Non-alcoholic beverage alternatives are a growing trend. This is particularly true for beer, and now the trend has reached the world of spirits as well – something that was clearly evident at Bar Convent Berlin 2019. Yet a bar devoted entirely to non-alcoholic drinks could not be found anywhere in Germany – until now.
Naturally it is located in the bar city itself: Berlin. We decided to pay a visit to ‘Zeroliq’ at Boxhagener Straße 104. It is an address that immediately rings a bell for anyone familiar with Berlin, as it located in Berlin’s famous Friedrichshain nightlife district. Yes, right in the middle of an area where a great many alcoholic beverages are sold in bars, cafés, clubs and late-night convenience stores – that is where ‘Zeroliq’ has set up shop. It was a conscious decision, because the vibrant Friedrichshain area is home to a large number of students and young families – groups in which people who drink little or no alcohol are particularly common. This means that the very target group that is looking for a niche concept without alcohol or inebriation can be found right here.
The bar is operated by Slavena Korsun, an entrepreneur who has already established fashion labels and IT start-ups and is currently working as a consultant. Following the first few weeks of business, she says things are looking good: the bar is quite full in the evening, and its innovative concept has drawn tremendous media interest – in fact, two television teams have already announced that they will be paying a visit here later today. Neighbours from the district are just as likely to drop in as are people who have searched for a bar just like this, perhaps because they never drink alcohol and normally do not feel comfortable in bars. There are also lots of people who simply want to try something new. The bar offers quite a large selection: not only are there are some 40 non-alcoholic beers ranging from familiar pilsners and refreshing summer ales to a hearty, aromatic coffee stout, but the non-alcoholic ‘wine cellar’ stretches from Riesling to reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. There are even special fermented grape beverages, the flavour of which offers a very interesting alternative to (alcoholic) natural wines.
Even so, it goes without saying that the cocktails are our real interest. We tried a ‘Night Blossom’, which features an infusion of hibiscus, vanilla, lemon and a non-alcoholic orange bitter, all shaken and then strained into a martini glass. The appearance of this dark red drink is striking. As is its taste, pleasantly bitter and fruity, with sweet notes and yet surprisingly powerful. The orange-coloured ‘Carrot Cake’ with non-alcoholic gin, carrot juice and hazelnut was also a hit. According to Slavena Korsun, the secret to these drinks’ success is that they were not conceived as copies or imitations, but rather as entirely new creations. Herbs, spices, vegetables and other such items also happen to be healthy. The bar's founder likes to refer to her drinks as ‘glowtails’. As a refreshing contrast to cloying ‘mocktails’ that are blends of juice and syrup, this new generation of non-alcohol cocktails aims to combine indulgence with health benefits. A smoothie during the day and a ‘glowtail’ in the evening – sounds like a good idea.
And there is certainly a clientele for this concept: Slavena Korsun told us that some customers are driven by curiosity to drink their way through the menu (after all, there's no danger of waking up with a hangover), while others are there for a non-alcoholic way to end their working day before going off to do sport, fit and ready to return to work the next morning.
Beofre the Coronavirus: Open for two days
Like many, the ‘Zeroliq’ was blind-sided by the coronavirus shut-down. The timing could hardly have been worse: the bar had its grand opening party on 12 March, and its first evening of normal business on the 13th. And then on 14 March, the bar was closed again – when the government shut down all bars in Berlin. The operator said she's happy that she was at least able to throw such a good party – today there is no way she would be allowed to invite so many guests. The bar took advantage of its enforced two-month closure to refine some of the details, including the interior, the concept and the menu – which also boasts a small selection of tapas, by the way. In fact, she said that the break – especially after all the stress involved with getting ready for the bar’s opening – may not have been so bad after all. Work is already ongoing to create new drinks at the ‘Zeroliq’, including Slavena Korsun’s favourite cocktail, which will soon be added to the menu: a variation on the daiquiri featuring a non-alcoholic rum that is already served to regular customers on request. But there are also many more drinks in the pipeline. Slavena Korsun: “There have been amazing developments in the field of non-alcoholic products.” And this explosive growth in what is on offer is creating new opportunities for bar and restaurant concepts that feature or focus exclusively on these new products.”