Sales growth in the alcohol-free category has dwarfed that of its alcoholic peers over the last few years. According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, volumes have grown on average 20 percent per year in the U.S. since 2017. Alcohol-free drinks are now worth $1.8 billion a year, and if there is one thing that’s driving momentum, it’s the shift towards year-round moderation on the part of consumers.
No longer is this a category that relies on the themed months of Dry January and Sober October for the majority of its sales. “Commercially speaking, the approach to Christmas has become even more important than Dry January,” says Louie-Joe Findlater, the U.K. director of the French alcohol-free sparkler French Bloom.
That said, there’s no doubt that the new year remains a time when many consumers experiment with moderation. And this represents a big opportunity for the growing number of alcohol-free bottle shops springing up across the U.S.
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“It’s the Super Bowl of our space,” says Robert Theodorow, the owner and beverage curator of Generation NA in Lafayette, Indiana, and “a great opportunity to gain new customers moving forward, not just for one month.”
As Grace Vroom, the co-owner of Dear Dry Drinkery in Austin, Texas, puts it, “We are here all year round for whatever works best for you.”
With new zero-proof drinks launching all the time, SevenFifty Daily asked 10 retailers what they were most looking forward to getting in front of customers as we enter 2024.
Aplós Calme; $48 per 575-ml bottle
Selected by Arianna Laidley, retail manager, Boisson, Los Angeles
Boisson is the nearest thing the world has to a nationwide alcohol-free chain, with five stores in New York City, two in Los Angeles, and one in San Francisco. A ninth, in Miami, is on the cards for January 2024.
Store manager Arianna Laidley says that her customers are mostly looking for alcohol-free switches of alcoholic drinks—zero-proof versions of classic cocktails or favorite wine styles. But functional beverages, such as the Aplós Calme, are popular too.
“It’s the perfect entry-level functional spirit,” she says. “The botanical ingredients are familiar individually, yet are a refreshing new take on verdant distillates with CBD.” Paired with tonic, she says it swiftly induces “palpable relaxation.”
Stay Cool Delta-9 Pineapple Wave; $7 per 12-oz. can
Selected by Rob Theodorow, owner and beverage curator, Generation NA, Lafayette, Indiana
On Lafayette’s historic Main Street, Generation NA is proof that you don’t need big-city footfall to survive—just a good location and a sharp eye for what your consumers want. Free samples every Friday and product flights on Saturdays offer an extensive selection for guests to try before committing to a purchase.
The Stay Cool range of juice-based CBD and THC drinks is their top seller. Generation NA owner and beverage curator Rob Theodorow is particularly enamoured of this “relaxing, euphoric, amazing-tasting pineapple seltzer.” Made with a blend containing extracts of adaptogenic kava, believed by some to have relaxation benefits, and 25 milligrams of Delta-9 THC derived from hemp, Theodorow says it’s “a great way to de-stress and reset your brain after a stressful day.”
Domaine Kamat Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; $68 per 750-ml bottle
Selected by Alex Highsmith, general manager, Spirited Away, New York City
One of the first alcohol-free stores in the U.S., which opened in fall 2020, Spirited Away has its focus on premium drinks. They stock more than 100 brands, including this dealcoholized Napa Cabernet—the first of its kind—from Domaine Kamat.
“The owners take great care in making sure it tastes like a true varietal [wine],” says Alex Highsmith, Spirited Away’s general manager. “It’s expensive but worth it.”
The current release is a 2020, making it unusually mature for an alcohol-free wine. It’s unashamedly a wine for special occasions. “Wine-lovers and teetotalers alike will appreciate the care and complexity of the liquid,” says Highsmith. “But always use stemware for your non-alcoholic beverages. The ritual and presentation is half the battle—I’ll die on that hill!”
Drømme Awake; $38 per 750-ml bottle
Selected by Emily Maney, founder, Take Flight Bottle Shop, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Take Flight, which opened in downtown Colorado Springs in January 2023, spent its first year selling sparkling wines, pre-mixed cocktails, and CBD waters to a consumer base of mostly 20 to 40-year-old women. “I love selling functional beverages.” says founder Emily Maney. “They give you the benefits of alcohol, such as an uplifted mood, without the ill effects.”
Drømme Awake is her current favorite drink—a pomegranate-coloured botanical spirit with flavors of tropical fruit and Szechuan pepper. “I love the flavor profile,” she says. “It’s distinctive and sophisticated with lots of vitamins and no added sugar. It gives me the same amount of energy I’d get from a cup of coffee but without the caffeine.” She recommends it as a brunch cocktail substitute or for a mid-morning boost.
Roots Divino Bianco; $40 per 750-ml bottle
Selected by Kirstin Vracko, owner, Cheeky and Dry, Seattle
After a couple of pop-ups to test the water, Cheeky and Dry opened its doors in November 2023. Inclusivity is the watchword. “We have something for everyone, whether you’re sober, sober-curious, or someone who enjoys cocktails,” says owner Kirstin Vracko of her store, just north of downtown Seattle. She plans to back up the lengthy tasting program with alcohol-free mixology classes.
Though there is a proud focus on local producers from the Pacific Northwest, Vracko has looked further afield for her star drink of 2024. She picked out a dealcoholized white vermouth from Greek liqueur company Roots. Multi-layered and herbal, the Roots Divino is produced on the Aegean island of Lesvos and is best drunk mixed with tonic or soda and a bar-spoon of brine.
