Booze-free drinks are suddenly everywhere. But who's drinking them?
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Botanicals, adaptogens, non-alcoholic spirits and alcohol-free wine: When it comes to the array of booze-free beverages, the list of options seems endless. But who are non-alcoholic concoctions made for? And where are these options, many of which seem to be designed with drinkers in mind, coming from?
Michelle Toothman is creator of Lali — a canned non-alcoholic wine available in white, red and rosé — and says as a former military wife, she rarely drinks, a habit left behind from the days when she was alone with her children while her husband served. Still, Toothman can appreciate the flavors a glass of wine with dinner can add to a meal.
After seeing a neighbor drinking canned wine, Toothman set out to create a non-alcoholic version, working with a California winemaker to create Lali, alcohol-free wines she says allow people to "enjoy wine for what it is and not have the effects of alcohol."
"[It's for] people who enjoy wine but don't want the risk of impairment or a hangover or a headache," Toothman tells Yahoo Life. "You could be at a dinner and order Lali and have it in a goblet next to a person who has a different kind of wine and no one would ever know. You'd feel completely included."
Toothman likens the rise in alcohol alternatives to the addition of decaffeinated coffee to restaurant menus years ago.
"People love coffee but they don't want to stay up all night," says Toothman. "That's why decaf coffee was invented: They had to work on people to understand that concept, as well, because the attitude was, 'What's the point? People want to have energy.' But there are some people who love it just for the taste."
Kate Baily is a sobriety coach, co-founder of the Love Sober women's sobriety community and co-author of Love Yourself Sober. Baily, who lives in the U.K., says there are multiple reasons someone may choose to drink alcohol-free beverages, from wanting to avoid a hangover the next day to seeking to feel included at cocktail hour though sober.
"It's about 'keep the ritual, change the ingredient,'" says Baily. "If we look at alcohol use from the point of habits, rituals and behavior, it's really helpful. People who have gotten into the habit of having a drink at night; it could be that they don't really want the alcohol but they associate the ritual of sitting down with a glass of something nice and sparkly with their brains sort of signaling that it's time to switch off."
In addition to having something in-hand when sitting down at home in the evening, Baily says these beverages can help sober and sober-curious people feel like they can still fit in at happy hour or in other social settings.
"If you're going out to bars or pubs and they've got those alternatives," Baily explains, "there's that social piece where you feel like you're not being punished with an orange juice or made to feel like you're having a child's drink. You can have a nice alcohol-free beer or a mocktail with botanicals and some really good mixology going on. It's about exciting the senses and having some lovely choices and feeling like you can join in socially."
Beverages, even beers, are also being infused with ingredients like adaptogens — herbs with health benefits — and vitamins. Corona recently announced a new non-alcoholic beer, Corona Sunbrew 0.0%, infused with vitamin D.
Felipe Ambra, global vice president for Corona, says as the beer company has seen more people move to drinking in moderation, they wanted to be a part of the low-alcohol and no-alcohol movement.
"We saw this as an opportunity to further establish Corona in the 'non-alc' segment and differentiate the brand from other options on the market, that typically focus on the same taste without the alcohol, to [instead create] a one of a kind non-alcoholic beer," says Ambra. "Sunbrew 0.0% is a unique innovation that is helping to expand the growing non-alcoholic beverage category."
But why vitamin D? Ambra says the beer, which is only available in Canada at the moment, is all about keeping those summer vibes year-round.
"As a beer brand born at the beach, Corona takes an active role in inspiring consumers to enjoy the sunshine outside as they disconnect from their daily life and reconnect in nature," Ambra explains. "Just in time for the winter months, Corona Sunbrew 0.0% provides consumers with an innovative and new way to enjoy 'sunshine, anytime' as they experience what they love about Corona, but now without alcohol."
Ben Witte is founder and CEO of Recess, a non-alcoholic sparkling water infused with hemp and adaptogens to provide a sense of calm. Witte says drinks like Recess are part of what he calls the "functional beverage landscape."
"We've always had beverages with caffeine like coffee or energy drinks that deliver a feeling of stimulation," he says. "We've obviously had alcohol, which delivers a feeling of intoxication. But I saw a need for this new category of beverage which delivers a feeling of relaxation by utilizing ingredients like CBD, adaptogenic herbs and magnesium."
When it comes to non-alcoholic beverages, Witte says he sees two ends of the spectrum.
"Alcohol alternatives are a broad category just as alcoholic beverages have a wide range of categories," says Witte, "but there's a very interesting distinction with alcohol alternatives between drinks that taste like alcohol without any functional benefit and [drinks that] utilize functional ingredients that deliver an effect."
According to Baily, the people who drink both types of non-alcoholic beverages are looking for something different than booze, be it because of a health challenge that excludes alcohol, a choice to live a sober lifestyle or a desire to cut back on drinking.
"There's a lot of people choosing alcohol-free for a lot of reasons," says Baily, who also co-hosts the Love Sober Podcast. "It could be health, it could be women who are getting older and finding they cannot tolerate alcohol as well, it could be the link between alcohol and mental health — the whole hangxiety thing — where if you have a few drinks you find it wrecks your sleep and makes you anxious the next day."
"Alcohol is dysregulating, and if you can get all the lovely benefits of socializing without all the negative effects of drinking alcohol, it's a win-win for people," she adds. "It's really brilliant."
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