Beautiful and drink-free: the non-alcoholic drinks ‘change the game’

Australian drinking culture has shifted its focus to quality over quantity, ushering in a new wave of non-alcoholic drinks for the sober curious.

Rather than attempting to mimic flavors of beer or wine, these drinks challenge pre-existing notions of what mature drinks are by using innovative fermentation and carbonation techniques to provide sophisticated and complex alternatives.

Jason and Andy Quin, founders of Mornington Peninsula-based Etch Sparkling, say their range of non-alcoholic drinks “changes the game.”

Monceau is a naturally fermented drink designed to pair well with food. Photo: Delivered



Etch uses native botanicals to create delicate and aromatic drinks that create a greater sense of “table pride” than a simple soda ever could.

“We think adult drinking doesn’t have to look, smell, or taste booze to be good,” Jason says.

He explains how his own alcohol addiction pushed him away from a 20-year career in the wine industry and opened his eyes to a gap in the market.

When you drink craft drinks, people respect that a little more.


Bridget Hassed

“I’m still a foodie, and I still like socializing, going out to restaurants and mixing drinks with my meals,” he says.

“There weren’t enough options in 2019, but here we are in 2022 and the category is evolving quickly.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Sydney comedian Bridget Hassed says the influx of “great drinks for adults” means she no longer has to stand in the pub with a “cleaner orange juice” when the tastes of non-alcoholic beer and wine make frugality challenging.

“Juiceing didn’t really make sense, so you’d have a lot of people coming up to you and asking questions,” Hassed says.

“Whereas when you drink craft drinks, people respect that a little more, it feels more appropriate.”

While statistics show Australians of all ages are consuming significantly less alcohol, Gen Z leads the way.

TINA (This Is Not Alcohol) founders Christina Trabucco and Imogen Hayes.

TINA (This Is Not Alcohol) founders Christina Trabucco and Imogen Hayes. Photo: Delivered



Studies show that up to 44 percent of young Australians reduced their alcohol consumption during COVID, more than double the rate for any other generation.

David Abram, owner of Darlinghurst cafe Freda’s, says young customers are “a little more savvy” about alcohol consumption, especially after lockdown.

“People drink in a more measured and mature way,” he says.

Monceau's Rowan McNaught and Alan Caras.

Monceau’s Rowan McNaught and Alan Caras.
Photo: Justin McManus



“We’re also seeing the introduction of some really interesting options geared towards hangover drinking.”

Freda’s has a generous selection of non-alcoholic options, including Monceau (a “pet-nat kombucha” brewed in Brunswick), StrangeLove (a Byron Bay company offering flavored, low-calorie soft drinks and sparkling water) and Club Mate (a fizzy yerba mate extract drink made in Germany).

“Club Mate is our best-selling drink across the board, aside from maybe a Tommy’s margarita,” Abram says.

Etch Sparkling

Etch Sparkling “goes well with food, rather than overpowering it,” say founders Jason and Andy Quin. Photo: Delivered



It’s a far cry from the sales trends at the non-alcoholic beverage superstore Sans Drinks, where founder Irene Falcone is targeting an older audience who want to make healthier life choices.

“These types of drinks only make up 5 percent of my total sales,” Falcone says.

“For us oldies, who enjoy a nice glass of wine for years after work, we miss the taste. My customers want a direct copycat.”

TINA (This Is Not Alcohol) combines Taiwanese oolong tea with botanicals such as lemon myrtle and rose.

TINA (This Is Not Alcohol) combines Taiwanese oolong tea with botanicals such as lemon myrtle and rose. Photo: Delivered



Monceau co-founders Alan Caras and Rowan McNaught have noticed a “massive shift” in the market since Monceau’s launch in 2019, when it could be challenging to sell to traditional stores.

“Suddenly a large number of restaurants and bars and bottle shops are coming to us,” says Caras.

Monceau presents a “single, unique drinking option” by applying winemaking techniques to the kombucha yeast culture.

McNaught says it fills a gap for discerning drinkers pursuing complete sobriety, and those simply cutting back on alcohol consumption.

“People who really love the craft, the story, the processes, and the connection to the ingredients you see in natural winemaking and artisanal spirits see Monceau as a great alternative,” he says.

The market shift has encouraged breweries to get on board. Head brewer at Tribe, Roland Thiemann, says the “whole category is exploding”.

In May, Tribe released Wilde Guru, a sparkling water that is “dry-hopped”, or infused with hops for several days to create a drink that is not “as sweet as soda, nor as bland as water”.

“We looked at what we are good at, which is brewing, and learned that on water,” explains Thiemann.

“This trend is exciting and is definitely not going away.”

Top three to try

TINA is a non-alcoholic tea-based drink, made with high-quality and seasonal ingredients.

TINA is a non-alcoholic tea-based drink, made with high-quality and seasonal ingredients. Photo: Delivered

TINA (This is not alcohol)

Cousins ​​Chrissie Trabucco of Melbourne and Imogen Hayes of Sydney have created a “delicious, artisanal drink that can sit on the table next to wine or beer”. TINA combines Taiwanese high mountain oolong tea with botanicals such as lemon myrtle and rose. “We’re very focused on taste, so we use aroma, acidity and tannins to build a drink with delicate complexity,” says Hayes.

tinadrinks.com

Monceau applies winemaking techniques to kombucha to create new non-alcoholic alternatives.

Monceau applies winemaking techniques to kombucha to create new non-alcoholic alternatives. Photo: Delivered

Monceau pet-wet kombucha

Monceau is a naturally fermented low intervention drink, available in flavors such as tangerine, fuji pear and blood orange. It is refreshing, slightly fizzy and designed to pair well with food. “There are no preservatives or pasteurization, so it definitely has a beneficial quality,” says co-founder Alan Caras.

monceau.com.au

Etching Sparkling

Etch Sparkling “goes well with food, rather than overpowering it,” say founders Jason and Andy Quin. Photo: Delivered

Etch sparkling

Jason and Andy Quin worked with local Indigenous elders to gain a better understanding of the native Australian fruits and herbs used in Etch. Their sparkling drinks come in flavors such as ZST (finger lime, lemon myrtle, and rosemary) and PLM (Davidson plum, riberry, and strawberry gum), aiming to “celebrate these plants without being bothered by pre-existing ideas of what constitutes a drink for adults.” is”.

etchsparkling.com.au


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