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Dry January: more than just a fad and where to go for non-alcoholic drinks in Singapore

Navigate through Sober Culture during Dry January and beyond as we cast a spotlight on non-alcoholic cocktails made available all year round by new spots in town.

Dawson Tan
Written by
Dawson Tan

We’ve all seen the rise of non-alcoholic spirits in recent years and sober bars – a stigmatised conundrum to many – are gradually changing the way people consume during a night out around the world. Then came a faddish term conveniently coined, Dry January, which sparked a challenge-accepted trend-like mentality that caught on fervently in recent years.

What is Dry Jan and why should I care?

If you don’t already know, Dry January is a sober event that spans across the entire month of January that’s the perfect new year new me resolution for just about anyone that had one too many to imbibe from their wild benders last December.

As we bid 2022 adieu, there’s never been a better time to pay more attention to inclusivity, and cocktail bars are beginning to put more thought into designing non-alcoholic cocktail offerings. Gone were the days when mocktails were simply syrupy liquids and juice boxes uninspiringly mixed and served, only to disappoint.

Inclusivity in drinking

As consumers get increasingly conscious about what goes into their drinks or perhaps simply curious about the non-alcoholic movement, the bar industry has started to up their low/no-alcohol game. What this means is that there will be great choices for all sorts of imbibers and everyone – yes, even non-drinkers –  can hit the bar together without anyone feeling like a Debbie Downer.

Who is championing the movement?

A stellar example that is well ahead of its time is Analogue Initiative. With a laudable mission to avoid overly harvested and unethically sourced ingredients, without compromising on flavours, the team embrace alternative methods, ingredients and technologies to spearhead modern-day bar culture. Aside from their full plant-based food menu and alcoholic cocktail menu that has already got them ranked #37 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022, they’ve also dedicated a permanent menu that showcases highly finessed non-alcoholic tipples in hopes to eradicate decades of stigma against mocktails. So do us and yourselves a favour, don’t knock it till you try it. Here are our top picks. 

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails by Analogue Initiative
Photograph: Analogue Initiative

For any R&B Rap fan, Biggie Vibes is an unmistakable yet playful homage to the enigmatic Notorious B.I.G a.k.a Biggie Smalls, one of Rap’s greatest of all time. Reimagining Sherry cask whiskies and their distinct notes of dried fruit, honey, and vanilla, the bar team infused dried apricots alongside burnt American oak chips to reproduce flavours achieved from barrel ageing. After the infusion, the leftover ingredient mashup – that is often thrown away – is dried into a fruit leather to smoke the drink before unveiling it in spectacular showmanship right before you. The result is a savoury, earthy yet semi-sweet tipple that we’d like to think even Biggie would drop his Henny bottle once in a while for a sip of this drink.

Channelling some big brain energy, Verdis Quo is Analogue’s take on a non-alcoholic sour cocktail that draws reference from Veridis Quo by Daft Punk, a melancholic electronic soundtrack from the Discovery album that’s coincidentally celebrating its 20th anniversary. The tipple is assembled with peaches for its floral fruitiness, lapsang souchong (smoky black tea) to introduce a touch of smoke and ginger for a mild bite to contrast. It is then shaken up with methylcellulose – an analogue for egg white – with a drop of vitamin B12 to serve up a refreshing and revitalising drink with a luscious foamy head. Finally, a tipple that isn’t paradoxical when we clink glasses to our health.

Forget about Pina Coladas, the Passionfruit is a tasty non-alcoholic twist of a milk punch jam-packed with passionfruit and coconut flavours with a hint of chamomile. Instead of dairy, the team uses both coconut milk and coconut water kefir for its natural enzymes to aid with the curdling of the mixture which will then be clarified in a state-of-the-art centrifuge machine. The curds, a byproduct of the clarification process, will not go to waste as it is turned into an exquisite mini passionfruit tart served atop as garnish. Just imagine everything you’d expect to sip on in the Tropics but better.

The next and final drink is for coffee aficionados. The nouveau Faux Espresso is Analogue’s very own take on the – you guessed it – classic Espresso Martini but without the espresso and alcohol. Instead of coffee, roasted chicory leads alongside co-stars, dandelion, cinnamon, toasted barley, and a tinge of coconut nectar to serve up a complex but yet familiar party in your mouth. Each sip is an aromatic, full-bodied expression, bursting with chocolatey malt flavours. Our thoughts? A commendable attempt at a classic cocktail and at convincing even the staunchest of Espresso Martini lovers.

More than just a fad

For Analogue, their deep dive into the unchartered waters of Singapore’s non-alcoholic cocktail scene is a delicate combination of innovation, bravado, and a sliver of the flair of a mad scientist. We’d think that one’s enthusiastic exploration of these non-alcoholic cocktails during a night out by personal choice is the highest form of recognition and flattery for any team working tirelessly behind the bar advocating for such inclusivity.

After all, who said sobriety awareness and inclusivity should only be limited to Dry Jan? It’s about high time we normalise and honour non-alcoholic options in bars, whereby people with allergies, who are pregnant, diabetic or rather, just about anyone, have real options. Because the truth is, one does not need to feel scrutinised over a conscious choice or succumb to peer pressure just to fit in or be in merriment with their peers.

Where else to go for non-alcoholic cocktails

  • Bars and pubs
  • Rochor
  • price 2 of 4

Picking up on the rising non-alcoholic movement, an entire non-alcoholic menu kickstarts as the first chapter and shows no sign of any compromise to the craft. We had the Vanda Mist, a dainty-looking tipple that showcases the bold flavours of Amaretto (almond liqueur) and drinks creamy and frothy. A worthy treat for both the young and the conscious.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Hotel bars
  • Orchard

This hotel bar also has a menu of placebo cocktails that use non-alcoholic spirits. A must-try is the refreshing drink, The Gardener which uses a house-made dill and cucumber shrub with pea-infused London dry spirit and topped with some herbs. For something comforting and slightly spicy, the Cracked Maison Jar makes for a good drink with ingredients like Aperitif Rosso, a house-made strawberry and rosemary shrub, ohba leaf and spiced ginger beer. 

Jigger and Pony
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Tanjong Pagar

As expected, Singapore's best bar also has a small selection of 'sober-curious' drinks on the menu – and some of them are quite stellar. The Arnold Palmer is an easy one to consume with familiar and refreshing flavours like earl grey tea, raspberry, grapefruit, rose and soda. For something more fragrant and sweet, try the Jasmine & Ginger which is also slightly spicy with ginger honey, jasmine tea, lemon, egg white.

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