Melody Ansara, co-founder of the event-planning firm Identity Inc., is adamant that an alcohol-free party doesn’t have to be boring — quite the opposite. Over two decades in the business, Ansara has organized events for some of the largest law firms, telecommunications companies and retail brands in the country. When her clients request alcohol-free events — as many now do — she advises them to divert funds from their booze budget to other party elements, the kind that bring liveliness, originality and class.
First, there are the drinks themselves. A non-alcoholic refreshment needn’t consist of Coca-Cola and a lime wedge. It can include small-batch syrups, unique aromatics or homemade bitters. “Think of all the specialty ingredients you would put in a fantastic cocktail, and then make it a mocktail,” says Ansara. Today, any competent bartender will have a Rolodex of delicious virgin cocktail recipes. You can also turn to Seedlip Drinks, a U.K.-based company specializing in distilled non-alcoholic spirits, whose products can be ordered online.
Then, there’s the food. Though sommeliers are used to matching fine dining with premium wines, Ansara argues that food-beverage pairings work nicely even when the alcohol content is zero. For instance, a lobster taco goes beautifully with a cucumber-and-elderflower fizz, and a beef slider is perfect alongside a bitter julep made of chamomile and citrus zest.
Finally, even if your guests aren’t drinking, you can still get them talking. “Unconventionality is a bonus,” says Ansara. “I’m always looking for unique ideas that seem grown-up and sophisticated.” Don’t overlook the value of a fun theme. Ansara has hosted casino-themed parties with blackjack tables and dealers in bow ties, as well as bashes inspired by the Roaring ’20s, in which the security guards were dressed as if they’d stepped out of the Jazz Age. It’s also a good idea to put money into decor: drapery, flower walls, LED displays or sophisticated lighting. When the novelty quotient is that high, that becomes the centre of attention. No one will be fretting over the missing booze.
Illustration by Wenting Li