2018: The Year of Democratic Drinking
By Devin Kidner
We should all be rethinking what it means “to drink” in 2018.
In 2014 my life took an unexpected turn: I won a national contest that thrust me into an industry of which I had never been a part of (nor had ever expected to be a part of).
I suddenly found myself an unlikely guest at a strange and wonderful party that I had entered through the backdoor: The world of mixology.
It was simultaneously fascinating and intimidating, with the spirits world going through a craft beer-like boom and a renaissance behind the bar that saw molecular mixology on the up-and-up.
The longer I’ve been in the industry, the longer I’ve realized how much those of us who work in it like to cater to ourselves: Creating more and more complicated cocktails with exotic ingredients and involved methods of preparation, focusing on weirder spirits and making the most of short-lived fads, when one thing seems to be largely overlooked: Simple and delicious no-proof cocktails (cocktails containing no alcohol) that everyone can enjoy.
Not being one to have access to a cool party and then disallow the general public, I started my mixology education company, HOLLOW LEG after working at two distilleries, training under some incredible mixologists, and applying a lot of my own experience to an industry that desperately needed some demystifying. After all, it’s my firm belief that more folks would like to approach cocktail-making with Julia Child-like conviction at home, or at least be better educated as to their own palates when they’re drinking at the bar.
Drinking interestingly is, in my opinion, something everyone should be able to partake in, whether you choose to drink alcohol or not, which is why I’d like to challenge everyone, but mainly my own industry, to branch out and create a wider variety of amazing non-alcoholic options in 2018.
It doesn’t matter why you’ve chosen not to drink, or to drink less, what matters is you should not have to worry that you’re going to get to a bar and not have any other option but water or a child-style “mocktail” to choose from (Shirley Temple anyone?) - afterall, you’re a gosh darn adult!
And I’m not talking about going to a place and then having to special order something that’s not on the menu, as you try to explain to your server/bartender about how you’re not drinking, but could they - would they - possibly be able to make you a “virgin” version of the Raspberry Mojito?? Because let’s be honest, we allllll know that cocktail was originally created with booze as its base and it’s not going to turn out as delicious without it.
No. You should be able to walk in, head held high, full of pride and look at a menu with stylish font and confidently choose something that was thoughtfully crafted with your drinking habits in mind, too.
This is democratic drinking. Bringing no-proof cocktails into the light and giving them the attention and dignity they deserve without dressing them down with the pejorative monikers “mocktail,” or “virgin.”
Democratic drinking is educating yourself, both the bar-goer and the bartender, with the science of taste so you can better choose and create drinks that are balanced and nuanced, complex and interesting. This can happen just as easily at home as it can behind the bar if you know some basic science.
Democratic drinking is shifting the emphasis back on the joy of social drinking without the fear of needing to be drunk, which bars and restaurants can help accomplish by offering amazing no-proof cocktails that are attractive alternatives to their boozy counterparts!
Democratic drinking is fun, it’s absolutely something to be proud of, and will hopefully trend in 2018.
So here’s to the rise of the No-Proof Cocktail, and for your drinking pleasure, here’s one you can make at home that’s floral, spicy, tangy, and just slightly sweet that won’t have you missing booze at all:
The X Chrome
- 3 oz. Cranberry Juice (100%) infused with black pepper and lavender (directions below)
- 1 oz. Maple Syrup
- Generous splash of Soda and/or Club Soda (our choice is Seasons Sparkling’s Maple Demi-Sec, but you could choose Goose Island’s Concord Grape Soda, too!)
- Lavender Sprig and Lemon Wedge for garnish
For the infused cranberry juice, take 6 oz. of cranberry juice and add 1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns and several sprigs of lavender into a pot. Bring to boil, then simmer for 3 minutes. Strain and let cool.
Add all ingredients into a Ball Jar, add 4-5 cubes of ice, screw on the top, and shake vigorously! Strain into glass with ice with fresh ice, add a splash of soda, then garnish!
Devin Kidner has been a part of Chicago's sustainable food scene since 2009. In June 2014 she won a national cocktail competition through Slow Food USA, earning her a position as a delegate to Slow Food International’s biannual Terra Madre conference, considered the Olympics of Food.
She was the moderator of the American Speakeasy workshop at Terra Madre 2014 in Turin, Italy. She has taken courses from some of the best mixologists in the world at Sala Mixology in Italy on topics of dilution and temperature, Mezcal and Tequila, botanicals, and molecular mixology.
Devin has created cocktails for and taught mixology classes at Rhine Hall Distillery and Koval Distillery. She served on the board of Slow Food Chicago, a non-profit that seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in the local food system to ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat.
In 2016, Devin appeared on WGN-TV's newest show, SEE Chicago, which named HOLLOW LEG a "hidden gem of Chicago," and she was chosen to appear in a promotional video for Jack Daniels.