Sober Curious? Why Mocktails Are a Cultural Phenomenon
The rising popularity of these handcrafted zero-proof drinks proves it's fun to be booze-free.
Dry January led to Sober October, setting a movement of moderation into motion. Mocktails, also known as no ABV (alcohol by volume) or virgin drinks, are alcohol-free options that are now moving far beyond kid-favorites like Shirley Temples, flavored sodas, and lemonade. Whether to make happy hours during pregnancy more enjoyable or to allow for more options for those who choose to abstain, these spirit-free sips are having a moment.
Why Are Mocktails Trending Now?
It’s no longer just about Dry January. As a growing number of people are tuning in to their physical and mental health (and aiming to cut back on calories or the potential headaches the next morning), they’re also trying to down fewer boozy beverages.
More than one in four Americans are seeking ways to trim down on alcohol consumption, according to Nielsen’s State of the Nation report. And sales trends confirm this shift as more than a fleeting fad: A new report from IWSR Drinks Market Analysis group found that worldwide alcohol consumption declined 1.6 percent during 2018.
Related: Our Favorite Veggie Mocktails
Kate Bee, the creator of online abstinence course The Sober School, started her mission of preaching the power of sobriety after she took her last drink in April 2013. “I'd had an unhappy relationship with alcohol for a long time,” Kate tells us. “I was repeatedly drinking more than I wanted to and it was making me miserable. I'd tried cutting back, only drinking on certain days and taking months off, but nothing ever worked for long.” More than six years since she last imbibed in alcohol, Kate says she’s spreading the word to other women because “I wish someone had told me how good—and normal!—life without alcohol could be. Alcohol is a drug, just like any other, and it’s not essential to wholesome, joyous living.”
At the same time, the sober curious movement is booming. Sober curious individuals focus on abstaining from alcohol most or all of the time, but don’t have a 100 percent strict stance on drinking. For example, someone who is sober curious will likely still imbibe with pals over happy hour, and once in a rare occasion, she may opt for a glass of rosé or ask to add a shot of spirits to her drink.
Our Favorite Options to Try at Home
With the increasing amount of options popping up at stores and online,we tried a variety of products out to see which could rival their alcoholic equals. If you’re curious about being sober curious—or want to try a no ABV drink instead of that go-to glass of wine a few nights a week—crack open one of our favorite low- and no-alcohol beverages.
Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher
An IPA-inspired hop water that brewers say tastes like “club soda with a lot of soul.” It's also got zero carbs or calories, so that's enough of a reason pick up a pack. Check the brewery's online locator for a shop that sells them near you.
Athletic Brewing Co. Run Wild
This brewery's devotion to craft beer while staying health led to the creation of the non-alcoholic Run Wild Brew, which tastes like an IPA but has less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. Check out their other brews online or order a pack of 24 through Walmart for $27.99.
O. Vine Essence Water
The skins and seeds of red or white wine grapes infuse still or sparkling water by O. Vine. So it may seem like you're drinking a fine wine, but without alcohol. Bonus: there's a good dose of antioxidants here, too.
Tea brewed like craft beer means you taste tea at the first sip and beer at the finish. Hoplark's combination of organic teas and fruit juices brewed with the hops make these a great refreshing take on gett your caffeine fix, too.
"Shaken, not slurred." This is the tagline Curious Elixirs go by with their innovative takes on booze-free cocktails filled with combinations of fruits, vegetables, and fresh spices. We particularly enjoyed Curious No. 2, a spicy concoction of organic citrus, peppers, and ginger.
Spices and botanicals distilled into nonalcoholic spirits. Keep a bottle on hand (Seedlip Garden 108, $37.50, Amazon) to splash into ginger ale or tonic water served over ice.
Bravus India Pale Ale
A blend of four hops results in earthy and fruity notes, but less than 0.5% ABV from North America's first non-alcoholic brewery. If IPA isn't your style, they've also got alcohol-free oatmeal stout and amber ales for sipping.
Hella Bitters & Soda
The go-to non-alcoholic sipper comes in a convenient pop-top can. The Dry Aromatic is unsweetened, but bursting with notes of clove, allspice, bitter root, and orange peel.
Bars and cocktail lounges all over are getting in on the no-alcohol trend and stocking their bars with these craft mixers (or their own) that are free of alcohol. That means even if you're abstaining you can have a handcrafted alcohol-free cocktail that doesn't taste like a kiddie drink. Check to see what's at your favorite establishment next time you go out for drinks (even if it's just zero-alcohol beer), or whip up some mocktail recipes at home to see if the trend is a fit for you, too.