Oct 22, 2021 - Food and Drink

Alcohol alternatives rise in Charlotte

Ritual zero proof mocktail The Stanley

The Stanley uses zero-proof Ritual, a non-alcoholic spirit alternative. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Some of you may be celebrating Sober October. You may have dabbled in Dry January. Your alcohol-free venture might have led you into Spirit-free September or Liquorless July (or not, because I just made the last two up).

I’ve noticed recently more people are changing their relationships with alcohol. And, as my hangovers become worse with age, I’ve been considering a shift as well.

Why it matters: In a city full of bars and breweries, there are now more options for social butterflies not looking for a buzz.

One example is The Stanley‘s take on mocktails. 

  • Ritual Zero Proof acts as their substitute for whiskey, tequila, gin, and rum. 
  • Just like their regular cocktails, they change with the season, and you can get nearly every cocktail on the menu as a non-alcoholic option.
  • The liquor alternatives don’t actually taste like the liquor they’re replacing. Except for the gin option, which is made out of juniper berries, like real gin.
The Stanley Stanleyville
The Stanleyville is The Stanley’s take on an Old Fashioned. This zero-proof version is made with Ritual instead of Bourbon. Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios

Zoom out: Americans drank more during the pandemic, Axios Future Correspondent, Bryan Walsh reports

  • A 2020 survey found 75% of Americans had at least one more drink per month last year.
  • That same survey found women drank about 39% more alcohol compared to 2019.  

Yes, but: Non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beverage sales boomed during the pandemic, according to Axios’ Nicole Cobler. She found sales in that category went up 30%.

  • Ben Sullivan, GM of The Stanley, tells me “the zero-proof cocktail movement has been gaining traction for several years now.”

Between the lines: You might be considering taking a pause from alcohol for a variety of reasons (anxiety, weight loss, pregnancy), but you don’t need to explain to anybody what those reasons are.

Enter, Charlotte’s Counterculture Club, which helps normalize the idea that it’s OK not to drink. 

  • Molly Ruggere founded Counterculture Club with the support of her friend Nicole Peternel in 2020. They connected over their mutual commitment to an alcohol-free life, writes Axios’ Emma Way, who sat down with the women last year.
  • The club is a safe, social, setting for people who want something to do that’s not centered around alcohol.

My thought bubble: It’s almost as if the default thing to do is drink. Whether it’s a Bachelorette wine-night watch party, a bottomless brunch, or a couple of beers at a tailgate, I admittedly have a social life that’s centered around alcohol. It’s a pattern I think many of us in Charlotte kind of fall into.

  • It’s why these non-alcoholic options are a gamechanger, and why they’re becoming more popular.
  • “Just because someone chooses not to consume alcohol–whether it’s just for the night or for a lifetime–doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a delicious, sophisticated beverage,” said Ruggere, an Alcohol Freedom Coach. 

Ruggere is a certified life coach who has a modern approach to an alcohol-free lifestyle, so I asked her for advice to give to someone who is considering changing their relationship with alcohol.

  •  She says finding a community or friend you can reach out to for support and guidance is crucial to navigating social situations and emotions that might come with the shift.
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