An evening of merriment, fun and flavor doesn’t have to involve alcohol – that’s an oft-repeated and frequently doubted notion. But it’s a growing mantra even among some bartenders and drink-industry enthusiasts, and it needn’t be a buzz kill.
Plus, for people trying to drink less – or not at all – it’s a welcome trend that can make the idea of going out socially much more appealing.
“It’s so valuable to remove that social element of not drinking,” said Heather Hughes, managing editor of Sauce Magazine. “If you’re trying not to drink for whatever reason – if you think you may have a problem or if you are pregnant – it’s a huge issue of concern to go out with people.”
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, she discussed how that hurdle is being removed at many local establishments. Also joining host Don Marsh for the Sound Bites segment were Sauce staff writer Matt Sorrell and David Greteman, bar manager at Parlor, which is located in the Grove neighborhood.
For Greteman, providing thoughtfully created low-ABV [alcohol by volume] and non-alcoholic drink options is all about enhancing hospitality – one of his overarching values – as he serves people at his bar.
“By offering them something like this … it kind of extends that level of hospitality that I think is incredibly important when people go out to enjoy themselves,” he said.
He added that as more and more people make a conscious effort to drink less or drink more responsibly, the trend brings fresh challenges to practicing his craft.
“It’s also opening up that dedication and responsibility on the side of the bartender to make sure that you can [still] find that flavor,” Greteman said. “It’s sometimes not as easy as other options, but it does force you to think a little bit bigger.”
Hughes noted that people often think through a sort of “cost-benefit analysis” when ordering a drink, equating more alcoholic content with more value.
“Matt [Sorrell] and I were talking about that mentality that people have at open bars, too, where it’s like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get [my] money’s worth,’” Hughes explained. “But nobody really wins if that’s the goal with drinking. I think the move is more towards making something really delicious and good at whatever alcohol level.”
Sorrell emphasized that it’s about “the overall experience.”
“And if somebody’s drinking eight Manhattans, nobody’s having a good experience,” he said.
He added that people needn’t be hesitant to ask about low-ABV and non-alcoholic options.
“Please don’t be afraid, when you go into an establishment, to engage with, in this case, the bartender and say, ‘Here’s what I like and here’s what I don’t like,’” Sorrell said. “Because most any place you go that’s worth its salt is going to do what it can to make you happy.”
Hughes noted that the trend is a positive one for the food-and-beverage industry as a whole, too.
“I love that this move is happening, especially from the [industry] perspective,” she said. “It’s no secret – it’s no surprise – that the food-and-drink industry has one of the highest rates of substance-abuse problems of any industry. And the fact that there are more and more people from within the industry recognizing that and trying to do their part for bartenders and servers and everyone who works in bars and restaurants, I think, is really great.”
Read Kristin Schultz’s Sauce feature related to this topic on the magazine’s website.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan, Caitlin Lally and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.