No ABV, No Thank You: You Just Aren't Getting What You Paid For

By Logan R. Brouse, May 14, 2019

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201703/logan.pngLogan R. Brouse, proprietor and mixologist of Logan’s Punch and Tacolicious, has run bars and clubs in Shanghai for over eight years. In between hangovers, he puts pen to paper in his column for That’s to record his pontifications on the drink industry.


I never understood people that drink decaf espresso. It looks and tastes like coffee without giving you any of the caffeine kick, which defeats the purpose. And honestly, I feel exactly the same way about this trend of low/no-ABV spirits and drinks currently taking the cocktail world by storm, particularly when it comes to the latter.

For those not in the know, ABV means ‘alcohol per volume’ and a typical vodka, for example, has about 40% ABV (also referred to as 80 proof). Craft beer would be around 5% or so and rosé wine is about 12.5%. Some cocktails are made with liquor (makin’ them bad and boozy) while others rely more heavily on liqueurs like Campari or Aperol. These tend to hover around 25% ABV, which makes low-ABV cocktails like a Campari Spritz a lighter and less concentrated alternative to, say, a Negroni. Think of low-ABV in terms of running a marathon versus a 30-meter sprint and crushing McDonald’s at 4am.

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Image via Pixabay

Here’s my thing though – low-ABV spirits like Lillet Blanc or sweet vermouth are still as pricy as regular bottles because some of the brands are either produced by smaller houses (like Lillet) or mass produced under different brand names, which in all fairness can be cheap depending on the brand. But, there’s a new breed of mocktail that’s supposed to mimic spirits, to have the taste and feeling of an actual vodka or gin, minus the booze. Following the growing interest in low-ABV cocktails and liqueurs, there are companies straight up making no-ABV ‘distilled’ water. 

201905/water-cocktail-2.jpgImage via Pixabay

The cynic in me cries foul at the thought of a flavored water that’s the same price as, if not more than, a regular drink, and the bar owner in me agrees  – why would I sell a customer a non-alcoholic beverage that costs the same as an alcoholic one? If I made you a zero-ABV cosmopolitan you’d be getting lime and cranberry water, and that my friends, is a joke.

two-cocktails.jpegImage via Pexels

No-ABV supporters say it’s better for a bar’s profit because we can sell more drinks to you without you getting too drunk. To quote a friend of mine that works with one of these companies, “Customers spend longer at the bar, don’t get f*cked up, and have great drinks.” To me, and from all the real bartenders in this world, we say f*ck you. 

Herein lies the real question: What is the bar trying to accomplish? Do we get you drunk, do we get you to relax, to be free, to sing songs at the top of your lungs and enjoy the time you have between going to work and going home? Dates, marriages and even dare I say, the very fabric of society, have been forged on this sacred bond – “I’ve made a mistake. Can I buy you a drink?” 

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Image via Pexels

For years, bartenders have made mocktails with silly names like virgin mojitos or Shirley Temples, and for a time, this was all that was right in the world – I’ve made many a boozeless alternative and can clearly remember giving free soft drinks to designated drivers at any bar I worked at in the States. There are many reasons not to drink. But don’t come to me preaching the perks of exorbitantly priced distilled water. You sure as hell won’t find it in any of my bars.

[Cover image via Pexels]


See more of Logan's columns here

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