First, it was craft cocktails. Now, it is mocktails that are inspiring beverage innovation. The latest Culinary + Cocktail Trend Forecast survey from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants says that inventive craft mocktails are the newest attractions to many menus.

As more people move towards spirited beverages that do not lead to a hangover the following day, mocktails and “lighter” adult-only drinks are creating a new beverage trend. These are lower in calories and fit in perfectly with the no- and lower-alcohol beverage movement.

Consumers today want to explore exotic-flavored and sophisticated beverages in a social setting without getting drunk.

Alcohol-inspired flavors of craft mocktails resonate well with this new-generation consumer who likes the fun of mixology and is cautious about their diet. These mocktails include exotic flavors such as smoke, herbs, bitterness, and botanicals, adding layers of complexity to the drinks. They allow consumers to enjoy any occasion that is traditionally associated with alcohol.

Brands like Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit, are making waves. Designed to be served with tonics or in non-alcoholic cocktails, Seedlip has an aromatic blend of spice, bark, and citrus distillates. The absence of sugars, sweeteners, or calories adds to its attraction.

Low-alcohol beverages and flavored alcoholic seltzers are also booming right along with non-alcoholic craft beverages. The beverages also are appearing in ready-to-drink, single-serve formats that provide convenience and portion control.

Brands like Social Sparkling Wine have put an interesting spin on the trend by having fermented brown rice as its base instead of grapes. This offers users a low-calorie, sulfite-free, and flavor-neutral alcohol base with hints of elderflower apple, pink grapefruit ginger, hibiscus cucumber, and strawberry rose among others.

New-age natural flavors are mostly plant-based and health-infused without the artificial sweeteners that have scared consumers. The sober-curious movement wants mocktails to match its healthy diets and plant-based eating.

Innovative beverage brands are also tapping into the preferences of next-generation drinkers who favor flavor rather than brand loyalty. While restaurants and pubs are innovating to meet this trend, even fast food chains have seized the opportunity to introduce mocktails into their menu.

Sonic Drive-In is one such example of a national food brand that launched a line of mocktail slushes and saw a massive response from customers. Brands like Synergy Flavors are trying to deliver authentic flavors various beverages by introducing hop essences that are made from varietals.

Others, like Colorado’s Hoplark HopTea Brewery, offer drinks brewed with hops in a sparkling tea format. This makes for a drink that is like an IPA for the nondrinker but with less punch.

Also, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) is partnering with the Mocktail Project for its third annual “Mocktober” campaign. During this mock-Oktoberfest, Kentuckians can enjoy a mocktail, aligning with the new view of alcohol as a choice, not an expectation.

So, why there is such a shift towards the alcohol-free movement? Research shows us that deaths from cardiovascular disease were lower among moderate drinkers.

Yet, they are still more prone to higher death rates, disability, and cardiac risks than nondrinkers. Researchers from British Columbia found alcohol consumption is bad for brain health even if it is moderate drinking.