The buzzy new drinking trend: Alcohol-free booze

“The non-alcoholic trend started to pick up a year or two before the pandemic, with no-alcohol bars catering to the so-called ‘sober curious’ popping up in some cities, and has continued to grow at a rapid clip.” - CNN


In the year ending May 14, US retail sales of non-alcoholic spirits grew 116% to $4.5 million, according to NielsenIQ. Alcoholic spirit sales slipped about 1% to just under $21 billion.

So we’re still talking a tiny, tiny industry relative to ‘real’ booze. Still, an interesting development.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

One thing to note here is that a lot of the best sodas/root beers are made by smaller breweries and distilleries. It sounds a bit weird—“isn’t that a bit out of their core market?”—but when you’re talking about small breweries and distilleries, they’re working on adding subtle flavors and aromas to their products with an immense amount of subtlety and patience. That’s good training for making beverages that have more character than a Coke or a cup of Folger’s.

There is also the reality that bartenders have been making “mocktails” (generally some kind of simple syrup plus ginger ale or seltzer water with a garnish) for teetotalers and designated drivers for a long time. It’s not a terrible stretch, given that a huge portion of cocktails are fruit juice, simple syrups, and seltzer plus the spirit to begin with, and sometimes the original goal (especially after Prohibition) was to cover up the taste of inferior spirits.

So it’s a little bit new, but not terribly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

I see alcohol drinking decreasing in the “professional” space. I travel extensively for work all over the world. And that invariably results in many evenings eating and drinking with clients and colleagues after work. About 20 years ago, I was typically the only one not drinking. Slowly over the years the number off non-drinkers at these professional events has increased. I know that is probably not a scientific poll, but I typically see almost 30% or more not drinking at these events. It has become quite noticeable. And usually those who do drink, it is significantly less (i.e. a single glass of wine).