NoLo beverage biz offers 'a party without the hangover'
ASHEVILLE - Bars and restaurants are revising their beverage menus, and it’s enriching the social experience for their guests.
Asheville resident Jason Pedrick is taking a lead to show how variety and open-mindedness can pay off for the customer and the business.
Pedrick is the founder of NoLo, an online bottle shop and distributor of nonalcoholic beverages, based in the city. NoLo makes it easier for people in recovery, the “sober-curious,” and those wanting to cut back on alcohol for health, fitness or other reasons to go out with friends without the awkwardness, he said.
“My goal is not to say that alcohol is bad, but a lot of people do find enjoyment cutting back,” Pedrick said. “All of these products not only have that health benefit but they’re significantly less in calories. The nonalcoholic beers typically have about half the calories and carbs of a normal beer.”
NoLo sells nonalcoholic beverages that are available for local delivery or pick-up, nationwide shipping via online ordering, and wholesale distribution to local restaurants and bars. The inventory includes tequila, gin, whiskey, bourbon, rum, beer and wine made to capture the taste of the drink but without the alcoholic content.
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NoLo creates a diversity in choice and inclusion for all to provide the same options as those consuming alcohol. The distributor aims to make it easier for customers and clients to access the products.
Thirsty for more
One of Pedrick's missions is to increase options for customers who want an adult beverage but without the adverse effects.
“It’s been a big hit. A lot of our clients are doubling their orders and increasing their frequency of purchase, which is really exciting for me to see,” Pedrick said.
Haywood Common, a restaurant in West Asheville, added several of NoLo's brands and a signature mocktail using the products to expand its nonalcoholic bar menu.
“It’s the coolest addition we’ve made in a while,” owner Hannah Starr said. “They have allowed like half of our cocktail menu to have a nonalcoholic conversion, which is really cool.”
The recent change is in response to the growing demand from customers, and other local establishments are seeing more customers asking for higher-end nonalcoholic options, too, she said.
“We’ve had a whole range of customers who’ve come in who don’t drink or are conscientious of how much they drink," Starr said.
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The mocktails appeal to adults, as well as customers under 21, she said.
"People are asking for it. People want it," Starr said. "Whether you're using it as a break in between your consumption or if you're using it as a full replacement, I think it helps you extend your experience and be able to go on longer. I think people recognize the health benefits of not drinking as much alcohol, and it'd be great being able to have all those options available."
While many establishments are upping their inventory of mocktails and adding nonalcoholic spirits to their bars, it’s still difficult to convince some others that there is a customer demographic for the products, Pedrick said.
“There plenty that think it’s a joke and think, ‘Why would I waste my time on something like this? Nobody orders it.’” Pedrick said. “Well, nobody orders it because it’s not on your menu.”
Those who’ve come around to offer it to guests are “blown away” by the response from residents and tourists, Pedrick said.
“As soon as they have one of these cocktails they realize, ‘That tastes like the real thing. That scratches the itch that I have without the booze,’” Pedrick said. “Then they have that light bulb moment where they realize, 'Wait a second, I don’t need to drink the alcohol. I can still have this … but without the negative effects of the alcohol.'”
In 2011, Pedrick stopped drinking at the age of 25. He was living in New York City and drinking was a major part of his social life.
“It made it challenging to meet people and make friends and even date because so much of what people did out there involved consuming alcohol,” Pedrick said.
Two years ago, Pedrick moved to Asheville and was ready to meet new people.
“I was able to get back out there socially and not be this guy clutching a Shirley Temple,” he said.
Ten years since his decision to give up alcohol, Pedrick has noticed a boom of nonalcoholic beer, wine and spirits on the market and found they were better quality than what he’d known.
“They’re making their way into the mainstream, sort of cultural conscious," he said. "That inspired me in a number of different ways, but most importantly it finally made it a lot easier for me to finally get back out there socially and hang out with my friends who do drink and enjoy an adult beverage without the booze. It was freeing for me.”
What people may be pleasantly surprised to find out is the similarity of the taste, he said.
“Most of them are typically blends of different herbs and spices that mimic the taste and the mouth-feel of the spirit that they’re trying to immolate,” Pedrick said. “Tequila will have things like capsaicin in them to mimic that burn that you get from taking a shot of tequila.”
Athletic Brewing Co. permits fermentation during the brewing so that the product has the essence of a traditional beer, but alcohol isn’t created from the process, he said.
“They’re making traditional wines in the exact way you would make wine but removing the alcohol very carefully using a process called vacuum distillation,” Pedrick said.
Spiritless Kentucky 74 is a brand that makes bourbon that’s distilled in barrels, then the alcohol is removed afterward, too, he said.
“It smells and tastes exactly like the real thing because it is the real thing,” he said.
The similarities make it easier to swap out the drink in a cocktail without sacrificing the flavor profiles, he said.
Pedrick offers the establishments recipes for signature mocktails that showcase the product to add to their menu.
At Haywood Common, customers may order the Appalachian Collins, made with Monday Gin, rosemary lavender syrup and the locally produced Devil’s Foot ginger beer.
Monday Gin is described as a “complex, aromatic blend of juniper, natural botanicals, citrus, and spices that satisfies like a classic London Dry.”
The Monday brand features whiskey and mezcal variations, too.
Mountain Madre offers a Blackberry Smoke Margarita, made with Monday Mezcal Tequila, fresh blackberries and lime juice.
The products present a mature way of drinking that doesn't make a person feel isolated, Pedrick said.
“It allows people to have a dignified drink that’s not super sugary," Starr said. "It really broadens the options for our clientele to be able to experience high-end drinking without having to consume alcohol.”
View NoLo's online bottle shop at heynolo.com.
NoLo will be hosting a pop-up and offering samples on May 22 and June 26 at the Uncommon Market at 1 Foundy St. in River Arts District.
Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.