“They’ve done a masterful job of combining complex and beautiful flavors,” says Vracko. “Almost every time I pour this product for a customer they walk out with a bottle.”
Wilderton Earthen; $40 per 750-ml bottle
Selected by Jeff Gustin, general manager, Inmoxicated, Racine, Wisconsin
In the two years his dry bar and bottle shop has been open in downtown Racine, Jeff Gustin has been clear about his mission: “To normalize not drinking alcohol and to show that you can still enjoy a day or night without it,” he says.
Earthen, from the Hood River-based artisanal distiller Wilderton, encapsulates this philosophy. The botanical non-alcoholic spirit won a gold medal in the World Alcohol-Free Awards and the New Orleans Spirits Competition in 2023. “[It is] one of the most unique and versatile beverages out there,” says Gustin. Dry and exotically spicy, with notes of cinnamon, pine-smoked tea, and cardamom, it is front and centre in Inmoxicated’s best-selling cocktail, the Blackberry Sage Cooler, which pairs it with a blackberry sage syrup and blackberry hibiscus sparkling beverage.
“The fact that it does not attempt to replicate an existing alcohol beverage makes it suitable for everyone to enjoy,” says Gustin.
Yoro Surf Pineapple Ginger; $4 per 12-oz. can
Selected by David Wallace, owner, Dream House Lounge, New Orleans
The Dream House Lounge in New Orleans is, as owner David Wallace freely admits, not easy to describe. “We are a spiritual house, wellness studio, non-alcoholic bar, metaphysical shop, and cafe all wrapped up into one,” he says.
He’s selected Yoro Pineapple and Ginger, a carbonated adult soda from a local Black-owned business as his star non-alcoholic drink for 2024. As well as tasting good, it has active ingredients such as Rhodiola root, B12 and ginger, which he says help to “maintain a relationship with your mood and well being’”
Yoro can be drunk long over ice or from a wine glass to add a sense of occasion, but Wallace also suggests creating a conscious cocktail by combining one ounce of alcohol-free tequila and one ounce of fruit puree (mango preferably) and topping it off with four ounces of Yoro Pineapple and Ginger. “Have fun with it!” he says. “It gives you a boost of confidence that what you are drinking is good for you.”
Blå, Copenhagen Sparkling Tea; $40 per 750-ml bottle
Selected by Grace Vroom, co-owner, Dear Dry Drinkery, Austin, Texas
Just four months after starting out selling non-alcoholic cocktails, bottles, and cans from a small trailer at a food court, Dear Dry Drinkery opened its doors, becoming Austin’s first alcohol-free bottle shop last August.
Co-owner Grace Vroom is proud of the fact that Dear Dry Drinkery is a queer-owned and Black-owned business, but also of the “highly curated” selection of bottles they have in the always tricky category of alcohol-free wine. Their wine range, she says, is focused on bottles that are “flavorful, exciting, and not too sweet.”
Blå by the Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company is a recent discovery. Founded in 2017, the Nordic brand was developed by sommelier Jacob Kocemba, during his time at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen. “At $40 it’s our most expensive wine-like bottle,” she says. “I would definitely suggest purchasing for a special occasion or gift for someone who will cherish the perfectly balanced jasmine and Darjeeling flavors.”
Sovi Sparkling Rosé; $30 per four-pack of 8.5-oz. cans
Selected by Kristin Patrick, co-owner, Loren’s Alcohol-Free Beverages, Carmel, Indiana
With two stores opening in less than a year, Loren’s Alcohol-Free Beverages is on a roll, pulling in a wide range of customers from across central Indiana. Most are looking to cut back on their weeknight drinking rather than stop altogether, so wine is the biggest selling category, and for co-owner Kristin Patrick, the convenience of cans is a big plus. “They’re perfect for people who live alone, or whose partner isn’t interested in alcohol-free,” she says. “But parents also love them for boating, camping, and travelling.”
She’s a particular fan of Sovi wines, founded by husband-and-wife wine professionals Julia Littauer, a certified sommelier, and Alex Littauer, a wine marketer who holds the WSET Diploma in Wines. The alcohol-removed wines are variety and vintage specific, made with certified sustainably grown grapes sourced from a single estate in Clarksburg, California. “The Sovi Sparkling Rosé will continue to be a star of our store,” she says.
Goodvines NA Riesling; $20.99 per 750-ml bottle
Selected by Ed Carino, cofounder, Proof No More (online retailer)
Ed Carino and his Proof No More cofounders Lars Dahlhaus and Christian Blake first noticed the growth in the alcohol-free category when visiting European craft beer producers eight years ago. Their online store, which ships across the U.S., launched in 2021 and is one of the few retailers that sell single cans of beers or cocktails. Most of their customers are “flex drinkers,” who are mixing alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, sometimes during the same occasion.
“I’m really enthused about selling the Goodvines wine line from Germany,” says Carino. “Particularly the Riesling.” Based in Heidelberg in the warmer southwest of the country, Goodvines makes only alcohol-free wines, and has made it their mission to avoid adding sweetness or artificial flavors. Riesling’s trademark bright acidity lends itself to sparkling wines, though Carino prefers the still version, describing it as “a good everyday sipper, [that] also works well with spicy foods.” The range will be available at Proof No More from the end of January onwards.
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Chris has been writing about drinks for 25 years, which means he’s spent a lot of time staring at barrels and listening to sommeliers talk about minerality. The last 12 months, he’s been writing a lot about the non-alcoholic scene and recently set up the World Alcohol-Free Awards.