2020 is officially in the rearview mirror and that means Dry January is now underway.
For the uninitiated, Dry January is a one-month sobriety challenge that began as a public health campaign in the United Kingdom about eight years ago.
The popularity of the movement has exploded in the years since it began. Alcohol Change UK, the nonprofit behind Dry January, said 6.5 million British adults (one in five) who drink alcohol are set to go sober for the first 31 days of 2021.
That’s up from a mere 4,000 who participated when Dry January first launched in 2013.
Awareness of the challenge has spread throughout the U.S., and spinoff campaigns such as Sober October (and September) have also gained traction in recent years.
Advocates of these efforts point to research which shows that drinkers who cut alcohol out of their lives for a month experience improved sleep patterns and other health benefits.
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Other advantages of short-term alcohol abstinence can include improved mood, a fatter wallet and slimmer waistline.
Meanwhile, research from the University of Sussex suggests that even one month without a boozy beverage can lead to healthier levels of alcohol consumption over the long-term.
But for many, the thought of giving up their favorite beer, wine or cocktail for an entire month can feel like an impossible task.
Thankfully, there are now several companies making nonalcoholic products that have been designed to replace drinking occasions and allow abstainers to stay sober even when temptation is calling their names.
I’ve written about a number of these brands in recent months, including popular nonalcoholic beer maker Athletic Brewing, canned mocktail startup Kul Mocks, and upscale alcohol alternative beverage Saint Ivy, among others.
To kick off Dry January 2021, I’m highlighting seven more nonalcoholic brands that can help you stay sober through the first month of the year.
Betera Sparkling Botanical Beverages
Founded by “three guys from the culinary, wine, and advertising industries,” Betera makes line of sparkling botanical beverages that were developed by a Michelin-star chef.
The company’s three flavors — Elderflower-Lime, Rhubarb-Hibiscus, and Ginger-Orange — launched last May.
Described by co-founder Aaron Sanchez as “refreshingly bitter,” Betera is batch brewed with real botanicals, and contains fewer than 20 calories and less than 5 grams of sugar.
A 12-bottle case can be purchased directly from the company’s online store for $35, and same-day shipping is available for consumers who reside in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago.
“Betera is crafted for consumers looking to take a break from alcohol or those simply looking to elevate their sparkling beverage,” Sanchez said. “We strive to meet our customers wherever they are on their health, wellness, and sobriety journey.”
Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects IPA
New York-based craft beer maker Brooklyn Brewery entered the nonalcoholic beer space at the end of 2018 when it launched Special Effects Hoppy Amber in Sweden. A broader rollout across Europe took place in 2018 and the brand hit the U.S. market in 2020.
After selling 250,000 cases of Special Effects Hoppy Amber last year, Brooklyn Brewery has introduced an IPA that contains fewer than 100 calories and checks in under 0.5% ABV.
Brooklyn’s vice president of marketing, Samantha Itzkovitz, said regular beer drinkers as well as those who fully abstain from alcohol have gravitated to products like Special Effects in a quest to live healthier lives.
“Consumers no longer have to choose between flavor and fun,” she said. “Special Effects is for anyone interested in drinking beer, but not interested in alcohol, whether in the moment or longer term.”
Six-packs of Special Effects IPA are now available at on- and off-premise retail accounts across Brooklyn’s 30-state distribution footprint for $12.99. The company also executed an expanded distribution partnership and in-store program with Whole Foods
CEDER’S Distilled Non-Alcoholic Gin
Launched in 2017 by husband-and-wife team Craig Hutchison and Maria Sehlstrom, CEDER’S alt-gin is a distilled nonalcoholic product that combines South African botanicals with Swedish water.
CEDER’S, now majority owned by alcohol beverage giant Pernod Ricard, is sold in 24 international markets.
The brand rolled out in the U.S. at the end of 2020 and is currently sold in over 150 retail locations throughout Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Connecticut and Washington D.C., as well as online.
A 500 mL bottle of CEDER’S, which aims to “replicate a classic gin and tonic experience without the alcohol,” costs about $21.99.
Hutchison, who quit drinking in 2016, said CEDER’S targets “30- to 40-something middle class progressives” looking for an upscale alcohol-free drinking experience.
