Cocktail lovers often want to taste the alcohol in their drink and prefer their libations to be spirit-forward.
But someone who really appreciates a well-crafted cocktail isn’t necessarily so discerning about only wanting a boozy drink. Because of this, low-proof cocktails are having a major moment behind the bar.
Low ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks can open a whole new world of cocktail wonderment. And Andrea Hoover, beverage director for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, is a leader in the low-proof movement. At 30-years-old, Hoover oversees 36 restaurants under 17 different concepts with locations in 13 states, including the group’s national Ocean Prime brand. It is estimated that her work reaches more than 2.8 million restaurant patrons a year.
Originally from Bexley, Ohio, Hoover is at home behind the bar or in a lab setting while she does R&D on new cocktails, which is exactly what she’s always wanted to do. “I wanted to be in the hospitality business since I was five or six,” she says. “I’ve always loved cooking, entertaining and making people feel good.” We chatted with Hoover about the current low proof cocktail trend and how to create a perfectly-balanced, low ABV libation.
Why do you think low proof cocktails are popular?
Low proof cocktails are popular because they provide people with additional options. Some people enjoy them because they have less alcohol, some may enjoy them because they could potentially have less calories, as well. I also think that lower proof cocktails challenge mixologists to integrate flavor layers in different manners than through spirit.
What’s the secret to a good low ABV cocktail?
I think a great low ABV cocktail displays subtle complexity, great texture, inviting aromas and a visually-appealing aesthetic.
Do you ever use a high proof spirit like gin in small quantities when making a low proof drink?
For sure. I love to utilize our chamomile gin to provide a little texture and backbone to some. I’ve also played with seasonal ryes in amaro-based cocktails, which are still low ABV and delicious.
People often want to get healthy after the holidays. Is drinking a low proof cocktail a good way to do that?
The Mimosa is the ultimate low ABV [drink]! What better way to enjoy New Year’s Day than to imbibe in a mouthwatering, fresh, citrus-forward, low ABV cocktail that makes you feel like you are becoming healthier with each sip?
What is the best tool when making low ABV drinks?
Saline, without a doubt. But I also think that remains true for any cocktail. Another favorite ingredient of mine for a traditional low ABV [drink] is Lillet Blanc. It offers a great base with a lot of flavor layers that can be taken in several directions of taste.
What’s the biggest misconception about low ABV drinks?
That they are not as interesting or complex as traditional cocktails.
You work for some very notable fine dining restaurants. How do low ABV drinks pair with food as opposed to wine or cocktails?
I think that low ABV drinks are awesome to pair with food, depending on the ingredients. However, I really enjoy integrating low ABV drinks into the dining experience as an amuse bouche or intermezzo/palate cleanser. They’re also great for welcome cocktails.
You Had Me at Hello
Served at Lincoln Social Rooftop in Columbus, OH
- 1.5 oz. Lillet Blanc
- .25 oz. Chareau Aloe Liqueur
- .25 oz. Peach-Infused Ancho Reyes Verde Liqueur
- .25 oz. Fresh-Squeezed Lemon Juice
- .25 oz. Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice
- 5 drops Saline Solution
Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a small mixing tin. Fill the larger mixing tin to the top with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass and garnish with a lipstick print.