No Alcohol, No Problem — How the Travel Industry Is Redefining What It Means to Party

No hangovers here.

Conceptual illustration showing alcohol free cocktails on a tray
Photo: Illustration by Tanya Cooper

Whether you call them mocktails, softtails, or zero-proof cocktails, carefully crafted drinks made without alcohol are showing up across the travel industry — and, crucially, are being seen as a first choice, rather than a last resort.

Consider the newly reimagined Ritz Bar at the Ritz Paris, where a quarter of the 16 bespoke cocktails now contain no alcohol. "Partying doesn't mean alcohol all the time anymore," says bar director Romain de Courcy, who estimates that about one in five guests orders a nonalcoholic (NA) cocktail, such as the Fruit, which is made with white grapefruit, passion fruit, clarified coconut, and vanilla.

Helping drive the trend are bar managers like Anna Welker, who's created a number of alcohol-free options at the Revival, a hotel in Baltimore. She's also reconsidered how the drinks are presented. "All it takes is a few lines on a menu to make someone feel like their lifestyle and their choices are not only valid, but celebrated," Welker says. "That's the purest magic that hospitality has to offer."

The Revival is just one of many Hyatt Hotels & Resorts properties putting NA options on bar menus as part of a countrywide Zero Proof, Zero Judgment initiative. "It's taken off better than I thought it would," says Miranda Breedlove, national director of bars for Hyatt's lifestyle division, which oversees the Andaz, JdV by Hyatt, and Thompson Hotel brands, among others.

The reason is threefold: First, Americans are drinking less alcohol, on average, than at any time since 2001, according to Gallup. (Because of the pandemic, the firm didn't poll on the question in 2020.) The trend is also getting a boost from the improved quality of sober spirits produced by brands like Ritual Zero Proof, which uses natural ingredients to mimic the heat of alcohol. Lastly, bartenders are taking presentation to the next level, with unique glassware, flavorful garnishes, and salted or sugared rims. "The goal is to have someone see this and say, 'Oh, what's that? I want one,'" as Breedlove puts it.

"All it takes is a few lines on a menu to make someone feel like their choices are not only valid, but celebrated."

A hotel in Ireland, the Merrion, is going even further by "distilling" its own nonalcoholic gin. Named Artonical, it's flavored with juniper, verbena, and lemongrass. "A nonalcoholic spirit in Dublin sounds like an oxymoron," admits Peter MacCann, Merrion's general manager. "But it's been very well received," he says, even if some guests still express surprise.

Airlines are also beginning to offer more considered spirit-free drinks. Passengers in business-class Mint Suites on JetBlue can opt for cocktails mixed without alcohol on domestic flights, while the latest menu at Delta Sky Club locations across the U.S. now includes two drinks made with a nonalcoholic bottling from Seedlip. And the newly opened Capital One Lounge at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport serves three mocktails alongside a lineup of boozy craft cocktails.

Even cruising, a corner of the travel industry known for uninhibited drinking, has embraced the movement. All-inclusive line Silversea has introduced eight alcohol-free choices on its drink menu, including a Bee Sting Collins made with Pentire botanical NA spirit, ginger beer, juices, and honey syrup. Mocktail consumption aboard Silversea ships was already up 20 percent before the company paused operations because of the pandemic, a rep says. Meanwhile, Virgin Voyages, which launched its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, last year, debuted with NA beverage pairings for multi-course menus at the Test Kitchen.

A version of this story first appeared in the February 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline No Hangovers Here.

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