Is cocktail culture losing its buzz? Last fall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that bartenders were mixing up a host of cocktails with a lower alcohol content -- drinkers are looking for beverages with fewer calories, and a lower alcohol level also means patrons can consume more without fear of the breathalyzer. The trick behind many of these cocktails? Fortified wines, which are substituted for stronger spirits.
Last week, Grub Street SF dug a bit deeper into the world of low-alcohol beverages by tasting an array of lower-alcohol spirits made without distillation. After sampling fermented vodka and agave wine (think tequila, but instead it hovers around the ABV limit for wine), they proclaimed themselves impressed with the flavor -- and the added benefits. ("You've got yourself a decent drink that, after a half dozen or so, will have your college-age cousin buzzed but not barfing," was one enthusiastic response.)
The trend carries over into alcohol levels in wine. In a market reversal, California vintners are pulling back after years of producing juicy, high-alcohol wines, writes ZesterDaily. NPR reports that Kutch Wines and Vineyards owner, Jamie Kutch, is lowering the alcohol content of his winery's pinot noir to balance our the flavors -- and also prevent people from falling asleep on the couch after dinner.
Though these low-alcohol drinks may be growing slightly in popularity and distribution, they are far from mainstream -- particularly in the realm of beer: The Sunday Times tried to find to find moderate-alcohol beer in London and struggled due to "low demand." Colorado actually banned the sale of low alcohol beers in bars, albeit for complicated political reasons (and legislators are working to overturn the bizarre measure).
As with most matters booze-related, it's largely a matter of preference. But if you like your cocktails on the lighter side, it's nice to know you have options.