Located on George Street, just a minutes work from St James Street, Tørstigbar opened its doors in November 2022. With a menu of exclusively no and low alcohol drinks, the venue offers a truly unique bar offering. Nick Mosley talks to co-owners Luke and Emmi Cousins about the highs and lows of their first year of trading.
There is no doubt a growing demand for no and low alcohol drinks (termed no-lo). In the UK around 20% of the adult population claim to be teetotal, although interestingly it’s younger people driving that number. A survey in late 2022 revealed 35% of men and 42% of women aged between 16-24 years old either did not drink at all or hadn’t had an alcoholic drink for at least three months.
Whilst those statistics are clearly a boon for the nation’s heath and wider society, its a challenge for the bottom line of spirit producers and hospitality businesses with the solution being the ever increasing number of no-lo beers, wines and ‘spirits’ that are appearing in stores and bars.
Although Brighton has seen an attempt at a no-lo bar in the past, its safe to say that it was perhaps a little before its time. But the city is leading the no-lo revolution with last year’s opening of Tørstigbar.
“Our concept was developed to solve a problem I faced when going out”, said Emmi Cousins, co-owner of Tørstigbar. “As a non-drinker I was an afterthought. The choices are extremely limited in most pubs and bars; the low alcohol options available are often low quality and a poor reflection of the amazing products in the no-lo space”.
The inspiration for their yet-to-be-opened venue came from a visit to Denmark.
“I was on a vacation in Copenhagen and was lucky enough to be introduced to an amazing local low alcohol beer”, said Emmi, “I then began to wonder whether you could curate an entire selection of high quality products to stock an entirely low/no alcohol bar. The idea for Tørstigbar was formed, and the word Tørstig is a homage to Denmark and their incredible ingenuity in the space. Tørstig means thirsty in Danish and that's how we feel. We are here to raise the bar for low alcohol drinks”.
At first sight, the location of Tørstigbar is an interesting one. The St James Street and wider Kemp Town are isn’t exactly known for its sobriety being home to some of the wilder elements of Brighton nightlife.
“The location was actually very carefully chosen to create a speakeasy setting”, said Luke Cousins. “It is close enough to the hustle and bustle of the city centre that it is easily accessible, but far enough away from stag party streets that attract large groups of people looking only to get drunk”.
“We don't have a typical customer, because we are seeing that all demographics are beginning to moderate their alcohol consumption. Aside from being a low alcohol venue, we have positioned Tørstigbar as a premium cocktail lounge, somewhere to venture for the evening and enjoy the company of your friends and family, or even meet other like minded people”.
The bar offers a surprisingly large selection of products that are available to enjoy in the venue itself or take home. There is a preconception that no-lo drinks should be cheaper than their alcoholic namesakes but in creating quality products with the right taste and mouthfeel many of these drinks go through additional processes – primarily to de-alcoholise. They are also usually small batch products meaning production unit costs are relatively higher too.
On entry there are three or four full height fridges stacked with an array of alcohol free beers and ciders in colourful cans. There’s also an interested range of ready-to-drink adult soft drinks and pre-mixed no-lo cocktails.
Of course the heart of any hospitality venue is the bar itself, with Emmi and Luke serving up a number of beers on-tap. Most notable is the Guinness 0% that is such a close match to the original that it would be hard to tell the difference.
Its the cocktail side of the bar that really excites Luke as it allows him to creatively demonstrate the versatility of the no-lo ‘spirits.
“We actually sell very few soft drinks”, said Luke. “Cocktails make up over a third of our sales. Customers can get soft drinks in regular pubs and they are tired of them, as was I. They want low alcohol drinks to be exciting and different. At Tørstigbar we put low alcohol drinks front and centre. They are no longer an afterthought”.
Without doubt, Tørstigbar is also encouraging a more social atmosphere with both Luke and Emmi noting that their guests tend to chat amongst tables. Emmi terms this as “re-learning the art of conversation” and says that they are building a genuine sense of community in the venue.
With Brighton Pride just days away and the edginess of the annual St James Street party looming, the duo are planning for a busy weekend of partygoers who want to have fun but without the desire for alcohol.
“We have our ticketed event during Pride”, said Luke. “George Street is home to the Pride Village Party and we wanted to make Tørstigbar a safe space for partygoers wishing to retreat from the chaos. The tickets are free and so accessible to all via our website, we’ve issued them simply to understand numbers of participants and how many staff to employ and stock to buy”.
Torstigbar is open Tuesday to Friday from 17.00 - 23.00 and Saturday from 13.00 - 22.00
45 George Street, Brighton BN2 1RJ
07388 446 470 • www.torstigbar.com