Forget 'Dry January': Alcohol-free beer, wine, cocktails are available year round and are gaining popularity

·6 min read

It's June. Your opportunity to start the "Dry January" challenge has long since passed, but the option to sip on booze-free libations has become a permanent one. And it's becoming more popular with the masses, regardless of sobriety.

Plenty of vendors have nonalcoholic offerings to take the place of that margarita or old fashioned that you might typically sip at a social gathering – and they are tasty. Some echo the flavor of the cocktails many of us are already familiar with.

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Hilary Sheinbaum, author of "The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month," published in 2020, told USA TODAY she drinks NA cocktails year-round.

"Even if I'm not doing a dry month, these are so helpful because you can enjoy a delicious drink without a buzz," she said. "NA beverages also make get-togethers, restaurant menus, parties and life events more inclusive for drinkers and nondrinkers alike."

Whether you want to take time off from drinking, stop drinking completely or simply drink less, nonalcoholic cans are a great option to crack open at a social gathering or while unwinding at home.

Sales of NA beverages and offerings are on the rise

Offerings of NA beverages and low alcohol beverages are growing, Greg Cohen, spokesperson for IWSR, which provides drinks market analysis, told USA TODAY.

"Total volume of no- and low-alcohol products in the US grew by about +27% in 2021," Cohen said in a text message. "The category is forecasted to grow by about +23% compound annual growth rate volume 2022-2026."

Options are easier to find.

Liz Paquette, head of consumer insight for Drizly, an online ordering and delivery company that focuses on alcohol retailers, told USA TODAY that over 90% of the company's retail partners carry at least one nonalcoholic beverage option.

Sales are rising, too.

"Though the nonalcoholic category still accounts for a relatively small portion of overall share on Drizly, the growth in this category is profound when comparing sales over the past few years,'' said Paquette.

Nonalcoholic spirit sales were up 600% year over year 2020 to 2021, NA wine was up 300% and NA beer up 200%.

In 2021, Drizly saw a 166% increase in the number of NA products available on the platform compared to 2019.

NA beverages good options for those seeking healthier, lighter options

Borja Manso Salinas, vice president of marketing a Heineken which sells Heineken 0.0, an alcohol free beer, said the brand has noticed consumers are increasingly focused on wellness.

"Over the last few years, we’ve seen a cultural shift in how people approach alcohol," Manso Salinas told USA TODAY in an emailed statement in January. "Short-term challenges like Dry January and Sober October indicate that consumers are being more intentional about when they drink alcohol and when they want to abstain from drinking."

Ginger Hultin, MS RDN CSo and owner of Champagne Nutrition, told USA TODAY in January that not drinking is becoming trendier – to a degree.

"There's definitely a shift in 'sober-curious' culture," Hutlin said. "Nonalcoholic beer, nonalcoholic wine or even spirits and other types of nonalcoholic drinks like shrubs or kombucha are gaining traction. There's been more awareness about the potential negative effects of alcohol on health – physically and emotionally."

Younger generations, she added, are developing a different relationship to alcohol than their elder counterparts.

But it's not just to fit a healthier lifestyle. It also has to do with availability of nonalcoholic drinks, according to Manso Salinas.

"The category isn’t growing because consumers are suddenly deciding to give up alcohol, rather it’s growing because consumers who drink alcohol are discovering that great-tasting NA options like Heineken 0.0 can fit into their lifestyle, too," Manso Salinas said.

What kind of options are out there?

Whether you're a beer drinker, cocktail connoisseur or wine lover there's really an NA alternative for everyone.

There are plenty of nonalcoholic beers on the market from brands including Partake, Clausthaler, Crux Fermentation Project and Athletic Brewing and big brands are jumping on the 0% alcohol beer train, too. Heineken, for example, debuted its 0.0 beer in 2019. And Guinness has its own 0.0 option.

Like its hoppy counterpart, the wine category also has plenty of brands with offerings such as Null, Surely, Naughty and Proteau.

For those interested in a ready to drink NA cocktail or wine there's Spirity, Ghia, Lyre's and Gruvi, among others.

There are NA spirits for purchase, too – with some brands creating drinks that echo alcoholic classics like tequila.

For instance, CleanCo., which encourages drinking "like there's a tomorrow," offers Clean R (a spiced rum alternative), Clean G (a gin alternative), Clean T (a tequila alternative) and Clean V (an apple vodka alternative) in aesthetically pleasing packaging that blends in on any bar cart.

Another brand called Ish, "a mindful drinking company," also offers NA spirits such as "RumISH" and "GinISH," along with NA wines and NA canned cocktails.

Others brands have created different kinds of drinks that are NA.

Three Spirit Drinks, for example, offers bottled options, each unique to fit a particular vibe, co-founder Tatiana Mercer told USA TODAY.

Mercer said that Three Spirit was created to make a "third" option for social occasions beyond "drinking" and "not drinking." "Our mission is to show people that alcohol-free doesn’t mean pleasure-free, and we want to power those social occasions with plants."

Brands such as CleanCo, Three Spirit, Free Spirits, Lyre's, Seedlip, Kin, Ghia, Gnista and Gruvi, among others, sell their product online, but many NA options can be purchased in some shops.

There are even some NA package stores and bar-type organizations such as Boisson, with five locations in New York, and Sans Bar St. Louis which hosts "shaken not slurred" pop-up events.

Alcohol-friendly restaurants, bars have offerings, too

It's not just places dedicated to NA beverages that are picking up on the trend. Bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks are starting to take note.

CleanCo.'s gin, for example, is available at popular high-end restaurant Nobu in London for a clean gin and tonic cocktail.

At New York City's popular West Village bar the Spaniard, two offerings are listed under the "Booze Free Cocktails" section. At $12 a pop, they are $4-6 less than most of the other drinks on the bar's menu.

People who drink are opting for NA beverages, too

It's not just nondrinkers who are opting to purchase NA beverages. Three Spirit's Mercer said 80% of the brand's customers are drinkers.

"I believe that people are still drinking alcohol but they’re just drinking less – and are more selective of what they’re drinking," she said. "There’s more intentionality to avoid killer hangovers and seek better, more interesting products that spark conversation and connection."

Contributing: Mike Snider

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Delicious drink without a buzz': Nonalcoholic beverages on the rise

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