Nicole Klauss has made it her mission to improve options for people seeking out low-to-no alcohol drinks. After years in which cola drinks or mineral water were often her only choices at restaurants, she decided to further explore and increase awareness of this issue by writing about it. First, she started her German language blog, lokalverstärkung, in 2011. Since that time, she authored her first book, Die Neue Trinkkultur (The New Drinking Culture), and has a second book coming out this fall.
I recently caught up with Nicole to learn more about her new book. We also talked about how she approaches food and drink pairing in the absence of alcohol.
An Intolerance to Alcohol
Numerous reasons exist for why people avoid drinking alcohol these days, whether for religious reasons, health concerns, addiction and more. For Nicole Klauss, around the age of 18 years, she made the decision to drastically reduce her alcohol consumption. Being half-Japanese, she discovered that she has a deficiency in the enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (also known as ALDH2), a condition that affects a number of East Asians. It causes her face to become red after drinking alcoholic beverages, and she feels discomfort and nauseous.
Her body’s intolerance to alcohol may have prevented her from imbibing. However, it didn’t stop her from wanting to learn more about it. Working in the food and beverage industry, Nicole decided to pursue the training necessary to become a certified wine sommelier. Although, the birth of her two children caused her to focus even more on non-alcoholic beverages, as she gave up alcohol entirely during her pregnancies. Her desire to broaden the selection of no-to-low alcohol beverages eventually led her to become an expert in this field, with an emphasis on food pairing.
Die Neue Trinkkultur – The New Drinking Culture
More than a decade after she started her blog, this former journalist decided to take what she had learned about no-to-low alcohol beverages and package it in a helpful guidebook for others. In Die Neue Trinkkultur, Nicole provides her readers with drink recipes and advice for food pairings. With an emphasis on teas, juice, kombucha and more, she doesn’t include recommendations for beer and wine sans alcohol. She describes them in the book as the “air guitar” of beverages. They appear to offer a known experience, while not actually having the flavor profile behind it to back up its name.
Nicole told me that when she thinks about food pairings, her approach involves three different types of assessment. The first is “companion.” She wants the drink to be a good fit for a dish, without overwhelming how it tastes. Second, she looks for a “contrast.” This means she might pair a curry with a drink that has coriander leaves. The fresh, herbal taste of the leaves partner well with the spices of the curry, according to Nicole. Finally, she wants non-alcoholic pairings to “enhance” the flavors of the dish. For example, she finds that hot tea helps to highlight the taste of a blue Roquefort cheese.
Alkoholfrei – Designed for Professionals
After Nicole wrote her first book for people drinking and eating at home, she designed her second book for food industry professionals. Alkoholfrei, also written in German, has an estimated launch date of fall 2023. Intended for sommeliers and restauranteurs, she wants to change the culture of dining out to incorporate the needs of people who seek out no-to-low alcohol drinks.
What’s in her new book? You’ll find approximately 40 drink recipes to choose from, along with tips for food pairings. Overall, she writes about how these drinks are made, what they taste like and what to serve them with. Just as you may select a special wine glass for a particular wine, she’ll tell you which cup shapes work best for different types of tea. It’s her goal to once again create a practical guide, this time helping restaurants better serve their clients’ diverse needs.
No-to-Low Alcohol Drinking in Switzerland
Nicole is based in Berlin, but she travels to Switzerland for various workshops and speaking engagements. The publisher of her second book, At Verlag is also located in Aarau, Switzerland. As a result, she has some Swiss suggestions for good no-to-low alcohol drink options, such as:
- Cocoa fruit juice, KOA Impact
- Swiss Highland naturally ONI, SI-OFF Seebrise and SI-OFF Waldrauschen from Distillery Studer
- Kandt Tonic Water
- GENTS Swiss Root Tonic Water
- LAIN&FÜM from Edition Dunkel
In terms of Swiss restaurants and bars that offer good no-to-low alcohol options, Nicole recommends:
- Memories at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
- Blaupause Bar and Herz Cocktailbar in Basel
- Du Bourg in Biel / Bienne
- Maison Manesse in Zürich
- Restaurant Now in ZürichF
Alkoholfreie Jam-Session – As part of Konomi, the festival of Japanese flavors, Nicole will be hosting an “Alkoholfreie Jam-Session” in Basel on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, from 18:00 to 20:00 (SOLD OUT). This will event will take place at the Blaupause Bar (Utengasse 28). She’ll be talking about tea, fermented drinks, the importance of salt and much more.
For more information:
- Nicole Klauss, Die Neue Trinkkultur (website)
- Die Neue Trinkkultur : Speisen perfekt begleiten ohne Alkohol (2019). Piper.
- Alkoholfrei (anticipated fall 2023). At Verlag.