The mindfulness revolution has come for your cocktail.
Millennials and Gen Z are drinking less. Movements like Club SODA NYC (Sober or Debating Abstinence) ask, “what if it was cooler not to drink?” Beer sales are down and low and no-alcohol drink menus are popping up at restaurants coast to coast. But what’s driving this shift in behavior?
The mindfulness revolution is in full swing. We’re pursuing wellness and self-care, clean eating and exercising. When your daily routine involves rising early for mushroom coffee, meditation, and spin class, who has time for a hangover? The Whole30 diet eschews alcohol completely, and drink options are limited if you’re eating paleo, keto, or gluten free.
Under the constant surveillance of social media, we’re all trying to live our best lives: hip, worldly, fit — and definitely not sloppy drunk. What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. No one wants a mortifying moment memorialized in IG. Instead we crave self-control, projecting curated images of ourselves and our environment.
Meanwhile, Millennials earn less, have more debt and lower net worth than their parents did at the same age. Tethered to our smartphones amidst this economic reality, many Millennials feel driven to be focused and productive 24/7. Where getting drunk used to be an escape, for many it’s now a distraction.
However, alcohol occasions haven’t evaporated. We’re still dating, celebrating, hosting house parties and going out on the town. The constancy of our digital lives only intensifies the desire for deeper connection and shared experience. If drinking is all about image, experience, and enjoyment, then the alcohol is secondary. A new cadre of alternatives are emerging to prove just this, from low-alcohol beers to zero-proof spirits. Here are five no-proof beverages that make sobriety sexy:
Coca-Cola’s stealth entry promises “all the spirit without the spirits.” Bar None achieves approachability by leveraging existing frames of reference in both format and flavor with classic cocktails like Bellini Spritz and Ginger Mule in familiar 12oz amber bottles. Tasty and sweet, they’re easy to drink straight, but those watching their sugar intake may be deterred. Bar None represents a “do no harm” approach: you won’t get drunk, but you won’t necessarily feel any more virtuous than if you’d downed a soda.
Perhaps the battle cry of the #sobercurious movement, Kin “believes in a night where social isn’t sinful and self-care doesn’t stop at sunset.” However, Kin aspires to provide an alternatively altered state through bliss-enhancing euphorics. It’s powerful blend of adaptogens, nootropics, and botanics results in a warning label advising against consumption by anyone pregnant or under 18, making us feel a little naughty even if it’s nice.
New age soft drinks like Casamara Club and Bitter Love give us something else to sip when we’re avoiding booze — or traditional sugary alternatives like soda. Carbonated and slightly bitter, they’re meant to be enjoyed alone or as a mixer, with food or without, at night or during the day. We’re especially enamored of these options when we’ve grown bored of sparkling water. LaCroix fatigue, anyone?
“Bold not boozy,” Curious Elixirs are positioned as complex booze-free cocktails handmade with real food. Curious Elixirs not only replace your traditional cocktail, but purport to enhance wellbeing with functional superfood and adaptogenic ingredients. The obscure flavor nomenclature (“No. 1” and “No. 2”) lend an in-crowd-only vibe but are a bit esoteric and obtuse. We also hear they’re great as mixers with actual spirits, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Seedlip & Aecorn
In elegant bottles worthy of any top shelf or bar cart, Seedlip claims its place as “the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit.” Inspired by medicinal tinctures from the 1600s and available in three botanical varieties, Seedlip is meant to replace gin or other spirits in traditional cocktails rather than be drunken neat. We’re also looking forward to Aecorn, a line of non-alcoholic aperitifs being introduced by the makers of Seedlip in early 2019.
A booze free bar in NYC, Listen Bar embodies the possibilities of a non-alcoholic world. Cocktails featuring Seedlip, Kin, Curious, kombucha and CBD among other delectable ingredients prove as elevated and complex as any boozy counterpart. By creating a social environment that avoids alcohol but compromises nothing else, Listen Bar normalizes not drinking and brings like-minded people together.
Despite the strong cultural headwinds and bevy of non-alcoholic options, we can’t help but ask ourselves — is this a trend, a fad or a truth? Is this just a drawn out dry January, or an enduring generational shift in behavior? With the passage of the Farm Bill and continuing state-level legalization of marijuana, do THC and CBD pose yet another threat to alcohol’s market share? We’d love to hear what you think. Get in touch.