Cocktails on a Budget: How to Save Money in your Home Bar

MIXOLOGY TALK PODCAST #190

Even if Dry January has come and gone, we’re still embracing the “spirit” of non-alcoholic beverages over here at A Bar Above (sorry, I just couldn’t resist). Today, Chris is talking with DRY Botanical Bubbly founder and CEO, Sharelle Klaus, about her alcohol-free beverage line. While there’s plenty of info on DRY itself, Sharelle is also quite the expert on flavor profiles and the zero-proof drink industry, so there is a lot to learn– whether you’re looking to go alcohol-free yourself or you’re a bartender looking to mix up your beverage program to accommodate all guests.

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INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

  • 1:16– Sharelle’s inspiration for starting Dry & the company background
  • 5:19– Changes in the zero-proof industry over time
  • 14:35– Background on creating her book, The Guide to Zero-Proof Cocktails
  • 21:30– What you’ll find in the book (Check 24:30 for Sharelle’s favorite zero-proof recipes)
  • 30:00– Lineup of flavors (and where to find them at 33:40)
  • 34:35– Promotions

MEET SHARELLE:

Sharelle Klaus has always had a passion for the culinary world and celebrating each part of a meal– including the beverage. After having four children, she didn’t want to let a lack of wine or cocktails stop her from creating a great pairing. Klaus recognized an absence of refreshing, clean, non-alcoholic options in the market and became determined to create the first line of less-sweet, botanical bubbly beverages that were worthy of meal pairing and premium non-alcoholic mixology. In 2005, Klaus crafted the first batches of DRY Sparkling in her home kitchen and officially launched DRY a few months later. With the motto “Social Drinking for Everyone,” DRY has evolved into what is now DRY Botanical Bubbly – a lightly sweet bubbly beverage perfect for toasting to all of life’s celebrations.

With over 15 years experience in the industry, Klaus has been featured by ParentMap, Huffpost, Forbes, BevNET, Seattle Magazine, and Imbibe and was honored by Seattle Business Magazine as one of its 2018 CEOs of the year. She is an avid supporter of entrepreneurship and frequently speaks at professional conferences, workshops, and the University of Washington Business School, where she also participates as a judge for the Michael G. Foster’s School’s well-known business plan competitions.

WHY GO ALCOHOL-FREE?: BEYOND DRY JANUARY WITH DRY BOTANICAL BUBBLY

As we’ve been discussing lately on the blog, there are so many reasons why you may choose not to drink alcohol– and it’s not just for one month out of the year. Especially right now during Covid times, lockdown-induced indulgence is real! So maybe, like many people, you’re seeking a healthier lifestyle in general, even though Dry January is over.

For Sharelle, inspiration came in the form of motherhood. As a self-described “foodie” who stopped drinking for about 10 years while raising her young family, she was disappointed with her non-alcoholic beverage options at restaurants:

“I would go out to restaurants, and I just really felt that I was missing out on this experience. I ended up feeling like a second-class citizen. Because if you go out to a restaurant and you’re having this lovely meal, you want to be able to pair it with something. But I didn’t have the opportunity to pair it with something; it was either Coke or water.” –Sharelle Klaus

How many of us can relate to this feeling? No matter the reason you’re not drinking alcohol, no one wants to feel left out while dining or attending a party. Besides beer and wine, it should be typical to pair other beverages with a meal. Plus, as Sharelle points out, why is alcohol always the star of every celebration?

While the industry is changing and slowly embracing non-alcoholic cocktails and beverage options, it definitely wasn’t accepting of the zero-proof lifestyle back in 2005 when Sharelle launched DRY.

So what began as a personal desire for alcohol-free options became an entire brand of sophisticated, non-alcoholic beverages that are meant to be paired with food. After all, it’s not like Sharelle was the only person wanting these alternatives. Just look at how zero-proof beverages— and the perspective of health and wellness– have developed even in the last few years!

CHANGING TRENDS IN NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES OVER THE YEARS

Just as her company has changed over the years, Sharelle has noticed a change in the hospitality industry in terms of how they perceive alcohol-free beverages. Non-alcoholic cocktails and drinks were thought of as “less than” and often sickeningly sweet (Shirley Temple, anyone?). 

But with time and the celebration of health and wellness, chefs and mixologists have embraced zero-proof cocktail options. A big key to turning around the mentality about alcohol-free beverages is to view it as a challenge. This perspective can push the industry forward.

“I love these mixologists that are up for that challenge. And I really think that it’s mixologists who are going to change [sic] the whole way that we think about this.” — Sharelle Klaus

Whereas non-alcoholic cocktails used to be seen as “dumbed down versions,” as Chris puts it, now bartenders are starting to push the boundaries of what they can do, just like chefs do with food. There are so many opportunities to mix and play with flavors, sans alcohol. Why not get creative? 

