By Kristine Hansen

Whether you call them mocktails, nonalcoholic beverages or zero-proof drinks, the industry is expected to spike to $30 billion in 2025, according to Global Market Insights, a market research and consulting firm.

Meeting and event planners are already thinking of the possibilities, and eyeing the venues that accommodate attendees shying away from alcohol — even if it’s only a small portion of the drink menu. You don’t necessarily have to be alcohol-free to order a mocktail, of course. It might just be a healthier alternative or what you crave in that moment — especially because the quality of nonalcoholic spirits has been vastly improving in recent years.

“Right now, so much is available,” says Michelle Duvall, owner of Blind Shot Social Club in Madison, Wisconsin, about access to zero-proof spirits to create mocktails. “That world is exploding.”

In 2021, she opened her place with private event spaces, golf simulators and nonalcoholic drink menus. There’s a lot of flexibility for meeting organizers in that the venue is not strictly for sober patrons either: Mixologists also use spirits to create alcoholic cocktails behind the bar.

There are both unique, signature recipes and riffs on tried-and-true classics. Among the establishment’s options are the Pink Cloud, featuring Lyre’s zero-proof Pink Gin, watermelon, orgeat syrup and lemon; and The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read, a nod to the film starring Ben Stiller, which blends Ritual Zero Proof whiskey, alcohol-free bitters, orange and cherry.

Duvall didn’t originally set out to open a mocktail bar. “When we were preparing to get the bar program going, nonalcoholic spirits started to pop up in my research,” Duvall says. “Personally, I haven’t had alcohol in about 10 years. I thought, ‘These could be really fun for myself to drink.’ If there are people who don’t want to drink, but still want to have a drink in a cocktail-bar world, how neat would it be to be inclusive like that, just like you are on food menus for people with vegetarian and vegan needs?”

The Kiva Suite within Blind Shot Social Club is a private space for up to 25 people. It features a 16-foot-wide golf simulator and enough room for 20 to comfortably enjoy a meal. “We do everything from birthdays to corporate parties because you can use the big-screen as a projector, then afterwards golf or do happy hour,” says Duvall. “We also have a space for 40 to 60 people, in addition to full facility buyouts for parties or ceremonies. We’ve done a variety of events.”

Another approach to launching a mocktail menu is to do without the spirits altogether — by not adding a zero-proof alternative. Playing around with simple-syrup recipes is key. “I see a lot of people say, ‘Hey, take that spirit out of the cocktail and turn it into a mocktail,’ but it creates an imbalance,” explains Adnan Khan, director of food and beverage at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

“So we started to work on a mocktail program. You have to think about the flavor profile, the aroma and the texture. We get a lot of requests for mocktails not only in our meeting spaces, but also from our guests. The point is to create an experience. It has to not only look good, but the flavor has to be there,” he stresses.

The resort plans to launch its mocktail program this spring. “The biggest opportunity we have with mocktails is in our meeting venues. Having a cool mocktail program where you can have all these colorful mocktail displays and explaining what they are will have a huge impact,” acknowledges Khan.


Just like bar owners strive for balance in what’s stocked behind the bar to make drinks, the same is true for a mocktail bar. Look for alternatives to at least two alcoholic spirits, such as tequila, rum, bourbon, gin or vodka. The last thing you want is to offer a limited variety. What if attendees aren’t fans of margaritas or piña coladas? “Get a couple of nonalcoholic spirits so your guests can enjoy an Old Fashioned, a margarita, or a gin and tonic,” specifies Duvall.

In many cases, you’ll find zero-proof spirits from reputable, long-time liquor brands. This includes alcohol-free Captain Morgan’s Spiced Gold 0.0%, which is recommended to create a rum and Coke free of alcohol, and alcohol- free Tanqueray 0.0%. “You see those bigger brands putting more effort and money behind these zero-proof alcohol products,” emphasizes Duvall. “Bigger players in the nonalcoholic drinks world are trending now.”

“Some major brands that I have turned to and like include Monday (whiskey, mezcal, gin and rum), Ritual Zero Proof (tequila, rum, gin and whiskey) and Spiritless (whiskey and tequila),” recommends Duvall.

“They have different flavor profiles. If you’re looking for a more Hendrick’s-style gin, you might turn to Ritual or Monday. Now these nonalcoholic alternatives are starting to become nuanced, which is cool,” she says, adding that they stand on their own. They’re not just carbon copies of well-known spirits.

Don’t rule out sparkling nonalcoholic options either, advises Duvall. If you don’t like the way a particular bottle tastes, the bubbles can morph into a mocktail ingredient, such as by mixing it with orange juice to create a virgin mimosa. Two brands she stands by are Fre Wines, which makes a sparkling Brut from California grapes, and Oddbird’s Blanc de Blancs, featuring Chardonnay and Colombard grapes grown in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region.

There’s also a way to build a mocktail bar that does not feature zero-proof ingredients, like at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. This might appeal more to health-minded consumers. Instead of mock liquor, the resort relies upon fresh, locally grown ingredients whenever possible.

“Every single recipe is made from scratch with local ingredients, like apples, cherries and strawberries,” echoes Khan. “We are using Door County cherries, and local strawberries and apples, and mixing it up with a lychee puree or a pear juice.” The resort’s Clarified Margarita is a top seller that takes six hours to make. The team also recently developed a Cardamom Spice mocktail with cardamom, hibiscus flowers and cherry tomatoes.

“When you make a mocktail out of a cocktail,” says Khan, “the ingredients are sweet and have a lot of calories. You have to know about why people are drinking a mocktail, especially the younger generation. They’re focused on less alcohol and fewer calories,” so for the Peanut Butter & Banana mocktail, we’re “using rice milk, which is low in calories, and then pairing it with passionfruit, also a low-calorie ingredient. Anything that you make from scratch, with fresh ingredients, is always going to be better than anything else.”

If setting up a mocktail bar feels overwhelming, you can hire a mobile mocktail bar to come to you instead. After all, these companies are the experts, and have done their homework in terms of sourcing zero-proof spirits and developing memorable drinks with them. Zero Bar & Lounge ( in Jackson, Michigan, and Abu Sauce ( in Chicago are two such options.


Making mocktails can also bring people together in a less formal way, say as an ice-breaker or team-building activity. Even if the venue you’re hosting a meeting or event at does not offer team-building classes, it’s easy to create your own.

You basically just need the ingredients. “You would look for a venue that has the ingredients for you or someone who can bring them to you,” says Duvall.

There are a few ways to approach the activity, which might be particular to the dynamics and synergy of the group. Do they already know each other well or did they just meet? “You can have them work collaboratively after viewing a demo about nonalcoholic spirits or mixology in general,” suggests Duvall. “Or, if you have a big enough group, you could put them into teams and give them a template for a Wisconsin Old Fashioned, a daiquiri or margarita, with flavors, spirits and fresh juice available. Then you could judge them. Or just give them a bunch of ingredients and see what they make up.”

“A big group with a little competition is always fun,” she concludes.

Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. She writes about food, drink, design and travel for a mix of regional and national audiences. Her clients include,,, and Midwest Living and Milwaukee magazines. She recently also published “Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook,” which is available on