Although mezcal seems to be the high proof liquor of choice all over New York City (just ask Liam Wager, Food and Beverage Director at Grape & Vine NYC), low ABV cocktails are popping up on many a cocktail list. Drinks focused around alcohols like sherry, vermouth and sparkling wine are beneficial to the drinker and the bartender. Brooklyn Magazine recently featured Low ABV cocktails and they are showing up everywhere from Vogue and Eater to Jamie Oliver’s Drinks Tube video channel.
For the bartender it is a chance to showcase deep flavor profiles from unusual liquors and unleash their creativity on customers. This falls more in line with European cocktails like aperitifs in Italy. Brooklyn Magazine spoke with Will Elliot, Bar Director at Maison Premiere, who said these cocktails are “much more sustainable to drink…the are well suited to the way that European cultures tend to imbibe around the clock”.
While hard spirits like whiskey and gin often dominate a drink due to their intense flavors, mixing lower ABV alcohols means easier drinking and the ability to experiment with new flavors without worrying about the dominant taste of the liquor. In the same way that adding a few drops of water to whiskey lowers the ABV and opens up new taste profiles, using lower ABV alcohols means more unique and detectable flavor that is not masked by the burn of a high proof alcohol.
For the consumer, lower ABV cocktails mean more drinking over a longer period of time, more in line with the aforementioned Europeans or even Caribbean islands, where the drinking cultures is more about the long haul than the immediate buzz. The American standard of having multiple strong drinks amazes bartenders such as Katie Stipe at Pig Beach; she sees it as “drinking for the sake of drinking”. Lower ABV cocktails are more about the flavor profiles but it also means five of them won’t set you back fifty dollars or lead to an early night home. This style of cocktail means a longer night out, more fun and less worry about having one too many, something everyone in the industry can get behind.
The trend is taking off and shows no signs of slowing down. Over the past few months Eater has joined the crowd with articles on low alcohol beverages, as has Vogue, who attributes the low ABV movement to young consumers who want to sip drinks on a casual night out as opposed to downing strong drinks and heading home at nine pm. Jamie Oliver has even gotten in on the trend, creating how-to videos on his DrinksTube Youtube Channel (with a quarter million subscribers). He makes cocktails like the classic negroni but also mezzo e mezzo or half and half.
Information from Brooklyn Magazine’s article “New York’s Low ABV Cocktails Trend: More Drinks, Fewer Headaches” was used in this article.