WATCH: No booze, all the flavour: Inside Ireland’s first non-alcoholic bar
THERE'S a new bar in town and unlike every other pub in Ireland, there's not a drop of alcohol in sight.
The Virgin Mary, opening tomorrow on Capel Street, is the brainchild of veteran drinks experts Vaughan Yates and his business partner Oisin Davis.
Inside, the decor - inspired by a "Dutch pharmacy" - is akin to many high-end bars popping up around the capital. There's wine, beer, cocktails and even champagne on the menu - but without the booze.
The bar is a risk for a country known for its drinking culture, but Yates believes that there's no time like the present for a non-alcoholic bar.
"The idea came from the fact that I think we’re at the beginning of a cultural shift in terms of people’s attitudes towards alcohol," Yates told Independent.ie.
"Timing, people’s change to how they moderate what they drink, and the new products that have come out onto the market have made it possible to do this.
"I love spirits, I like drinking good whiskeys and rums, but I did feel there was something missing in the market for people that don’t drink. I really wanted to open it in Dublin, because I think Dublin has this ingrained culture of drinking."
But with such a long-term culture, is Ireland ready to embrace the bar experience without the booze?
"I think it will be interesting to see if it works here. If it works here, it’ll work anywhere," Yates says.
"I think Irish people are more open than a lot of cultures. If you look at the changes in laws here, referendums- it’s a reflection of that.
"People are saying, ‘finally, a place for me’, and I hope we get people in that want to experience something new."
The team have even received support from Waterford Crystal, who have supplied a number of champagne flutes "inspired by Marie Antoinette", Yates says.
And while there are pop-up 'sober' events happening constantly across the country, the team behind The Virgin Mary believe this may possibly be the first full-time, non-alcoholic bar in the world.
"It is something really new. I’m not sure there's any in the world that don’t have alcohol. It’s difficult to monitor because you get people that say they’re opening a non-alcoholic bar, but it’s just on a Friday. Or a ‘sober Sunday’.
"This is a non-alcoholic bar, open all year round, and I think it’s one of the first, certainly high-end bar.
"There are a few good hotels around the world that spend as much time on non-alcoholic menus as they do on alcohol menus, and we felt we wanted to really bring to Ireland a whole different spectrum of flavours and textures in the non-alcoholic category."
The two-page menu features eight non-alcoholic beers, the "equivalent of a champagne", non-alcoholic wines, as well as cocktails mastered by head bar manager, Anna Walsh.
Walsh, who has over 15 years in the hospitality industry and "10 years working with cocktails", said the difficulty with creating the menu came from "finding the texture that alcohol usually gives that lifts a drink up".
"Trying to create drinks like this G&T, which has quite a bit of body with no booze. That’s where the challenge is, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just drinking lemonade," Ms Walsh told Independent.ie.
"There isn’t another bar like this so I’m just figuring it out bit by bit."
Price-wise, cocktails - which include their namesake, espresso martinis and cosmo-style drinks- span from €7-€8, with beers and wines costing €4.50-€5.50.
"It's a cheaper price point than the equivalent high-end bar, where you might pay €12 for a G&T- here you pay €6.50," Mr Yates said.
"They may not have alcohol but it’s more complicated to make non-alcoholic beers and wines.
"We've a mix of Irish and brands from European countries. Guinness do Pure Brew, moving into non-alcoholic sector, but we have beers from York, Scotland, Holland. Our wines are from traditional wine-making countries."
A Chilled Raven Nitro Coffee, poured from a stout tap, is enough to give Guinness a run for their money with a creamy head and a hint of coffee.
While a botanical gin and tonic, made from Ceder's distilled non-alcoholic gin, is served in a typical goblet glass that drinkers have come to love - and it has the authentic taste down too.
As for whether they plan on opening more around the country - around the world - Yates says: "Watch this space- we've already been approached.
"I think this will go further afield."
The Virgin Mary opens at 54 Capel Street in Dublin on Friday May 10.