[From April Issue 2013]
Alcohol-free drinks are now a firm fixture in Japan because they don’t give you a hangover and, by consuming them, those who have a low tolerance for alcohol don’t have to be afraid of ruining the atmosphere at boozy get-togethers. The reason why alcohol-free drinks are now so popular is that the police are now monitoring drivers more carefully after an increase in drink driving accidents. In addition, the youth of today doesn’t tend to drink as much.
Available in Japan for a long time, non-alcoholic drinks can be found in places serving food and drink. KAWAI Yasuyuki, the PR representative of Reins International, a company that operates a chain of yakiniku (barbecue) restaurants called “Gyu-kaku” and a chain of pubs, says, “There has been a certain level of demand from those who are driving and from those who can’t drink alcohol. There are also those for whom the last glass is non-alcoholic.”
NAGAI Jean Marks Norihiko, Director of the Alcohol-free Cocktail Association, says, “Drinks like oolong tea have always been available in bars and have been the beverage of choice for non-drinkers. Because it’s so apparent that they’re not alcoholic drinks, I’ve often observed that they spoil the atmosphere.”
Alcohol-free cocktails look as if they contain alcohol. There is now a wider selection of alcohol-free cocktails, especially alcohol-free cocktails with interesting flavor combinations. In recent years, the range of alcohol-free drinks available has expanded to include beer, shouchuu (a kind of Japanese liquor) and umeshu (plum wine).
This trend has delighted non-Japanese, too. Hariom SINGH from India often orders alcohol-free beer and says, “Good alcohol-free drinks are very welcome.” Many people from India and the Middle East cannot drink alcohol for religious reasons. Other people prefer alcohol-free drinks because they are more conscious of health issues, a trend that has not just occurred in Japan, but all over the world.
With more alcohol-free drinks available, people are no longer ordering non-alcoholic drinks because they have no other choice; rather they’re ordering them because they really want to drink them.
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi