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Going alcohol-free for 2023? No problem. This is the year to go dry, thanks to the countless innovative and tasty non-alcoholic beverages entering the market.
One of the main food trends we took away from Expo East last fall was the non-alcohol beverage movement. We saw (and tasted) plenty of delicious alcohol-free beverages, many of which looked just like their conventional counterparts.
It’s safe to say that non-alcoholic beverages have come a lot way from the O’Douls my roommate made me try in college (which has probably also come a long way since then). And with so many people ditching alcohol in 2023, it appears the non-alcoholic beverage explosion has come at the perfect time.
Why Go Alcohol-Free?
There seems to be a mass exodus among people drinking over the last few years, particularly Millennials and younger generations. Chances are good that you know someone who is either sober in general or made a New Year’s Resolution to ditch alcohol this year.
And there are plenty of benefits to doing so, such as:
- Improved sleep: Alcohol disrupts REM sleep and reduces the ability to form memories at night. It leaves you with a hangover in the morning and interrupts your sleep with restroom trips after you “break the seal.”
- More energy: The grogginess that comes with alcohol use can make it difficult to participate in activities you enjoy, especially if you’re not sleeping well on top of that.
- Better mood: Alcohol is a downer, meaning that while it produces temporary highs, it has an overall depressant effect. In fact, it impacts how your brain communities with nerves throughout your body and slows things down.
- More cash: Alcohol gets expensive fast, whether you’re getting it from the liquor store or throwing back drinks at restaurants. Because of its addictive potential, the need for more alcohol also leads to more cash being spent on it.
- Better decision-making: If you’ve ever had too much to drink, there’s not much I need to explain here.
Types of Alcohol-Free Drinks
Up until this point, the alcohol substitutes at restaurants pretty much include your choice of fruit juice or a fountain drink, like soda or lemonade. Maybe if you’re feeling fancy, a combination of soda water with Hawaiian Punch, eh?
Not anymore. With the growing interest in sober living, the alcohol-free options will likely start to expand at some of your favorite watering holes this year.
While some mocktails are designed to be super-sweet, there’s been a shift toward offering consumers a more sophisticated experience. No longer are you stuck with a Shirley Temple – now you can order fancier mixed drinks from the adult menu and nobody will be able to tell by looking at them that they’re alcohol-free.
So what exactly is in a mocktail? It’s simple. This could be your mojito, pina colada, or strawberry daiquiri – just sans alcohol. And the list of mocktail creations is long, whether you want a celebratory drink, a breakfast pairing, or a slushy.
Here are some examples:
- Virgin Mary: All the tangy spiciness of a Bloody Mary without alcohol. This is a blend of tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire, celery salt, a dash of hot sauce, and a garnish of your choice, like celery or a pickle.
- Virgin Sunrise: An tequila-free Tequila Sunrise, this is a combination of orange juice and grenadine with a slice of orange to garnish.
- Virgin Appletini: Just mix together apple juice, simple syrup, and lemon juice, garnish with an apple slice, and line the rim with sugar.
Find plenty of mocktail recipes online that you can make at home with just a few ingredients, and put your own unique twist on them.
Non-alcoholic beers have been around since the 1980s, but have slowly continued to expand, especially now with a consumer shift toward more sober living.
What is it? This option is regular beer that has had its alcohol removed through a heating process and then had carbon dioxide added to it.
In the US, the “non-alcoholic” label can be used on anything that contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). So while non-alcoholic beers aren’t going to make you buzzed, note that there still may be a small amount of alcohol in them. There do appear to be some brands claiming 0% ABV on their “alcohol-free” products.
Many beer companies have debuted non-alcoholic beers in recent years, including well-recognized ones. For instance, Heineken 0.0% Alcohol-Free Beer, Sam Adams Just-The-Haze Non-Alcoholic IPA, Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects Hoppy Amber, Bravus Oatmeal Dark Stout, Clausthaler Original Non-Alcoholic German, Athletic Brewing Company Run Wild Non-Alcoholic IPA Craft, and Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Wheat.
Functional Alcohol Substitutes
In addition to alcohol-free beers and mocktails, a ton of brands are working to make functional alcohol substitutes a central part of this food trend.
The term “functional” came up quite a bit during our time at Expo East. What does it mean for non-alcoholic drinks? For most brands, it’s a combination of flavor and functionality that goes above and beyond your standard beverage.
These are premium drinks that have something more to offer for your health besides just tasting good or providing hydration.
Some examples of how functional alcohol substitutes are changing the game include using:
- Nootropics to boost serotonin levels
- Adaptogenic mushrooms to support the innate stress response
- Yerba Mate as a natural caffeine source
- CBD for calmness and ease
- Additional nutrients, like vitamin B12
What Are the Healthiest Alcohol Substitutes?
If you’re in the market for alcohol substitutes, you may also be wondering what the healthiest ones are. Before we answer that question, it’s important to note that the perceived healthiness of non-alcoholic beverages really depends on your baseline relationship with alcohol to begin with.
If you were an infrequent drinker anyway, adding more non-alcoholic beverages to your lifestyle doesn’t add much nutritionally besides empty calories.
On the other hand, replacing frequent alcohol intake with non-alcoholic alternatives can help reduce calories. Plus, a constant stream of alcohol can come with a slew of negative health effects.
But while alcohol substitutes may not have a ton of nutritional benefits, there are ways to make them healthier. For instance, enjoy them in moderation just as you would regular alcohol, like at social gatherings.
Try mocktails that use real fruit and seltzer water to reduce added sugar. And look for functional beverages that may have something else to offer your overall wellness, like kombucha or a unique infused drink.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the non-alcoholic beverages trend and how the industry is pivoting to meet sober lifestyle demands of many consumers.
Not only can these products help reduce alcohol consumption altogether, including the idea that alcohol is a necessary part of having fun, but they also encourage the normalization of not drinking for those who choose to avoid alcohol altogether. And I say, cheers to that!
For more intriguing food and nutrition trends to keep an eye on this year, see our post on Top Food Trends for 2023.