2023: (Not Just) Dry January

Posted by Julie Niesen on Jan 04, 2023 at 7:09 PM

Happy 2023!

If you’re someone who’s doing a Dry January– you’ve come to the right place.

Yes, I know this is Hoperatives.

Yes, I know we focus on better beer.

But in 2023, those of us who are sober, sober-curious, reducing our alcohol consumption or just want to have some other options? Well, we finally have them.

The last time I went dry was in 2017. And honestly, there just weren’t many options, and the ones we had were pretty bad: sparkling cider tastes nothing like Champagne. Mocktails were mostly sour mix and Sprite. O’Doul’s: well, let’s just not talk about it.

Now, the options are endless. Fewer Americans drink: in 2021, 60% of those 21 and up reported to Gallup that they drink, down from 65% in 2019. According to NielsenIQ, in 2022, non-alcoholic beverages (including beer, wine, and spirits) sales increased 20.6% and alcoholic beverage sales went down 6.7%. Craft beer sales have gone down 7.2% but hop water– often produced by craft breweries– was up 43%.

This isn’t just because people are going completely dry: 78% of non-alcoholic beverage buyers also bought alcoholic beverages. There is a move toward more moderation and healthier beverages– without sacrificing flavor.

Most telling, to me, was sitting at a local bar and music venue one nice summer evening. Of the eight or so people I was with, only one of them was drinking alcohol. The rest were drinking soda or one of a couple of varieties of Athletic non-alcoholic beer– including a beer rep!

I stopped drinking on July 16, 2023– I’ve almost hit six months without drinking alcohol. The first couple of weeks were hard– some of my favorite places are bars!-- but it’s gradually become easier. It’s helpful that my partner and I are doing it together, and that we both like to discover new non-alcoholic beverages, too.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few months:

  • No one really cares that you’re not drinking. Seriously. We actually were mildly concerned that our favorite bartenders would be disappointed that we weren’t spending on alcohol like we used to. Our friends definitely don't care, and many of them have told us that they are also cutting back or don't drink.
  • When they do care, it’s usually because they’re sober or sober curious themselves. The number of times we’ve had people say “Oh, I’m taking a break too!” or “Oh, I drink a lot of NA stuff!” was a pleasant surprise. And people who are drinking craft NA beverages remind me a little bit of craft beer people when the movement first started: willing to share tastes of NA drinks and share tips on where to get them. I thought it would be hard, being someone who socializes a lot in the restaurant and bar industry, but I know so many sober chefs and bartenders, which I think is driving part of the surge of NA options. Even Grant Achatz has an entire book dedicated to the NA cocktail program at Aviary.
  • If you’re out and about, ask if a restaurant or bar has NA beverages. Sure, sometimes you’ll be stuck with club soda, but the more businesses hear that there’s a demand, the more they’ll be likely to carry NA beverages. Or, you might be surprised– we’ve had many bartenders make us impromptu mocktails (that were imaginative and delicious!) and several places had NA beverages that hadn’t made it to the menu yet. Just on New Year’s Eve, we went to dinner and didn’t see anything NA– so we asked. Turns out they’d just brought in some Athletic, and the owner was recently sober, so they had Einz Zwei Zero NA sparkling wine. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
  • One day at a time. I am not in any formal program, and I don’t know if I will continue to be completely sober (I haven’t found a great NA red wine to pair with cheese, which is what I really miss). And that’s okay! It doesn’t always need to be either/or. At first, I just wanted to see how long I could go, and I said oh– I’ll definitely drink on Thanksgiving. I didn’t. Christmas? Nah. New Year’s Eve? I was too excited about the NA spirit’s I’d purchased and wanted to experiment. If you try to do Dry January and end up having a drink? It’s okay. Start over the next day.

The stories you’ll see from me at Hoperatives will focus on craft, non-alcoholic beverages– everything from NA spirits, to dealcoholized wine, to craft beer. It’s an exciting time in the industry to try them!

If you have suggestions on some great NA beverages to try, email me at julie@hoperatives.com.