – good grub, friendly banter, great environment. The only thing missing is the booze, hence the word “dry”.

For a nation known to take their drinks seriously, the rise of dry bars may seem ironic, if not somewhat surprising. But, with an increasing awareness to create a healthier lifestyle, especially among the young, dry bars are proving to be a recipe for success.

REDEMPTION in London is fast becoming an institution for sexy mocktail concoctions and a space dripping with coolness. Owner Catherine Salway came up with the idea after realising that 32 percent of London adults who don’t drink could do with a place that is other than a coffee or juice bar. From being turned away with an idea that seemed ridiculous by many in the beginning, Redemption now has two outlets: one in Shoreditch, the other in the swanky neighbourhood of Notting Hill.

Among the bar’s brightly coloured drink ensemble includes the Coco-Rita, coconut water, lime, agave and pink salt. Another, Lettuce Spray, is a bold interpretation of Japanese flavours made of iceberg lettuce, lime, cucumber, wasabi and aloe vera. Redemption also takes pride in a menu that is sugar-free, wheat-free and vegan. There’s kelp noodle and lemongrass laksa and maki rolls filled with red and black quinoa, avocado and enoki mushroom. For Mimi Karim, a frequent Malaysian visitor to London, Redemption’s honest menu and alcohol-free environment appeals to her and her Muslim friends. “I think for the longest time my London friends and I feel kind of alienated by the whole bar-after-hours culture,” she says. “A place like Redemption, with its cool vibes, makes it feel more like a proper night out with the gang.”

In Liverpool, the BRINK took home the Bar of the Year title at the Liverpool City Region Tourism Awards 2015 despite it being a dry bar. This unique enterprise, managed by Action on Addiction, was set up to help those recovering from alcohol addiction. Today, beyond a place where alcohol-free drinks are served, Brink also doubles up as a venue that showcases a range of monthly and exclusive events including fashion fairs, tea tastings, comedy and much more.

“Perhaps what differentiates a dry bar from the usual coffee places is the range of drinks on offer,” says mother of two and local girl Leticia Kramer. “With the mommies, we want to feel slightly grown-up and yet have a decent time without getting sloshed.” Mocktails, she says (and Brink does them brilliantly), are more sophisticated than say, a glass of orange juice drunk in every single outing.

Historically, dry bars first came into the scene in the late 19th century. Back then, “temperance bars” run by herbalists mushroomed, selling beverages like ginger beer and sarsaparilla. But today’s dry bars are a far cry from the Victorian forerunners. The scene is vibrant, the crowd lively. And drinks are taken very seriously.

“Just because they are non-alcoholic does not mean we cannot make them interesting,” says mixologist Ian Graham. You can play around with seasonal syrups, like sour cherry and raspberries, and use them in flower-scented tea base drinks. Kimchi juice, jalapeno peppers can all be used as infusions. The idea, he says, is to ensure mocktails also have the various layers of body, such as spice, acidity and complexity that, when taken with meals, can create an exciting pairing.

At SOBAR in Nottingham, it’s not just about Coke or tonic with lime. Mixologists and their martini shakes create drinks that are to be sipped and not downed in a single gulp. Like their Rainbow Road, a concoction of strawberry and kiwi cordial, citronade, lemon juice and blood tonic topped off with candy floss and glow sticks.

“Dry bars do not just mimic the pub experience,” says Pete Mortensen, a law student at Nottingham Trent University. “We have a healthy student community here, with varied religious backgrounds – and not everyone drinks.” Sobar, he says, provides just the right combination for a great hangout without the hangover. “It’s sumptuous than a coffee bar, and you can dress in your glad rags for a good night out without anyone turning nasty.”

Royal Brunei Airlines flies London daily via Dubai with connecting flights to other cities.

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