Trend-spotters are calling 2020 the Year of the Mocktail, with alcohol-free drink options, events, and venues serving mocktails on the rise. Dryuary — the movement to take a break from alcohol in January — may be over, but the no-booze trend shows no signs of letting up. Consider Minneapolis’ Marvel Bar’s decision to go alcohol-free for four months; the Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at Caesars Palace debuting a mocktail menu; “sober curious” sessions taking place at March’s SXSW; and the proliferation of sober-curious events, including author and speaker Janey Lee Grace’s monthly gatherings in London.
“Consumer interest in low- and no-alcohol products has been on the rise, particularly over the last year,” Brandy Rand, COO of the Americas at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, recently told Fortune. Rand called it “part of a larger health and wellness movement.”
That’s not news to Ruby Warrington, a speaker and the author of Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.
Warrington and fellow author Biet Simkin cofounded Club SÖDA (Sober Or Debating Abstinence) NYC, an alcohol-free event series that, according to the Club SÖDA website, became the “birthplace and incubator for what has become the sober curious movement.”
Club SÖDA NYC events ended more than a year ago. There was just too much else going on, Warrington told Convene. Simkin had a baby and wrote a book, she said. Warrington, too, had a book to promote and there wasn’t time to work on the events, she said. “Neither of us is a professional event organizer — I’m a writer — and as any kind of event organizer will know,” she said, planning events takes “a lot of effort.” Today, in addition to writing, Warrington speaks at events, including sober curious retreats, and leads a podcast.
Warrington was obviously ahead of the curve, beginning her sober curious “journey” back in 2016. “I was questioning my own drinking and the way as a society we use alcohol in any and all social situations,” she said, “unless it’s a yoga class.”
So, she and Simkin found an event space in New York City, promoted Club SÖDA NYC on social media, and planned events with sessions that ranged from guided meditation to Q&A’s to panel discussions, and featured guest speakers and even a dance party.
To those who attended, “we were not even saying ‘abstain from alcohol,’” Warrington said. “But if you are sober curious, then commit to discovering what it is like to live a sober life.”
Was she prepared for all this sober curious attention?
“Actually, it’s not that much of a surprise that it’s taken off as it has as people are more open about talking about mental health and investing more time and more energy in their wellness,” she said. Up to now, she added, “it’s been kind of ridiculous that the alcohol-free option has always been an orange juice or a coffee” or a soft drink disguised as alcohol.
“Why should you have to pretend to make a healthy lifestyle choice?” she asked.
The lesson for event planners, Warrington said, is to ensure that sober or sober curious attendees don’t need to try to pass off Sprite as hard liquor. That’s especially true today when mocktail creators are combining fruit, herbs, spices, and juices into colorful art forms.
“If you are out socially or if you are networking and you’re pretending, you are not able to connect fully,” Warrington said. “No one wants to lie, and it’s not really authentic standing there with a ‘fake’ drink.”
Cristi Kempf is executive editor at Convene.
Make Room for Mocktails
Here are examples of zero proof drinks and their ingredients.