Enough With The Soda Water!

We’ve all been there…out for dinner with the girls. So much anticipation (especially when we’re in and out of lockdowns), so much fun getting dressed up. Maybe a glass or two of AF bubbles as you’re getting ready to set the vibe for the night. You rock up to the restaurant, ready for a great night, hopeful as always that there might be some options for you, the non-drinker. You open the 25-page drinks menu, 100’s of beer, wine and spirits options. There on the last page you find it:

Non-alcoholic: Watermelon & Fingerlime Shrub (virgin) $12 

One option shall we call it? Or two. Assume they also have sparkling mineral water.

You feel deflated, unseen and certainly not included. Whilst the rest of your girlfriends agonise over which bottle of $120 bubbles to start with, you are left out with the wind taken out of your sails. How many shrubs can one possibly drink over one meal? How’s that pairing working for you? If you’re in a vulnerable situation, are you tempted to have ‘just one little glass’ of alcohol and find yourself on a slippery slope?

This situation, whilst improving as big restaurant groups announce their non-alc lists and some businesses see the groundswell and cater for it (us), having non-alc drinks on the menu is far from common practise.

At present, non-alc in hospitality is where vegetarianism was 15 – 20 years ago. Now even the bodgiest of country pubs will have a vegetarian Parma on offer. Or a vege burger or pasta. How did the vegetarians make this happen? They asked for it. They didn’t accept that there were no options; they demonstrated the demand that created the change.

Whilst not drinking is certainly not new, the alcohol-free drinks market is still really in it’s infancy. There is a lot of stigma attached to non-alc wine in particular that’s based on what was always available at the supermarket; essentially sparkling grape juice. Hospitality hasn’t quite caught on to the fact that there are now amazing products like Noughty, Vinada and Heaps Normal on offer.

So what can we do?

Firstly: ASK. If something is not on the wine list, don’t assume it’s not hiding in the fridge. My top tip is to plan ahead. If you have a dinner booked, email the venue as early as you can. Ask what options they have. If there are none, ask if you can BYO bottle of NA wine. If you offer to pay corkage, some venues are quite open to this option. If you get a hard no, ask for them to get something in for you (seen as how you’ve given them plenty of time) and that can sometimes work. If it’s still a no (so disappointing) it can be an opportunity to talk to them about why having adult options are so import. That conversation could plant a seed. Specific things I have tried out can be found here.

Secondly: SIGN: I’m working with Sarah Connelly on a petition to take to hospitality across the country aimed at demonstrating the demand. The power will be in the numbers. Sign HERE.

Thirdly: SUPPORT: Some businesses are smart. Venues like The Victoria Hotel Footscray and The Ministry of Ombibulous Studies have seen the potential and created full alcohol-free menus (wine, beer and quality cocktails). Get out and support the venues that are doing the right thing. Word of mouth is STRONG between hospo venues. Struggling to find anywhere? You can access my ever expanding Venue Register that lists venues state-by-state. Want to celebrate a venue that is giving you what you want? – submit it here and I will add it to the register. If you are comfortable, promote them on your social media!

Together we can demand the change and make alcohol free the vegetarianism of 2021!

Be the Squeaky Wheel!


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