“I think it’s much more challenging to make a really interesting non-alcoholic cocktail than it is to create a good alcoholic cocktail because you don’t have the same techniques at your disposal. […] There is an opportunity within the volume you’re missing with the alcohol to put in so much fun flavor. There is so much potential in the 2 oz. you’re no longer adding in there.” –Chris Tunstall

OPTIONS ARE KEY FOR NON-ALCOHOLIC COCKTAILS AND THE GUIDE TO ZERO- PROOF COCKTAILS

As an investor in Sans Bar in Austin whose own company motto is “social drinking for all,” it’s inevitable that Sharelle would eventually write a book of non-alcoholic cocktails. Combining zero-proof recipes and flavor information, the book seeks to elevate the alcohol-free lifestyle by giving you lots of options.

Not only did Sharelle work with bartenders to develop The Guide to Zero-Proof Cocktails, but she also works with other zero-proof beverage companies to push forward the culture of non-alcoholic beverage alternatives and get more products on the market. After all, choice is key in all things, right?

“The consumers will be the winners in this. To see this unity […] and cooperation is really cool. […] Just to see this cooperation says a lot about how we all feel about this mission of inclusion.” –Sharelle Klaus

WORKING WITH FLAVOR PROFILES IN ALCOHOL-FREE DRINKS

Sharelle worked with mixologists in Seattle to create the book’s recipes, some that use DRY and some that don’t. But this book is so much more than just cocktail recipes.

The book really focuses on how to balance and complement a variety of flavors, which you can apply to cocktails and cooking. Understanding flavors and how to blend them gives you the fundamentals to create your own drinks and meals– and the confidence to experiment! It’s really fundamental to any culinary perspective.

“When I first came up with this concept, my first flavor idea was basil. And I remember thinking ‘There’s no way the world is ready for a basil drink. And we are so beyond ready for any and all, right? It just seems like our palates have gotten so much more sophisticated.”– Sharelle Klaus

SHARELLE’S FAVORITE ZERO-PROOF COCKTAIL RECIPES

The book is full of delicious non-alcoholic cocktail recipes, but here are a few of Sharelle’s favorites to give you an idea of what to expect from The Guide to Zero-Proof Cocktails

  • DRY Pineapple Chile Limeade: With a salted rim and mango-habanero syrup, this offers the spicy profile that Sharelle loves.
  • The Highland Fog: Rosemary, whipped cream, and lavender create a really unique, savory cocktail.
  • The Smoke and Mirrors: Designed by Seattle bartender Jermaine Whitehead, this sophisticated cocktail gets its name from smoked tea and a smoking cinnamon stick.
  • The Juice Cleanse: It’s beautiful, tasty, and good for you!

Sharelle’s tip: Making flavored simple syrup is a great way to bring different flavors to a cocktail– or even to add it to DRY itself! Get creative with chili pepper or rosemary syrup to add depth and complexity to your drink.

DRINK DRY: FLAVORS, WHERE TO BUY DRY BOTANICAL BUBBLY, AND NEW ZERO-PROOF DRINKS

What’s super cool about DRY is that, unlike other brands on the market, they adjust the sweetness of the syrup based on the natural ingredient, so don’t be surprised if you look on the back and see that different flavors all have different sugar and calories contents! 

After all, these are “culinary sodas,” if you will, which were developed as an alternative to traditional, super sweet non-alcoholic beverages. Using a variety of flavor profiles, including savory and bitter, helps elevate DRY (and the cocktails in The Guide to Zero-Proof Cocktails). The natural flavors are really meant to shine through, so they can’t apply a one-size-fits-all technique to the other ingredients.

With fun flavors that are innovative, comforting, and refreshing, DRY has an option for everyone. Remember, Sharelle is all about options in alcohol-free drinks! Their current lineup includes these delicious flavors:

  • Lavender
  • vanilla bean
  • Fuji apple
  • Cucumber
  • Ginger
  • Rainier cherries
  • blood orange

They also offer cranberry, blood orange, watermelon, and pineapple in 750 ml “celebration bottles.” Just check out their site to order directly, or check your local BevMo, grocery stores like Whole Foods or Ralphs, or Amazon

Sharelle hinted that she has some new endeavors on the horizon (Hint: Think spicy!), so make sure to follow DRY on Facebook and Instagram for updates. One thing’s for sure: Flavor will always be first:

“Dry was started on flavor and it will always be built on flavor. But with this new line that we’re looking at, we’re looking at sort of what we did with the zero proof cocktail book, which is laying flavors and bringing more flavors to the table in different kinds of ways and surprising ways.” –Sharelle Klaus

I definitely can’t wait to see what is next for DRY. In the meantime, what awesome cocktails do you make with it and other non-alcoholic options? We want to hear all about it in the comments or over in our Facebook group. And don’t forget to treat yourself to our barware while you’re at it– with or without alcohol, you need some stellar equipment for making your cocktails!

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Melanie Tornroth

Melanie Tornroth

A former English teacher, Melanie optimistically embraces the struggle that is work-from-home parenthood as the in-house writer for A Bar Above. When not responding to “Mom” and writing articles for ABA, she also runs Goodnickels Photography, loves to cuddle her cats, and is perfecting the art of keeping her pandemic “fermentation babies” alive.

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