For more than a decade, Thomas Keller’s innovative New York restaurant Per Se has been offering non-alcoholic beverage pairings – and this offering has been trending at fine dining establishments across the country as well as in other places around the world.
New York restaurant Atera, as more recent example, began offering temperance pairings, which are “virgin libations based on classic cocktails.” Executive Chef Ronny Emborg was inspired to offer these pairings because of the Dutch tradition of drinking juices with meals; but, because many Americans enjoy dinner cocktails, he created non-alcoholic cocktail pairings instead. Each of these beverages is designed to enhance key flavors in the culinary dish being paired. For example, when Chef Emborg offers flavor-rich dishes with the umami taste sensation, the ideal pairing is his celery apple fizz with seaweed, with the seaweed “giving it a backbone that can stand up to the food.” (Find out more about Chef Emborg and his incredible menu that he offered at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in 2016).
Some restaurants are calling these alcohol-free, cocktail-like drinks “mocktails,” while others are using the term “virgin cocktails” or “temperance cocktails.” No matter what phrase is used, these drinks are providing diners with delicious new choices.
According to PBS, by 1830, the average American older than 15 was drinking nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol annually. That’s triple the amount the average person drinks today, and alcohol abuse was rampant. At that time women were “utterly dependent on their husbands for sustenance and support” so, when husbands abused alcohol, wives suffered. And, partially triggered by that domestic unrest, during the 1830s and 1840s the temperance movement gained momentum. People involved in the movement first promoted moderation in alcohol consumption, in part to create a more peaceful home life. Then they went one step further, encouraging drinkers to support one another in resisting the demon rum – and then the movement ultimately turned into one that focused on the abolishment of alcohol use altogether.
In 1849, Amelia Bloomer began editing a temperance journal titled The Lily, which was the first newspaper in the country for women. Although this publication only lasted until 1853, the fervor for the cause did not die down and, in 1874, thousands of women organized into the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).
President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) and his wife Lucy sympathized with the temperance movement, and she and her husband therefore did not serve alcohol at state dinners. This earned Lucy the nickname of Lemonade Lucy and the derision of people who disagreed with this policy.
“People involved in the temperance movement,” explains Christie Weininger, director of Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, “saw alcohol abuse destroy families and they considered it a major disease to be very concerned about. This was a socially fascinating time as many women first found their voices by becoming leaders in or at least participants of the temperance movement, and this movement was therefore closely connected to that of women’s rights.”
People attending state dinners during the Hayes administration were often unhappy about the lack of wine being served and, on at least one occasion, they tried to sneak alcohol into the punch. Hayes’s diary indicated that they’d really only gotten rum flavoring into it, not rum itself, so that attempt apparently failed. To find out more about the Hayes administration in the Gilded Age, read about the White House dinner being served at the Culinary Vegetable Institute on Saturday, February 18th. Tickets are still available, and Christie – along with the director of development for Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, Kathy Boukissen – will be sharing more intriguing behind-the-scenes stories about the Hayes presidency.
President Hayes remained moderate in his beliefs about temperance, and he spoke out against actually prohibiting alcohol, adamant that went too far. The 18th Constitutional Amendment was nevertheless passed on January 17, 1920, and the “noble experiment” lasted until December 5, 1933, when the amendment was overturned by the 21st Amendment.
Fast forwarding back to today’s times, many people are drinking temperance cocktails – by choice.
Brian Van Flandern, Creative Cocktails Consultants’ president and master mixologist was quoted in late 2015 as noticing more farm-to-table ingredients in mocktails. And, of course we’re excited to see vegetables, herbs and edible flowers finding new homes in botanically driven virgin cocktails. There are so many intriguing garden-to-bar possibilities when creating thoughtfully prepared, complementary beverage pairings – and temperance cocktails are an excellent way to provide a creative way of rounding out the dining experience. And, because a significant percentage of virgin drinks are sweet juice-driven or soda-driven combinations, inventing savory concoctions helps special drinks to stand out from the crowd.
As just one possibility for your temperance cocktails, consider the vibrant, sky-blue borage flower. Borage comes from the cucumber and melon family, and the flowers provide a subtle hint of cucumber taste along with a delicate sweetness that lingers. Borage flowers add a sophisticated flavor to beverage pairings and provide a gorgeous burst of color.
Find out more about borage flowers. And, if you’re ready to experiment with them in your temperance cocktails, they’re available year-round.