Pranav Mody, mixologist at Sassy Spoon, puts final touches on the Berry Berry Khatta
Pranav Mody, mixologist at Sassy Spoon, puts final touches on the Berry Berry Khatta

While creating the bar menu for Juhu's +91, head of operations Jatinkumar Jajal, was clear about one thing: The teetotallers shouldn't feel shortchanged. Having refrained from boozy binges whenever in the driver's seat, Jajal was familiar with the plight of non-drinkers, who often have little to woo them at bars. "I wanted to go beyond the regular fresh lime soda," he says. That the restaurant has been inspired by the highlights of regions across India, meant the drinks had to toe the line. Jalal spent three months travelling the length and breadth of the country as part of his research.

Puerto Rican Sunrise. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Puerto Rican Sunrise. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Today, +91's bar menu boasts of 40 options, of which 20 are mocktails including a Slushy Aam Imli Panna prepared from raw mangoes of Konkan and Banarasi Paan Colada made of paan, fresh cream and pineapple from Varanasi. "Most restaurants don't exceed four options," he says. As it turns out, Jajal isn't the only one applying his talent to non-alcoholic drinks.

The bartender at +91 garnishes the Slushy Aam Imli Panna. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
The bartender at +91 garnishes the Slushy Aam Imli Panna. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Jitin Merani, chief operating officer of Drinq Barmen and Academy, who has designed the menu for Irish House and Magazine Bar and Kitchen, feels bars are no longer all about alcohol. In fact, he recently designed an elaborate mocktail menu for Kill Cafe at Seven Bungalow with over 20 options. "A lot of traditionally teetotaller communities like Marwaris and Jains have started frequenting bars. Hence, restaurant owners are feeling the need to invest in their non-alcoholic section," he says. Merani feels it's the holistic experience that counts. "People want a good ambience, great food and a drink worth their salt, whether alcoholic or not," he says.

Pranav Mody, mixologist at Sassy Spoon, believes the trend has picked up in the last couple of years. "A lot of people who visit the restaurant don't prefer alcohol, either because they're teetotallers, are trying to go healthy," says Mody adding that the festivals season also witnesses a drop in demand for alcohol. The Sassy Spoon upped its mocktails menu during a revamp last year. "We felt mocktails offered a chance to experiment with fresh fruits and herbs that hold health properties," he says. In fact, one of their signature mocktails, the Berry Berry Khatta made of fresh mulberries muddled with oranges, grapes and kala khatta, inspired a cocktail. "We decided to spike it with some Absolut raspberry vodka, and the flavours blended beautifully."

The inherent ability of alcohol to lend flavour to a drink has made many bartenders focus more on cocktails. "Alcohol has its own elements that bind flavours together. Mocktails, on the other hand, are notoriously known for having high sugar content," says Mody. He gives us the example of a Virgin Mojito and Caprioska, which are almost impossible to prepare without sugar. "I do get several requests from patrons for sugar-free variants of these drinks, but if I don't end up adding sugar, it'll taste extremely sour," he says. That's where fresh fruits and sugar replacements like honey and stevia count.

While some restaurants may have upped their mocktail menus, it's still not up everybody's alley. Terttulia at Prabhadevi has refrained from having a mocktail section altogether. But as owner Imrun Sethi insists, his team entertains requests for mocktails. "Most of our cocktails can be made into mocktails. In fact, our bartenders are always customising drinks based on requests we receive. No mocktail has ever been a high seller even in the past and the current health wave doesn't help," he says. Sethi is of the opinion that many teetotalers have now moved from drinking mocktails to other beverages, and therefore they never see a very high demand for mocktails.