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Mocking Booze: Bar Brings Mocktail Craze to Sydney

Famed pay-as-you-feel Newtown restaurant Lentil as Anything is growing a floor. Now that they have moved into their permanent home, LAA has added a buckle to its belt. Alongside delicious vegan eats it will now be showcasing an entirely liquor-free mocktail range served in a bar right above the existing restaurant.

While ‘Virgin Mojito’ and ‘Safe Sex on the Beach’ are decidedly not the most glamorous of names, the concept of alcohol-free cocktails is definitely making a comeback.

No longer recalling memories of the teenage jealousy felt when sipping a rum-free pina colada while surrounded by adults swigging the real deal, mocktails are becoming appealing in their own right.
Going alcohol-free is the sweeping new craze, marching hand in hand with the increasingly popular tendency to prioritise nutritious wholefoods over fatty snacks and Burger King wraps. Health considerations have definitely entered the mix, and it is now acceptable to say no to alcohol on a night out. Increased knowledge and interest in nutrition has revealed the health risks of consuming alcohol, not to mention the added inches to your waistline.

Alongside a confidently growing trend of serving mock meats—illustrated most strikingly by thriving new café ‘Suzy Spoons’, Newtown’s own ‘Vegetarian Butcher’— mock booze is also making a name for itself. Alcohol, just like meat, is being made redundant. While vegetarian and vegan dishes are now elevated to a new sought-after standard and feature increasingly on classy restaurant’s menus and popular cooking shows, mocktails are also making the shift from the second-hand drink of envious adolescents and Mormons to a progressively fashionable beverage pick.

The mocktail bar will be run by volunteers and operate on the same pay-as-you-feel concept as its sister restaurant.

Home to all things new and weird, it is also in Newtown that Sydney’s first alcohol-free bar will take root. The King St branch of Melbourne-based Lentil As Anything, the vegetarian restaurant chain famous for its pay-as-you-feel concept, is giving the mocktail craze a Sydney home.

Lentil As Anything Founder Shanaka Fernando writes ecstatically about the launch: ‘THE FUTURE IS HERE!’ He sees alcohol-related violence as a ‘symptom of a greater problem’, that is ‘our inability to harness the vitality of youth in a manner that validates the passion and uniqueness of every young person’.

‘We envisage that young people will be shown that it is possible to go out and give wings to the wild person within all of us without an alcoholic drink in hand,” he says.

Lentil’s mocktail bar will set up shop on the first floor of the Newtown restaurant and surely become a popular hang out spot for Sydney youngsters, community members and potentially for recovering alcoholics.

With recent liquor-fuelled attacks forcing Australian laws to tighten around alcohol consumption earlier this year, there has never been a better time for an alternative to the Sydney drinking scene to open its doors. The bar is the first of its kind in Sydney, other options have till now been limited to mobile mocktail bars for hire at private events.

While Lentil’s food menu proves how sumptuous meat-free eats can be, its mocktail selection will reveal the satisfactory pleasures of sipping fruity alcohol-free drinks. Especially since new and stylish soft selections are a far cry from sickly-sweet juice mixes the term ‘non-alcoholic cocktail’ customarily brings to mind. With bartenders becoming ‘mixologists’ and far more choices of flavours than apple and orange juice, there is now a wealth of options when both creating and savouring liquor-free creations.

Everything from freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices to herb-infused syrups and spices now serve to jazz up the common mocktail, going far further than simply providing non-alcoholic alternatives to popular cocktails. Armed with much more than a soda gun and a couple lime wedges, bartenders are likely to create an entire menu of mocktails expected to surpass till now popular favourites.

One of these is Daniel Hollen, chief mixologist and the man responsible for designing Lentil’s mocktail menu. The range of drinks will be based on Hollen’s own specially-crafted syrups, with flavours so far including lime and rosemary, kumquat, plum and pepper, and agave-soaked pear with ginger.

Conceived by NSW Manager Matthew Pettit, the mocktail bar idea suits his future vision of Lentil as ‘not just a place to eat’ but a space where ‘the community can be as creative as they want, be that through music, through art’ or through the truly novel concept of sober Friday-night drinks.

Community response to Lentil As Anything opening its doors in Newtown has been overwhelmingly positive, and Pettit has found Sydney customers far more generous than those down in Melbourne. A fact which has enabled the organisation to move from a temporary rented space to their permanent home at 391 King St and to pursue its subsequent projects including the mocktail bar incentive.

Espousing the Lentil concept, the mocktail bar will be run by volunteers and operate on the same pay-as-you-feel concept as its sister restaurant. The bar aims to fit Lentil’s community ethos by serving as a neighbourhood hub, a wholesome spot for young people to mingle and enjoy a night out free of the next-day hangover, and a platform for musicians, comedians and artists to showcase their talents.

Eager to make sure that ‘Lentil in Sydney has a unique Sydney identity’, Pettit states that Lentil’s future projects will be driven by what the community needs and wants. And indeed with one-punch violence in the city, locals have surely been eagerly searching for an alternative to boozy and blurry weekend nights out.

The opening of Lentil’s mocktail bar will assuredly provoke the same buzz as that of any hip new bar, but one that will leave you clearheaded and fit to drive home.

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