October 1, 2023


Be Inspired By Food

Drinking Dry in Dubai: At the Heart of the Middle East’s New Cocktail Culture

“We have this phrase in Italian, sfigato, which arrives to mind when just one goes into a bar and asks for a non-alcoholic drink. It interprets to ‘an unlucky person…’ but we are living in the Center East, of study course.”

So commences my dialogue with Giovanni Depergola, a mixologist who has called Dubai household for over a 10 years. As for his enthusiasm for beverages, be they alcoholic or otherwise? Palpable. Not only is he a licensed sake sommelier and Qualified Studying Facilitator from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, but he’s also the instructor of Dry Mixology and Bartending courses at the International Centre for Culinary Arts. Furthermore, Depergola co-established Alembic, a imaginative beverage company specializing in everything from the purchaser knowledge to the training of hospitality team. Pointless to say, he’s a chaotic gentleman.

“We are bartenders at the end of working day, but we like to be termed mixologists so we can demand more,” he claims with a chuckle. “I’m also an educator, so for me, education is a incredibly critical make a difference. My enthusiasm for dry mixology stems from the passion that I have for cocktails—all that showmanship, all that theatricality deserves a place in the non-alcoholic class.” As a food and beverage sector insider, Depergola claims he could not support but handle the gap in the current market. “All I noticed was carbonated drinks and canned juices, which obtained me contemplating, ‘We’re good at generating cocktails, so why not use the same flavors, the identical glassware, the exact shaking techniques to provide one thing that we are proud of?’ I wasn’t happy to provide one thing in a can with ice and a slice of lemon.”

In no time, people across Dubai (lots of for whom overall abstinence is a way of lifetime) were being engaging with his creations less than the “Cocktail Zero” category, a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages-totally free designer drinks now registered with Alembic. It is no magic formula that intake of non-alcoholic beverages is on the rise globally, but arguably, they are most favored in the Middle East, owing not only to cultural and religious facets but also a go toward a healthier lifestyle—and the pandemic has only accelerated this pattern.

Variable in the region’s effectively-documented obsession with social media, and the times of sodas and saccharine mocktails appearing on the previous website page of a menu are step by step on the way out. Now, they’re Insta-deserving and very well assumed-out and boast advanced flavors suited to the grownup palate. A closer search also reveals the use of downright unforeseen ingredients—dehydrated grapefruit, pistachio orgeat and rosemary sprigs sprayed with gold dust included. But why now? In a region exactly where non-drinkers never ever anticipated a dedicated drinks menu that caters to them, what altered? Two phrases: Drink Dry.

The UAE’s to start with and only high quality non-alcoholic beverages marketplace, Consume Dry was established by British entrepreneur Erika Doyle in December 2020, a time when we had been effectively into the pandemic and a whole lot more conscious of what we have been consuming. Her journey toward offering up alcohol, however, began six years back thanks to her want to start off a family. “There’s nothing at all improper with ingesting, but I felt so much better when I stopped. I also uncovered actually very good high-quality non-alcoholic wine in the British isles and felt like I had to notify people about it—not just pretend that I’m consuming,” she remembers. Minimize to 2019 when Doyle moved to Dubai and encountered a comprehensive deficiency of non-alcoholic drinks on supply, which prompted her to set up a a single-prevent shop for selections that are not only top quality but also higher in flavor and lower in sugar.

Her ambition didn’t come with out its challenges, although. Whilst the U.S. classifies something with an ABV of .5% or less than as alcohol-totally free, the UAE firmly maintains its stance at .%. “Overcoming the several compliance issues was unquestionably the most surprising facet of this journey,” admits Doyle. “Our solutions look like alcoholic beverages, which serves our consumers who are looking for a superbly packaged option, but the authorities have an considerable rule ebook to be certain that something that seems to be like liquor and is likely on retail cabinets is acceptable.” Continue to, she persisted, launching Consume Dry with only 5 merchandise: a beer, a glowing wine and three distilled spirits.

Now, the vary spans the likes of Bière des Amis .%, Vintense Cepages Syrah Rose, STRYYK Grain, Glen Dochus West Coast Blend and additional. But she’s just getting started—and she’s fascinated by the evolving landscape. “It was fun to see drinkers take on the Sober October obstacle and get experimental. Which is what prompted us to associate up with Giovanni. If I pick up a bottle of non-alcoholic gin, the only way I know how to consume it is a gin and tonic. You give that very same bottle to Giovanni [Depergola], and he can appear up with 20 various mocktails.”

But how does an individual in Depergola’s situation set out to understand the choices of a nation with around 200 nationalities? “The range is part of its splendor, but it comes down to one’s skill to converse with a visitor, to fully grasp not only their qualifications but also their aperitif tradition and what they get pleasure from,” points out Depergola. Engaging with people’s favourite flavor profiles, he claims, is critical. “People in the Arab entire world have a tendency to have a ‘sweet tongue,’ for case in point, and understanding that can help with our potential to adapt.” Spices also go hand in hand with regional palates. “I indicate, Arabic coffee is flavored with cardamom, which we interpret as an espresso martini with cardamom and a trace of caramel.”

The plan, he claims, is to present individuals with some thing that makes them at ease but with unforeseen things to nudge them toward making an attempt a little something new—and that is wherever the Center East’s staple components phase in. “Tea is consumed on a every day basis, so we use a stunning lapsang tea as one of our elements,” he states. By the way, the flavor profile of lapsang tea consists of hints of wood smoke, smoked paprika, pine resin and peated whiskey, building it the perfect substitute for whiskey. Dates are another company preferred. “It’s one particular of these substances that you can transform—you can use day syrup, things dates with candied lemon peel for an elevated garnish and pair day marmalade with pineapple juice.” Honey from Oman and Yemen, in the meantime, serves as a much healthier alternate to sugar.

Armed with enthusiasm and understanding, Doyle and Depergola are now participating in their respective roles in taking the zero-alcohol motion to the relaxation of the Middle East—both are presently in conversations with entities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the latter of which is dubbed the world’s most significant market place for dry mixology. “At the conclude of the day, there is great exchange going on amongst so a lot of distinctive cultures because food brings people with each other. Those people audiences are ready for experiential dining, but we however have a large amount of gaps to fill. But we’re acquiring there. Piano piano as we say in Italian. Slowly and gradually, slowy.”