“I think many of us are reassessing our lives, given all the change that has occurred and will continue to occur,” he said. “We know we have challenges ahead. We are always busy, always on social media, and always accessing information and news. To balance our lifestyles, alcohol moderation, wellness, and mindfulness are ways to cope with modern times.”
Hairless Dog Alcohol-Free Craft Beer
Most NA beers still contain trace amounts of alcohol (under 0.5% ABV), but not the offerings from Hairless Dog.
According to founders Paul Pirner and Jeff Hollander, Hairless Dog never introduces alcohol into its production process.
“We believe NA should actually mean nonalcoholic,” Hollander said.
Available in about 30 states via a network of distributors and retailers, and sold online, Hairless Dog’s four core beers — IPA, Citra Lager, Black Ale and Coffee Stout — come in six-packs, 12-packs, and 24-can cases. A six-pack costs about $9.99.
“We as a culture are more conscious about what we put into our bodies than ever before and consumer buying patterns are changing to reflect that,” Hollander said of the increasing interest in NA beers. “A conversation around our relationship with alcohol has never been on the table in American culture until now. People want to look and feel healthy, and Hairless Dog is a way to help them do that.”
Mingle Sparkling Mocktails
Mingle founder Laura Taylor stopped drinking alcohol five years ago and quickly felt left out at social and work occasions where the booze was flowing.
After mixing up a batch of what is now Mingle’s alcohol-free Cranberry Cosmo for a getaway weekend with her friends, Taylor’s business was born.
“I knew at that very moment I had to bring this mocktail to the market so anyone who chooses not to booze can still feel socially connected and part of the occasion,” she said.
Mingle launched in late 2017 with funding from friends and family, and has since expanded distribution nationally to over 3,000 retailers including Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Safeway, among others.
Sold in 750 mL wine bottles, there are five Mingle varieties: Blood Orange Elderflower, Cucumber Melon Mojito, Blackberry Hibiscus Bellini, Mosco Mule and Cranberry Cosmo. Each 4 oz. serving contains 20 calories.
Taylor believes Dry January is a good opportunity for people to “assess their excessive drinking habits and take action to get back to a healthier lifestyle.”
“Mingle is here to soften that blow by inspiring healthier habits, enabling social drinkers to enjoy the cocktail vibe without all the other stuff that comes with alcohol,” she said.
Optimist is a new nonalcoholic spirit brand out of Los Angeles that aims to provide an option for those who want still to participate in the “social ritual” of gathering for a drink but want to skip the booze.
“We want to give people a choice, and fuel social wellbeing,” said Tom Johnstone, who co-founded the company with his wife, Lisa.
Launching online this month, the company’s three botanicals — Bright, Fresh, and Smokey — each combine between 10 and 15 unique botanicals that are blended by a master distiller in Downtown Los Angeles.
“We sought optimum distilling methods for each ingredient then transferred this across into a food safe process, working out a way to stabilize our drinks without additives or preservatives,” Johnstone said. “Our three distinct flavor profiles are inspired by Los Angeles, so once you’ve chosen to skip the alcohol, you get to choose which vibe of Optimist you’re feeling.”
A 500 mL bottle of Optimist sells for $35 online, and 2% of all sales will help provide mental health support to underserved youth in markets across the U.S.
Recently launched Spirity Cocktails uses an alcohol-free spirit distilled from tea to mimic the experience of having a full-proof drink.
The brand was created by alcohol industry veteran Eric Knight, who spent more than 18 years working for E. & J. Gallo Winery before striking out on his own to create an alcohol-free beverage that matched his lifestyle and love for the beverage business.
“I developed a passion, not only for the craft of making wine and spirits, but also the integral role that adult beverages play in the everyday celebrations of life,” he said of his career with Gallo.
But after Knight went sober in 2018, he felt “abandoned, both personally and professionally, by a lifelong social construct that revolved around alcohol.”
“That is when I realized that just like a great cup of coffee isn’t about the caffeine, a great adult beverage isn’t about the alcohol,” he said.
Spirity cocktails come in three flavors: Mindful Margarita, Mindful Mule and Mindful Negroni. A four-pack retails for $14.99 and customers can purchase product on Amazon
Note: If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of options, I suggest checking out Richie Crowley’s “Ultimate Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beverages” over on Medium. Crowley, a former professional athlete who went sober three years ago, has reviewed dozens of NA brands on YouTube and is keeping track of more than 200 options for the moments when you want a drink but not the hangover.