When you think of a night out in our city, most people will picture the hectic bars on the seafront, with drunk students spilling out onto the streets... But a new player on the scene hopes to shake things up. Torstigbar, situated just next to Brighton fave The Queery, is the area's first low-alcohol bar and bottle shop. With booze consumption across the UK on a steady decline, especially among Gen Z, you don’t need a degree in hospitality to answer the question, why now? And as a minimally-drinking sis myself, I was more than happy to stroll over for a visit.
The interiors of Torstigbar (which means thirsty in Danish, don’t ya know) were minimalist and trendy. It boasted casual seating and and centrepiece bar, as well as tasteful lighting which seemed to get appropriately lower and more intimate as the evening went on - although by the end anyone over the age of 25 might find it a teeny bit too dark.
My friend and I both decided to begin by knocking back a cocktail. She went for the Almind (£8), a Cherry Bakewell-esque concoction involving Lyres Amaretti and cherry juice, while I decided on the Pride Month special, Lov (also £8), which promised to be ‘peachy with a punch’. Both were a lovely start to the evening, mine having the added surprise of popping candy.
Next, we eyed up the extensive collection of tinned beers, cocktails and other novel-looking delights. I recognised a few, mostly from the beer section, but the vast majority were new to me. Honestly, the bar is worth visiting just to see how many no-and-low alcoholic drinks you can buy these days. Prices ranged from £2.50 to £4.50, the upper end including ‘mood-enhancing’ offerings, such as those laced with CBD, and a £2 surcharge is added if you drink them on site.
On this occasion, we decided to plough on with another two cocktails. I sipped on my all-time favourite tipple (even if it does mean I’m basic), the piña colada, here called a Helligso (£8). Meanwhile, my amiga went for a Lokken (£8). A booze-free spin on the classic clover club, it married Sea Arch, a botanical ‘gin’ spirit, and Three Spirits Livener, an energising tipple alternative made from guava leaf, with aromatics and berries.
The bar has ties with nearby vegan pizzeria Purezza, where you can order freshly cooked dishes to be delivered at your table. Peckish after our drinks, we opted for a 'za each. I chomped on the four seasons (£8.50) with grilled artichokes, smoked beetroot and mushrooms, while my friend chose the pepperoni and agave (£8.50) a spicier option topped using green chillies and plant-based ‘pepperoni’. They came quickly and, possibly helped by the very low lighting situation by this point, I don’t think I’d have known they were vegan - in a good way.
After trying a couple more interesting cocktails, and before heading off for the night, we were lucky enough to try a variety of Torstigbar’s wines. Neither of us had sampled any low-alcohol wines before – to be honest, I’d not had much interest in them – but we were very pleasantly surprised. We sipped a white, red and rosé, (all £6 for a 175ml glass). As a primarily white-drinker, I really was amazed at how close to its alcoholic equivalent the shiraz was. I’m clearly no expert, but I presume the trick is in the fact the wines are dealcoholized as opposed to made to be non-alcoholic in the first place. For tee-totalisers, this isn’t ideal, as 0.5% proof remains, but for those who just want to cut down on our nation’s favourite life-limiting poison, it’s a great option that I’d say is 100% worth a try.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Torstigbar is such a positive addition to the area. It’s far more inclusive than your average pub or bar, and there are so many drinks that you probably won’t have heard of before, let alone tried. Topping it off was the scrumptious selection of vegan pizzas you can order from Purezza which paired with the non-alcoholic tipples perfectly. Although the best bit was waking up the next day with a lovely fresh and painless head.
💰 The damage: £65 for two.
📍 The location: 45 George Street, Kemptown, BN2 1RJ.
👌 Perfect for: A romantic rendevous or catch-up with friends sipping mocktails in Brighton.
⭐ Need to know: Leave your preconceptions at the door; the wines are worth a try.