Food & wine
Sankt Gallenkirch: – The go-to place for good cocktails and non-alcoholic gin
In a bar in the beautiful Alpine village of Sankt Gallenkirch in Austria, bartender Filip Schulz is making a drink with non-alcoholic gin. "Guests are surprised by how good it is," he says with a smile.
"More and more people want non-alcoholic drinks," says the bartender.
He is standing behind the bar at REVIER Mountain Lodge Montafon in Austria. Besides being right by a gondola that takes you straight up to the Alps, the hotel also specialises in something you don't immediately associate with après-ski parties – non-alcoholic gin.
"If the drink is well mixed and shaken and has fresh herbs, you'll be surprised at how good it is. Even regulars don't taste the difference between a gin with or without alcohol," says Philip.
"Since the pandemic, more and more people want non-alcoholic drinks, both because they contain less sugar and since they are thinking more about their health, but also because they are actually just as good."
The hotel in Austria has taken the trend seriously and its non-alcoholic gin has become a big hit.
The striking nature of the Montafon Valley
Filip is from the Czech Republic and has a background as a coffee barista. But when coffee was no longer enough of a challenge, he switched to experimenting with cocktails. He got a job in a renowned bar in Slovakia, and after a few years there he moved to Austria. Today, he's behind the bar of a hotel located in the village of Sankt Gallenkirch in the Montafon Valley in Vorarlberg, Austria.
Just outside the building's entrance, the gondola runs straight up to majestic mountain peaks. In summer, it is green in every direction, horses graze, and there are trails in the valley that is home to colourful flowers and small lakes. At this time of year, hiking and mountain biking are the most popular activities in the area.
"I think it's a little different working here than at other bars I've been in. Here, the hotel is right by the gondola - so guests can be taken straight up into the Alps, right on the mountain, and it's really cool," says Filip.
"In winter, of course, skiing and snowboarding draw people, and tourists come here for a good cocktail or beer after hitting the slopes. So, I make drinks all day long in the winter," he says with a laugh.
The Montafon Valley is of course best known for its beautiful scenery and alpine landscape during the cold time of the year, with ski resorts suitable for both beginners and experienced skiers.
"But Sankt Gallenkirch is on its way to becoming a summer destination as well," Philip points out.
"The gondola is also running in the summer, so it's really nice to go hiking and climbing in the mountains and you can bring bikes in the lifts.
Alcohol-free for a gin and tonic lover?
Among the guests who have made the trip to the Montafon Valley in July is a family from Norway. They are on a road trip through Europe and have made a two-day stop to hike in the mountains. Sebastian, the father in the family, is sitting at the bar ready to sample the non-alcoholic gin he's heard so much about.
He's very sceptical. Gin should taste like gin, he believes.
"It actually tastes good. I may miss the sharp taste a little, but it's fresh," says Sebastian.
Filip has made a classic gin and tonic, or rather a non-alcoholic gin and tonic.
"I think it's really good. And I could actually go for alcohol-free rather than a regular drink," says Sebastian's fiancé Silje.
They have just spent the day hiking in the Alps together with their 10-year-old daughter. After a day spent outdoors in nature, they agree that it feels more refreshing and healthier to sip an alcohol-free drink.
"I'm still going to choose a regular GT, but alcohol-free is a better if you've been out the night before, and a good option if you're going to drive," says Sebastian.
What is non-alcoholic gin?
It is precisely this demand that Revier Mountain Lodge Montafon took seriously. More and more people wanted a drink in their hand, but also to wake up fresh the next day in order to make the most of a long day in the mountains.
"I don't actually drink alcohol anymore, there's been too much alcohol throughout my career in this profession," says Filip with a smile.
"And that's why I also think it's fun to experiment with alcohol-free drinks and it's exciting that the hotel is focusing on them. All drinks can of course be made alcohol-free, you just change the recipe a little based on what people want."
Non-alcoholic gin is made using various plant-based ingredients, herbs, spices, and extracts commonly found in gin – such as juniper berries, coriander seeds, and citrus. However, these ingredients are processed in a way that removes the alcohol from the mixture while retaining the flavour and aroma.
"My best tip is that if you use 4 cl of gin in your drink, you should use 6 cl of non-alcoholic gin."
The drink can be enjoyed in the same way as regular gin, for example, as a gin and tonic, for mixed with fresh juices or herbs.
Two great drink tips from Filip:
1: Non-alcoholic gin basil smash
Non-alcoholic gin (6 cl)
Shake well, use good ice cubes
2: Non-alcoholic gin and tonic
Non-alcoholic gin (6 cl)
Dry tonic water Cucumber